atlas by clearpeople

Driving your Company’s Sustainability Commitment through Technology

6 May 2022

Consumers, industry associations and governments are increasing their calls to businesses to account for and reduce their environmental impact, and to contribute to sustainability efforts. The need for change is real and immediate, but you may well be wondering how you and your organisation can make a practical difference when it comes to challenges as vast as climate change and addressing inequity of all types. But as with every need, solutions emerge, and here’s how technology can help. 


Why sustainability is important

Sustainability is our ability to meet our own needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own. The need for a sustainable approach to the way we live, and work is self-evident at a personal level – we can’t continue to consume and use resources without consideration of how we conserve and replenish them. And there is a growing realisation that sustainability is a requirement for the way we conduct business too.

The point of sustainable business practices is to preserve the long-term viability of people, planet and profit. In 2015 world leaders at the United Nations outlined a list of 17 sustainable development goals for governments, organisations and institutions to work towards to create a better world by 2030. These goals focus on fighting inequality, eradicating poverty and ending climate change.

So, sustainability is not simply about environmental practices: the term encompasses social equity and economic development. These form the three pillars of sustainability.

Sustainability pillar: What this means: How business can achieve this:
Environmental sustainability Consuming natural resources at a rate where they can replenish themselves, maintaining ecological integrity and helping keep natural systems in balance. Ensure that your supply chain supports environmental goals like taking climate action and reducing harm to and helping protect life below water and on land.
Social sustainability People having access to enough resources to keep their families and communities healthy and secure. This includes rights - personal, labour and cultural - and protection from discrimination. Examine your staff and management structures to redress inequalities. Also have a look at your immediate community and see how you can contribute towards the goals of quality education, health and wellbeing.
Economic sustainability People and their communities should be able to access what they need to meet their needs and maintain their independence. Adopt more sustainable practices, reduce waste and inefficiency, adopt clean, affordable energy and other responsible production and consumption processes.


How business can drive sustainability 

Sustainability is becoming increasingly important to business, across all industries, with over 62% of business leaders believing that a sustainability strategy is essential to their organisation’s ability to grow and compete.  

The pandemic saw a worldwide shift, with company culture and values becoming more important and more visible. Consumers want companies to take a public stand on critical issues. And companies can drive competitive advantage from the environmental, economic and societal impacts they have.

The sustainability-focused financial information company Global Knights has ranked large global companies by their ability to reduce carbon and waste. The fact that almost 7,000 of the public companies that do this best also generate over $1 billion in annual revenue, clearly illustrates why investing in sustainability is becoming a primary business objective.

The most effective business sustainability model

The most effective way to transition an existing business towards sustainability is to take a long-term approach to reshaping attitudes, policies and processes throughout the business. For this kind of fundamental change, the business focuses on training, communication and recruitment; helping people and business teams understand how improving the sustainability of their practices will ultimately assist them in meeting their organisational objectives.

Different teams will have specific ways to adopt sustainable strategies and outcomes in line with their function within the broader organisation:

Marketing and corporate communications: sustainability efforts will bring value to the brand and increase the business’ appeal to, and the scope of, the market they’re aiming for.

Human resources: a commitment to sustainability initiatives will also help attract and retain talent.

Procurement: sustainability in procurement has numerous spin-offs, including reduced costs and increased productivity.

Operations: sustainability efforts go hand-in-hand with improving efficiency and saving time and costs.

Corporate IT: through the procurement and application of technology, this team is particularly well-positioned to support sustainability efforts.

Technology for sustainability

Sustainable transformation is interlinked with digital transformation. The IT department can immediately reduce the company’s environmental impact through the nature of the team and its tools. And while every team should strive for innovation, IT is well positioned to lead the charge. 

By switching to and optimising the use of cloud and data centre resources, IT can achieve quick wins in reducing resource consumption, and continue to reduce it over time. Longer term improvements can be made through investing in renewable energy, partnering with and sourcing more efficient hardware and services through providers committed to sustainability.

Servers that host a company’s data are constantly on, consuming copious amounts of energy. A study by environmental consulting firm WSP Global found that cloud-based applications can lower costs substantially, and increase energy, operational, data centre infrastructure and equipment efficiencies.

In its whitepaper Carbon Benefits of Cloud Computing, Microsoft shows that moving your IT infrastructure from traditional data centres to the cloud can reduce your company’s carbon emissions by 72 to 98%. 

Apart from choosing where their data is stored, companies can also reduce their carbon footprint by offsetting their carbon usage. Google has done a lot of work to decarbonise its data centres and claims its cloud services produce zero net carbon emissions. Amazon promises that it will achieve the same by 2040 through wind and solar farms. And Microsoft, which has committed to becoming carbon negative by 2030, has launched Cloud for Sustainability, a SaaS solution that helps businesses track and report on their own sustainability efforts.

Clearly, tracking, recording and measuring the impact of your sustainability initiatives is an essential part of your commitment. But gauging your company’s overall environmental impact is a challenge in and of itself. The company needs to be able to record their footprint to be able to reduce and offset it and to report on progress to stakeholders.

Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability

To this end, Microsoft launched its Cloud for Sustainability, in 2021. Recognising that at some level every industry is undergoing significant digital transformation, Microsoft intends to make it easier for a company to record, reduce and replace their carbon emissions.

“Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability is a comprehensive, end-to-end digital solution that helps organizations record their environmental footprint, progress report internally and externally, and reduce their emissions,” explains Kees Hertogh of Microsoft. Cloud for Sustainability provides an Emissions Impact Dashboard that lets companies estimate their carbon emissions related to using Microsoft cloud services and to make data-driven decisions regarding sustainability.

A sustainability portal and how it helps

Having a single destination, a sustainability portal, where your partners in the journey – employees, service providers, suppliers and customers – is extremely helpful in keeping your company on track and accountable. 

  • A sustainability portal is a digital platform that:
  • Enables employees to collaborate with suppliers and customers to identify issues and opportunities.
  • Allows all stakeholders to access resources and information.
  • Facilitates collaboration on sustainability efforts.
  • Raises awareness of the company’s sustainability commitment.
  • Tracks progress towards sustainability goals.
  • Provides transparency and accountability.

As with all Microsoft 365 tools, Atlas by ClearPeople integrates with Cloud for Sustainability, providing a single, user-friendly interface that makes it easy for everyone, no matter their digital proficiency, to access the portal.


Wondering how to use Atlas as a sustainability portal?

  Book a demo now


Every company has a different level of impact, and for smaller organisations it can seem daunting to try and take on the global sustainability challenge. But it’s obvious that the climate crisis needs to be faced and every business has a part to play. Every individual, and every business, contributes to climate change, pollution and waste, and has an impact in its community. A sustainability portal helps your organisation take account of its carbon footprint and outlines the means to take real action to reduce it. 


Useful sustainability links

Microsoft sustainability guide  
Microsoft Emissions Impact Dashboard   
Atlas Sustainability Portal  
Atlas for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion 

Author bio

Jeanne Davies

Jeanne Davies

From journalism to content marketing, I've always enjoyed learning and writing about a diverse range of topics, but the digital world has become particularly interesting to me over the last decade or so. ClearPeople gives me an opportunity to shape my work life and it's fascinating how technology allows me to create great working relationships with colleagues across continents and time zones.

View all articles by this author View all articles by this author

Get our latest posts in your inbox