Three Trends Defining IT Sustainability in 2024

Enterprise Cloud Index report shows a dramatic shift in IT sustainability efforts, and experts explain why.

By Gary Hilson

By Gary Hilson April 10, 2024

Despite recent resistance from some politicians and business leaders to environmental, social, and governance (ESG) initiatives, sustainability efforts in the IT industry are alive and growing.

Even though TIME magazine reported that investors see financial opportunity in transitioning to a low-carbon economy and are committing billions of dollars in new investments to ESG funds, uncertainty lies ahead.

“As the backlash to ESG has grown over the last year, business leaders have changed the way they talk about their climate work to tiptoe around the political faultlines,” TIME reported last year. 

“Some have used different language that avoids phrases like ESG; others have avoided even talking about it in public venues. But in operational plans and corporate-strategy sessions investors and business executives in most industries say they haven’t backtracked at all, particularly on environment- and climate-related issues.”

What’s true of business in general is true of IT in particular, but in 2023 ESG programs weren’t spread equally across organizations. 

“While the value of ESG programs to a business’s long-term viability has hit IT’s radar, strategies and best practices for successfully deploying them haven’t fully jelled,” The Forecast reported in 2023.

Yet a wave of new regulations, awareness and services built around ESG are coalescing and driving change. 


Building Scalable, Sustainable Data Centers

According to the 2024 Enterprise Cloud Index, a Nutanix-sponsored survey of 1,500 IT and DevOps/Platform Engineering decision-makers from around the world, enterprises aren’t just planning their sustainability programs, they are actively implementing them with their IT modernization efforts.

Nearly nine out of 10 respondents say sustainability is a priority for their organization and many are already implementing sustainability initiatives. 

The ECI report showed that over the last year, many organizations focused on being more data-driven in terms of their approach to sustainability: 

  • 51% of organizations say they improved their ability to identify areas for reducing waste 
  • 44% indicate they improved their ability to monitor and measure greenhouse gas emissions as well as their carbon footprint

The ECI Report stated, “It is essential that organizations develop these baseline metrics to measure the improvement of sustainability initiatives over time and set realistic goals that can be achieved over time.”

While the rapid pace of technology innovation and the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities is playing a part in understanding and managing climate change, they will also play a key role in private and public data centers, according to Andrea Osika, who manages ESG reporting for Nutanix.

“IT contributes to power consumption and emissions but it also enables business efficiencies,” Osika said. “So IT teams can help sustainability efforts by modernizing their infrastructure and services, which often require a smaller physical footprint compared with older data center technologies.”  


Focus Shifts to Migration in Wake of Broadcom’s VMware Acquisition

She said that over the past decade, data center virtualization and hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) have become more common.  This shift to software-defined infrastructure brings more performance and efficiency from hardware.

ESG Reporting Becomes Global and Granular

The embrace of voluntary sustainability initiatives like the Semiconductor Climate Consortium (SCC), formed in late 2022, suggests an eagerness to go green to serve the greater social good. Resistance to mandatory actions, on the other hand — like those required by two California laws requiring companies to disclose climate data — suggests consternation.

While companies can choose where to do business, regulation is becoming a global norm, according to Osika.

For example, take the World Resources Institute’s Greenhouse Gas Protocol, a global standard created to help organizations measure and manage their greenhouse gas emissions. With many cities and countries creating laws based on that and other standards, ESG obligations are becoming harder to avoid. 


Nutanix Carbon and Power Estimator Demo

For many IT leaders, this year will be spent making peace with ESG compliance, suggested Osika, who said the granularity of new protocols requires an infrastructure that attempts to treat carbon accounting a bit like financial accounting.

Organizations have been here before: Environmental regulations that compel organizations to track and disclose data like greenhouse emissions are not unlike privacy regulations that have similarly emerged over the past decade, such as Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which is also responsible for Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD). It mandates that companies report on ESG issues if they conduct business in the European Union, which shifts sustainability disclosures from being voluntary to those based on compliance and requiring increased transparency, rigor and controls. 

“In the US, we could look at governance metrics used in financial reporting for guidance like Sarbanes-Oxley or internal control frameworks like COSO's,” said Osika. “That has lots of implications.” 

Compliance requires affected organizations to implement systems and controls for making required disclosures, such as outlining their carbon reduction plan. 

“If you don’t have a plan, you need to disclose that you don’t have one, and you need to disclose why you don’t have one.”


Green Data Centers: Designing a Sustainable IT Future

Regulation could end greenwashing by creating material risk. In that case, what’s challenging for companies could become a consumer asset. 

“Organizations will need to invest in resources to support ESG disclosures,” Osika said. “They'll need to have both the data and an audit trail.”

Green Coding Takes Centerstage

Measuring energy usage and environmental impact, including direct, indirect, and downstream emissions, is now a table stakes in IT sustainability. According to Ben DeBow, author, founder, and CEO of Fortified, a database-managed service provider, the next frontier for sustainability in the tech industry might be green coding instead of energy reduction. 

“The technology we built over the last 30 years has so many inefficiencies,” Debow said. “We have to focus on that if we really want to make a bigger difference.”

DeBow has spent his career in IT infrastructure and data helping enterprises scale systems. In the process, he has witnessed firsthand organizations' footprint on the environment when they write and run software.

“It’s significant,” he said of that footprint, suggesting that even in the most modern data centers, there’s outdated, inefficient code, which is like building an energy-efficient home and filling it with appliances from the 1970s.


Data Centers Redefined in an Off-Center World

The root of the problem is how IT organizations are structured. Whenever an application has a performance issue, infrastructure teams add more hardware to support applications that live for 10 to 20 years, explained DeBow, who said people fear changing code because they believe doing so is difficult, complex, and risky.

Smart IT leaders can face their fear by taking small steps with big impacts, DeBow suggested. He said the top 1% of processes are often responsible for up to 80% of an organization’s total compute footprint. That means focusing on a small amount of code can go a long way toward making an IT organization greener. 

“They only need to focus on a very small footprint of their app to get very large returns,” DeBow said.

Importantly, green coding can also have a positive impact on the bottom line, according to DeBow, who said the exponential growth of data should drive organizations to reduce their app code footprint. 

“As your data grows more, your inefficiencies are going to grow and your costs are going to grow,” he said.

Collaboration is King

Whether keeping code efficient or staying on top of ESG regulations and legislation, IT sustainability initiatives – like information security and privacy compliance – are a continuum.

“Legislation is literally forming and the impact will roll out over time,” Osika said.

With that in mind, Osika suggested that one final trend driving sustainability in IT industry circles this year is collaboration. Being able to accurately measure and monitor environmental performance is essential for maintaining and advancing sustainability initiatives, she said — and that requires networking with like-minded people facing the same challenges as you are, and are willing to share their best practices and lessons learned.

Osika added that organizations should monitor trends and learn as much as possible about new regulations and solutions. Many open-source resources, such as the Green Software Foundation, an affiliate of the Linux Foundation, are available on GitHub. 

“They have projects where everybody leans in and shares resources,” explained Osika. She said the most important thing is agility.

“Adapting existing systems to emerging requirements is an iterative process,” she said.

Editor’s note: Learn more about Nutanix's sustainability IT solutions and Nutanix’s ESG efforts.

Gary Hilson has more than 20 years of experience writing about B2B enterprise technology and the issues affecting IT decisions makers. His work has appeared in many industry publications, including EE Times,, Network Computing, EBN Online, Computing Canada, Channel Daily News, and Course Compare. Find him on X.

© 2024 Nutanix, Inc. All rights reserved. For additional information and important legal disclaimers, please go here.