Awareness and acceptance of IT sustainability issues have been steadily growing within the enterprise over the past year. Meanwhile, the skyrocketing accusations and evidence of greenwashing have served a positive purpose, in that they reveal both a strong interest in creating a sustainable brand and perception on behalf of corporations, and a significant lack of ability to deliver sustainable actions.
With 2023 on course for record growth in green bonds, shareholders and consumers alike are demanding real corporate commitment to sustainability that results in tangible environmental benefits. The dearth of skills, knowledge and investment of senior management teams – combined with public awareness and corporate acceptance of this dearth – is a necessary and important step in understanding and striving for real sustainable change.
The release of ChatGPT heralded a new dawn in the IT carbon footprint debate, with the widescale adoption of ChatGPT introducing millions of people to the sustainable tech conversation overnight. Professionals outside of the tech world are becoming highly aware of the mammoth carbon emissions of emerging technology and the responsibility of individuals and organisations to use systems and processes in the most efficient, sustainable way.
The wealth of sustainable uses for ChatGPT could also see the tool become a key player in sustainability efforts: ChatGPT can be used to support predictive modelling for future environmental policies, proactively anticipating and combatting heat waves, extreme weather, pollution, deforestation and rising sea levels.
The tool can already assess the effectiveness of potential environmental activities and predict scenarios that will deliver the best outcome for nature and communities, let alone the capabilities of future ChatGPT iterations.
Where humans have failed to understand environmental impact and solutions that can benefit both the natural and corporate worlds, AI can fill the knowledge gap and empower innovative solutions. AI will also require a wealth of knowledge that can only be found by diversifying hiring processes and appealing to diverse talent pools, who have historically been underrepresented in the tech industry, but whose different experiences and ways of thinking will drive creative and efficient use of emerging technologies.
Diversity in IT teams remains shockingly low: only 17% of European tech professionals are female, 50% of women are leaving tech before the age of 35, and tech professionals from ethnic minority backgrounds are far less likely to be in senior positions despite being more technically qualified on average.
Women and individuals from diverse backgrounds are also overwhelmingly more likely to be made redundant and lose jobs, as seen during the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.
With almost all of the industry’s largest employers (including Microsoft, Amazon, Salesforce, Twitter, Tesla, Netflix and Shopify) all making mass redundancies this year, 2023 has seen little sustainability progress regarding employment and diverse communities.
Tech industry hiring rapidly boomed in 2020 and 2021 to meet consumer demands in the new world of hybrid working and e-commerce reliance, and just a couple of years later, many recent workforce cuts are the result of unsustainable hiring and lack of sustainable workforce planning.
However, a significant highlight of 2023 is more tech industry interest than ever before in UN Sustainable Development Goals 5 and 10: Gender Equality and Reduced Inequalities Amongst Communities.
Large global companies are challenging the dominant masculine culture that has pervaded the IT sector for decades, instead actively investing in recruiting women and diverse developers, programmers and leaders into their tech teams.
Although women represent just over one in four people working in IT in the UK – 26% – this is a huge improvement from the 2019 figure of 19%; a 36% growth in women in tech in just four years. The tech industry is not only increasingly aware of its low diverse representation but also its exclusive cultures, and is investing not only in employee engagement and retention, but working with diverse partners to create inclusive hiring strategies and to build the sustainable tech talent pipeline of the future.