SaaS Sustainability and Digital Waste: deal with it now, or face difficult questions about why you didn’t
The carbon footprint of our gadgets, the internet and the systems supporting them account for the same global greenhouse emissions as the aviation industry…
So why don’t we typically treat wasteful digital behavior as socially unacceptable as we do our individual and collective organizational contribution to land-fills? The single-use plastic bottle is a no-no: but what of throw-away digital waste? Your Google search of ‘cute pet names’ is, surely, unconnected to climate change…
Or is it?
Do we think about the carbon footprint of binge-watching Game of Thrones? Do we question whether the ‘data-journey’ of our internet search – and its emissions – is a necessary one?
And when it comes to SaaS: if as we’ve covered on our 3 Red Flags Signaling a Failing SaaS Ecosystem blog at least 32% of all software in organizations across the US is unused, that doesn’t mean it’s just redundant.
It means it’s an active waste – of money, of time and of natural resources.
Jump into the detail of our thoughts on SaaS Sustainability and why your business should care…
The internet is growing. Exponentially.
90% of all data was created in the last two years. We produce more with every search, tweet, slack, blurry selfie stored in the cloud…and the bytes have to bed down somewhere: these disposable data points don’t just disappear, they’re stored.
And over one quarter of it here, in the US. And all of it requires energy to do so.
Between 2010 and 2018 data center computing workloads increased nearly 550% – yet thanks to huge dramatic improvements in energy efficiency in the sector, energy use in the same period only rose by 6%.
In the last decade Google has increased its centers’ efficiency by 2.25% and has positioned itself as a leader on climate change and corporate responsibility stating in its 2021 Environmental Report: “We believe that every business has the opportunity and obligation to protect our planet.”
Despite this and many other efficiencies in the sector, plus a push to use carbon-neutral energy sources or to consciously house data centers in cooler climates, many data centers still run on an unhealthy dependency on scarce water and, as one third of the electricity in the US still comes from coal, odds are they do so in part on unsustainable power sources.
And they’re power-hungry.
Requiring roughly the equivalent to the annual energy use of New Jersey to operate, they account for around 1.8% of electricity use in the United States – they also emit 0.5% of US greenhouse gas emissions.
They run hot and constantly. More power is used to feed treated water to keep ‘em cool and treat the wastewater they discharge.
And, nearly half of all US servers are fully or partially powered by power plants located within water stressed regions, largely in the western US.
The term ‘the cloud’ creates an abstract sense of data and the internet.
But as we’ve seen above, it’s a grounded, energy and resource-hungry physicality: and seeing it as such, might switch the narrative on how we use it.
As we take more bytes from the net, organizations can think and act in ways that consume data responsibly and sustainably – generating as little waste as we can.
Putting the SaaS sustainability argument to one side – and we shouldn’t – the fact remains as we’ve covered in our Triage Sales Tech Stress and Eliminate it blog, that unused or underused sales SaaS directly impacts your organization’s operational efficiency and your bottom line.
(Sustainable) Practice makes Perfect
Digital waste impacts the planet, diminishes your profit, clogs up your process – and digital waste, or rather wastefulness, will increasingly become one, if not the, factor determining whether people interact with and work within your organization.
In short, your organization’s sustainability or lack thereof will be the PR issue of the latter half of the decade.
Around half of the participants within the 2021 Gartner CEO report think sustainability will have an impact on their business.
We wonder what the other half were thinking…
If decision makers fail to address their operations’ sustainability as part, if not at the core, of their corporate responsibility, consumers will mandate change with choice.
To spend elsewhere. And to amplify the problem they perceive with your unsustainable practice wherever and whenever they can.
They will hit you where it hurts: your profit and your reputation.
As consumers are actively seeking products and companies whose sustainable practices are transparent – and are willing to pay for them – it’s no surprise that businesses and investors echo this.
A global survey conducted in separate McKinsey research found that 83 percent of the more than 500 C-suite executives and investment professionals polled believed strong performance on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues is correlated with higher shareholder value.
So, how do you get stronger on SaaS sustainability?
If SaaS procurement and utilization is efficient, data is not then treated as single use or disposable – then we’re respecting the resources used to create and sustain it.
What generates SaaS waste?
- Overlapping SaaS – multiple tools that do the same job
- Hidden, rolling, SaaS subscriptions as a result of employee churn and no strategy
- A muddled ecosystem – no-one has oversight of what apps each business unit across the organization actually use, leading to overspend and under utilization
Treating data as a resource to be spent as consciously as, say, power or water, shifts the organizational mindset to one centralized around data integrity and responsibility.
If you need support in sorting out potentially wasteful SaaS practices, and want to talk strategy around streamlining your sales SaaS ecosystem to be as sustainable as possible, our objective, neutral and experienced team are in your corner.
Reach out to us for a 15 minute discovery call and walk us through your worries about SaaS in your organization.