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Embarking on a Greener Path: Three Steps for CIOs Beginning Their Sustainability Journey

Last updated on May 19th, 2023 at 10:39 am

By Jim Kalogiros, Vice President, Secure Power Canada

Considering Canada’s commitment to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050—measuring, reporting, and managing a company’s sustainability performance is necessary to drive employee retention, enhance corporate reputation and contribute to business success. However, to track progress against the enterprise’s goals and determine where improvements can be made, Chief Sustainability Officers (CSOs) need each function within the organization to provide granularity in their measurement of sustainability metrics—this includes IT.

CIOs play a critical role in accelerating the organization’s journey towards sustainability by providing holistic and timely availability of data within the organization and to external stakeholders. However, one of the biggest challenges facing (Chief Information Officers) CIOs today is figuring out what to measure, where to get the data from and how to structure it. This fundamental challenge prevents many CIOs and IT operations teams from even beginning to put a sustainability plan in place. To address these concerns, I am sharing a simple three step framework for measuring and tracking IT energy consumption:

1. Evaluate the scope of your systems

We must ensure everything that creates exhaust is being accounted for and we understand what sustainability gaps exist. It is important to make sure to include company-owned infrastructure and distributed sites, outsourced infrastructure (i.e., cloud and cloud), as well as all end-user devices. Accounting for the power consumption of outsourced infrastructure is usually straightforward, as the vendor typically provides information via a report or an online dashboard of some sort.

However, in the case of company-owned infrastructure, it is necessary to assess whether energy meters are in place and whether software management tools are used. Energy meters and management software give visibility into the energy consumption of local data centers and distributed IT centers, as well as devices. On the other hand, the power consumption of end-user devices would be derived from ITAM (IT Asset Management) tool data.

2. Establish data sources for metrics and software implementation

This step involves identifying the sources of energy data across the fleet and ensuring that the data is communicated to management software or, in the case of end-user devices, is available in ITAM tools. Gaps in visibility identified in step 1 should be addressed by installing energy meters and/or management software where necessary.

Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure provides software, analytics, and services across different domains, allowing CIOs visibility across all aspects of their organization. Implementing energy management software can benefit a business’ bottom line by helping to collect data from multiple facilities in a single platform, providing visibility to enterprise KPIs and identifying opportunities through scalable cloud-based software.

By implementing monitoring software, CIOs can collect data from their companies, improve sustainability reporting, optimize energy management, ensure data accuracy and leverage insights to improve decision-making and operational efficiency.

3. Take advantage of DCIM to collect data and report on total energy consumption

Without a doubt, modern DCIM (Data Infrastructure Management) tools are best positioned to provide CIOs and their IT operations teams with environmental sustainability metrics tracking and reporting, as they are beginning to address these needs immediately. Modern DCIM offerings can aggregate data and report on PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness), total energy consumption with breakdowns by subsystem and even GHG emissions.

For environmental metrics to be meaningful, it is important the software tool used to aggregate all the data can communicate with and normalize all data sources. This step ensures a more complete picture of environmental impact. It is worth noting some vendors offer engineering services to customize the results of a DCIM system and/or integrate DCIM software with other data sources (e.g., emission factor libraries) or platforms (e.g., environmental sustainability management, IT asset management software) to better address environmental sustainability and other reporting needs.

The framework outlined above provides CIOs and their operations teams with an ideal starting point to track and report the impact of their IT estate on environmental sustainability. It will raise awareness, provide a basis for setting goals, and identify opportunities to enrich the measurement data in line with the CSOs priorities. Benchmarking becomes possible to help the organization know where to improve, what to prioritize, and how to show progress year over year.

Finally, it’s important for CIOs who are currently looking to take the reins of their organization’s sustainability plan, to rely on a partner who can provide them with industry best practices. Whether it’s related to assessments, energy procurement and/or product environment profiles, businesses must source the right tools and partner that can help map out and implement their sustainability roadmap.

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