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Sustainability relies on combining partner ecosystems with technology and services

July 19, 2021

Technologies and services are converging to help enterprises make transitions towards net-zero emissions and the broader UN sustainability goals – but it remains the case that no one can do it alone. Ecosystems and partnerships – combined with these technologies and services – are therefore critical. Sustainability services are developing rapidly as a market; they broadly cover strategy and technical consulting, implementation, managed services, and technology that in many cases aim to address enterprise measuring, monitoring, reporting, and optimization of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) goals; see our latest report on data and sustainability, and the launching of our ecosystem mapping study. But as impressively as the sustainability services market is growing, the capability and experience of partnership ecosystems must be combined with these sustainability services: these ecosystems should not only be used for corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives (although CSR remains important in its own right!). Combining the expertise of partner ecosystems with capability across the technology and services value chain is the crux of how crucial service providers of all kinds are to making sustainability change happen.

Accenture is typifying the idea of bringing sustainability together internally and for its enterprise clients – “making it native” – in line with HFS’ views on sustainability and transformations more broadly. Accenture, with its ecosystem recently added to by the Green Software Foundation consortium covered in this report, must embed the skills and best practices from these partnerships into its capability; it must continue to lead by example and develop holistic sustainability propositions that encapsulate both the encouraging number of enterprises for which sustainability is becoming more and more critical (see Exhibit 1 and our take on this data) – but also the number of enterprises who are still worryingly nascent in their journeys; despite the most sustainable enterprises being loud – there is a long tail.

Exhibit 1: Improving environmental sustainability is competing at the top of the Global 2000 enterprise priority list

Sample: 801 enterprise leaders from the Global 2000
Source: HFS Research, Pulse Survey, Maya 2021

Accenture’s partner ecosystem is seeking to make sustainability a native software feature

Accenture, GitHub, Microsoft (GitHub’s parent company), and ThoughtWorks launched the Green Software Foundation to “put sustainability at the core of software engineering.” The high-level aim of the Foundation is to build an ecosystem of people, standards and patents, tools, and best practices for building “green software,” while also accelerating innovation and growing the field through open-source and open-data projects. Similarly-minded organizations are encouraged to join the foundation to help grow the field, contribute to industry standards, and overall reduce the carbon emissions of software – and contribute to the information and communications technology sector’s target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 45% by 2030, in line with the Paris Climate Agreement. Alongside the founding members above, Goldman Sachs and non-profits including Leaders for Climate Action, Watt Time, and The Green Web Foundation have joined The Foundation. The group will also aim to influence government policy to foster a consistent approach to the sector’s decarbonization – alongside broader awareness of green technology.

Partner ecosystems must combine with sustainability technology and services into holistic enterprise solutions

We have separately highlighted how critical data is when making a sustainable transformation (e.g., decarbonizing an enterprise’s entire footprint and reaching net-zero emissions). To start and continually improve this journey, service providers are developing technology platforms to measure, monitor, report to globally-varying standards (in some cases via automation), and optimize – and they are also incorporating their broader services capability whether it’s advisory, design, or technical consulting.

The environmental footprint of technology has long been called out by both HFS and a variety of organizations like Greenpeace. Storage, computing power, running operations, all-around digital infrastructure whether it’s on-prem or cloud, consume a phenomenal amount of energy. To decarbonize technology, but also enterprises more broadly, best practice needs to be shared and shared quickly; we’re approaching the point of no return from an environmental standpoint – and government regulation is unlikely to move fast enough, and globally enough. The technology and services portfolios of providers like Accenture, in combination with expanding partner ecosystems of capability and experience, should be the starting point for any enterprise looking to decarbonize, but also reach broader sustainability goals.

This isn’t just about CSR, marketing, or regulatory compliance – it’s about concrete enterprise-level strategy. Companies are all making net-zero commitments whether its 2030, 2040, 2050, etc. and as good as it is to see these commitments, and broader CSR initiatives, this is one, about the total impact of all enterprises – and two, with efficiency, for example via reduced energy consumption underpinning technology, comes a significant bottom-line saving!

The Bottom Line: Enterprises and service providers must combine technology, services, and ecosystems to have any chance of reaching net-zero and addressing all 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals

Enterprises, with service providers and their partners, must all make sustainability native to everything they do from the C-suite to the shop floor. The Green Software Foundation is the latest example of partnership ecosystems that enterprises can join to leverage the skill and best practice on offer. With the widespread consensus that not enough has been done to reach net-zero by 2050 since the Paris Agreement was signed, sustainability making its way into enterprise priorities, and a hotly anticipated UN climate summit this November – learning the lessons from those ahead of the curve is critical if the less-sustainable firms have any hope of catching up – and for service providers to have any hope of helping them.

Accenture, and all providers of technology and/or services, must embed these partnerships into the rapidly growing sustainability services market – and integrate these services throughout their technology, operations, and strategy teams.

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