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Treading the sustainability tightrope: C-Suite focus areas to accelerate the green vision

By Chua Hock Leng

Now a mainstay in the corporate lexicon, sustainability has become mission-critical for business success in the new trust era as governments, partners, employees, and clients increasingly consider ESG in their decision to engage with organisations. 

Nationwide, there continues to be a strong push towards the Singapore Green Plan 2030, 
with several organisations pledging to support Singapore’s Long-Term Low-Emissions Development Strategy (LEDS). However, while there is a lot of hype and willingness to embrace sustainability, some organisations still lack clarity on where to start. Singapore only ranks 64th among 166 countries in a recent Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Index – highlighting gaps in the ESG equation. 

Organisations need to quickly adopt an ESG mindset to help accelerate the Singapore Green Plan 2030. Amid this, the C-Suite is particularly at the heart of this transformation, with a few key areas that need to be addressed to drive positive, impactful change.  

Measuring ESG accurately

Many organisations are not aware of their energy consumption levels – including power and cooling costs or how much megawatts per hour is being used. However, simply accepting costs at face value without measurement is a bad business practice that deters organisations from fully understanding where environmental improvements can be made.

By implementing an integrated, top-down approach to measurement, organisations can better understand benchmarks and gauge how they are doing on the ESG front. This will enable organisations to identify which technologies contribute to greenhouse gas emissions the most and assess how they can further reduce energy consumption.  Without such measurements, improvements cannot be made and achievements cannot be quantified and celebrated.

Modern solutions today provide an analysis of power savings and help in accurately monitoring greenhouse emissions, empowering organisations to step closer to achieving their environmental and energy reduction goals. With the right ESG performance tracking tools, organisations can better discover carbon-saving opportunities and benefit from actionable insights on upgrades and workload management to drive increased efficiency across the value chain.

Moving on from legacy systems

After measurement, it will become clear where the pain points are and what needs to be done to improve energy use and reduce emissions. 

However, inefficient and carbon-intensive legacy technologies can derail efforts - holding back progress and innovation and preventing organisations from achieving significant emission reduction. E-waste is an important consideration when it comes to IT investment. Legacy hardware is often shredded after three or four years – which can contribute to environmental pollution. As an alternative, organisations should consider technology that doesn’t carry the risk of obsolescence and limited upgradeability.

Amidst anticipated growth in data creation and replication, organisations in Singapore need to take advantage of technologies that can help them increase their data and computing capacity without compromising sustainability targets. One such technology is all-flash storage, which promises energy efficiency, lower physical storage costs, and a reduced data footprint, offering a sustainable alternative to high-energy-consuming hybrid systems. Additionally, the all-flash model allows organisations to better curtail fully burdened costs of ownership, including rack space, cooling, and repair. One organisation that has benefited from ultra-dense all-flash technology is Nanyang Technological University (NTU), which was able to increase its computational power to better support data-intensive research projects and optimise the physical space of its High-Performance Computing Centre (HPCC). With lower energy and cooling requirements, the HPCC was able to reduce its overall power consumption and minimise emissions. This has increased HPCC’s capability to expand its available computing resources exponentially, while still meeting energy efficiency standards.  Flash storage has likewise enabled local communications company M1 to realise improved operational efficiency and reliability, as well as meet its long-term sustainability targets through a reduced data center footprint.

Promoting transparency and open conversations
Internally, the entire organisation needs to be involved and invested. We’ve seen more organisations publishing ESG reports that highlight key ESG priorities and provide an avenue for organisations to openly share updates with stakeholders. 

Amid greenwashing concerns, organisations need to step up and deliver responsible ESG reporting. Having an accurate snapshot of ESG performance, including high-level metrics such as company-wide energy and carbon usage and consumption both at the datacentre site and individual array levels, can foster greater transparency across the business ecosystem. 

Forming a team dedicated to sustainability 
An ESG report may be a step in the right direction, but it is likewise critical for organisations to harness insights into action. 

Corralling all the different strands of thought and action within an organisation may be quite challenging, so having a dedicated sustainability team can help drive long-term sustainability planning and implementation. The dedicated resource will need to ensure that the overall sustainability strategy is widely known and understood across the organisation to maximise the impact of activities and changes.  

According to a recent survey by NTUC LearningHub, more than seven in 10 employers in Singapore are looking at hiring sustainability-focused talent by 2024 as more organisations recognise the call to weave sustainable practices into business operations. 

Moving forward - the green way 
While there is a lot of enthusiasm around sustainability, it is critical to move beyond the hype and take steps toward impactful action. By implementing the right processes and technologies, organisations can truly walk the talk and accelerate their ESG journey. 

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