Sustainable Development Efforts Go Through Information Technology


CIOs have become key players in their companies’ sustainability programs, leading efforts to offload energy-intensive computing applications to the cloud and deploy technologies to optimize energy and reduce waste.

Their influence within these programs could grow in 2022, as the relationship between digitalization and carbon emissions becomes more evident. A 2020 study by the journal Science found that data centers account for around 1% of global energy consumption. CIOs see opportunities for innovation.

In a recent survey conducted by the IBM Institute for Business Value, 42% of 5,000 CIOs and CTOs surveyed said sustainability was the area where technology would have the greatest impact on their organization over the next three years. placing above things like process automation. , safety and risk, and market expansion.

“[Sustainability] is increasingly becoming a priority for me and my team,” said Brian Rice, executive vice president and chief information officer at healthcare services company Cardinal Health.,


CIOs see migrating to the cloud as an important part of their sustainability efforts as well as optimizing their existing data centers.

Rice said Cardinal Health completed the first phase of its cloud move in December 2019 when it sold its main data center. Today, he says, the company does more than 80% of its computing in the cloud.

“There’s definitely a positive environmental impact associated with that,” he said.

Major cloud operators claim to be able to operate with higher levels of energy efficiency and lower levels of emissions, the latter thanks in part to commitments to renewable energy sources.

A report released this year by 451 Research, part of S&P Global Market Intelligence and commissioned by Amazon Web Services Institute, found average energy savings of 80% from running business applications in the cloud instead of of an on-site infrastructure.

“We are definitely committed to optimizing energy consumption,” said Francesco Tinto, senior vice president and global CIO of Walgreens Boots Alliance. Inc.,

recognizing the role the cloud plays in this effort.

Dave Williams, chief information and digital officer at pharmaceutical manufacturer Merck & Co. Inc., said the cloud, unlike on-premises data centers, acts as a “pay as you go” type model with consumption of energy. “So if you use something, it consumes energy. If you’re not, it’s not.

Brian Rice, executive vice president and CIO at Cardinal Health.


Cardinal Health Inc.

CIOs said they are also looking for ways to reduce power consumption in their existing data centers for non-cloud operations.

Mark Brooks, senior vice president and chief information officer at healthcare company Centene Corp., said his company decided to set up a permanent data center in Buffalo, New York, because “we can use the external ambient temperature as a cooling mechanism and save a significant amount of energy. .”

Carman Wenkoff, executive vice president and CIO of retailer Dollar General Corp., said his business relies primarily on on-premises systems. He said his goal was to make these systems more efficient by designing code written to minimize power consumption, a practice known as “green coding.”

“We’re not there yet,” Mr. Wenkoff said, but he’s working out how to integrate it.

CIOs see a range of sustainability benefits when they turn to technologies aimed at reducing their company’s environmental impact.

“For us, reducing print has been a key objective,” said Mr Tinto of Walgreens Boots Alliance. This is especially important in company pharmacies where there are a lot of documents, he said. Pharmacists receive tablets and patients’ signatures and insurance cards can now be entered digitally.

CIOs are also leveraging technology to design new products and services aimed at reducing energy consumption and waste.

Mark Spykerman, CIO of drug distributor AmerisourceBergen Corp., said the company’s global specialty logistics business, World Courier, had developed a “cocoon” designed to keep drugs at the correct temperature without an air conditioning unit.

Spykerman said the insulated container is 30% lighter than any other comparable product, leading to a big reduction in emissions from air and freight transport. He also said World Courier’s data science team uses advanced network simulation and modeling to determine where in the world each cocoon should be to minimize the number of flights it takes.

At Kroger Co.

SVP and CIO Yael Cosset uses data to reduce food waste that expires before it can be sold through a program called “Zero Hunger, Zero Waste”.

He said the grocer had made a “significant investment in data capacity” to understand the life cycles of the foods it sells. This information helps determine when an unsold product can be safely donated to a food bank for use that day.

The aim, he said, is to “limit food waste, limit the environmental impact of waste and energy consumption, but also improve the quality and access to food for all communities. where we operate”.

Big tech companies are investing in data centers as they vie for the $214 billion cloud computing market. WSJ explains what cloud computing is, why big tech is betting big on future contracts.

Write to Isabelle Bousquette at [email protected]

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