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The Role Of Engineers is Critical in Sustainable Development

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Sustainability is a critical aspect of business strategy today and organizations are increasingly stepping up their sustainability effort as a way to achieve greater positive impact and remain profitable. As companies build a more positive and sustainable work culture, engineers  play an important role in sustainable development by planning and building projects that preserve natural resources, are cost-efficient and support human and natural environments.

On Engineers’ Day celebrated on September 15, we caught up with Ramkumar Narayanan, VP Technology & MD, VMware India, who explains how organizations with the help of skilled engineers and IT leaders can make their business operations sustainable and purpose-driven. Excerpts.

What is the role of an engineer in sustainable development?

Engineers have played and continue to play a key role in the future of sustainable development. Whether it is building new products or working on technologies that will innovate the future, they are instrumental in designing, architecting, and building the way products, goods and services are delivered and consumed. To boost the nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), engineers remain key contributors in the vast chain of modern production and consumption of natural resources to deliver goods, products, and solutions for the larger society. Today, it is crucial for organizations to invest in co-innovation and collaboration, and work towards a world with reduced carbon footprint. They must focus on incorporating sustainability by design across business and operations, and significantly, research and development to enable sustainability in product solutions.

How can engineers build sustainable products?

While many aspects need to be factored in, a key ingredient to drive sustainable change is – innovation. For instance, organizations building products for the automobile industry are innovating differently from those designing modern applications to ensure services can be delivered online by digitizing the same. For successful sustainable strategies, organizations must harness emerging technologies (like AI, ML, blockchain, etc.) to gather and ascertain valuable insights to build products that have a lasting positive social and environmental impact along with cost savings and business value. The way forward is for companies to support, encourage, and grow mindsets that allow the engineering community to incorporate sustainability in every solution, product, or service, redefining what it means to be a force for good. At VMware, we are committed to accelerating a more equitable, sustainable, and resilient digital future. We recognize that all aspects of our business have an impact on our environmental footprint—from the products we create to the people we employ. Our 2030 agenda reinforces our commitment to de-carbonizing our operations, supply chain, and digital infrastructure across our customer ecosystem.

What should CIOs know about green and sustainable engineering?

For most companies, digital infrastructure is a significant component of their corporate carbon footprint. To succeed in this new era companies must have the agility and strategic foresight to act on the dynamic nature of changing environmental and social issues and importantly, embrace resilience and resolve. Leaders can help take charge and assess their current infrastructure, spearhead initiatives to address the reduction in carbon footprint, invest in renewable-powered data centers, cloud computing and colocation facilities. It is also recommended to evaluate all software and services based on environmental criteria – this is often a big portion of the enterprise spend and needs to be re-examined.

sustainabilityAt VMware, we have committed to the transition of a new sustainable economy. Our modern approach integrates our goals into the business and aligns with our core business strategy. Trust, Equity, and Sustainability is VMware’s 2030 agenda to redefine what it means to be a force for good. Between now and 2030, we will measure and report our Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) impact and work to drive progress across our 30×30 Goals. With that, our strategic approach going forward is to embed a comprehensive set of ESG goals and actions into our business portfolio and long-term corporate priorities. As we reshape our approach to corporate responsibility from within, we continue our legacy of contributing more than we take, while sharpening our focus on advancing business outcomes through the pursuit of sustainable innovation, a mindset of inclusion, and earning the trust of all our stakeholders.

What should organizations do to de-carbonize their digital infrastructure?

 As corporate citizens, organizations have the opportunity and responsibility to innovate for a more resilient world by de-carbonizing digital infrastructure across customer ecosystems, value chains and operations. Innovative business models are the need of the hour and place sustainability at the heart of all business activities. Benchmarking digital infrastructure on metrics such as Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE), energy efficiency, virtualization, cloud costs, renewables will also contribute to an organization’s carbon footprint.

Globally, the momentum to reach net-zero is growing at an accelerated pace for new solutions in digital adoption. De-carbonization should be a priority for organizations that are heading towards net-zero transformation while businesses need to develop an integrated approach to support customers at all levels of their de-carbonization journey. An effective strategy ensuring efficient digital solutions and climate expertise can help deliver ambitious targets. Improved data collection and interdisciplinary cooperation are required to manage the complexity of using innovative technologies for the environment. At VMware, sustainability is core to our values and future success. We are entrusted to safeguard de-carbonization for our customers, supply chain, and operations. Through our collaborative efforts, we are finding groundbreaking ways to drive net-zero emissions, radical efficiency, carbon-free clouds, and accelerating a low carbon future through sustainable innovation.

How can R&D center and innovation labs build sustainable solutions for supporting enterprises in the next phase of digital transformation?

To meet the future needs of sustainability, organizations should implement aggressive water conservation management and zero e-waste to landfills from their operations. They should procure a minimum of 50% of business operations from diverse, sustainable, and socially responsible suppliers. For instance, VMware’s vision of the Anywhere Workforce advances our commitment to building a more diverse workforce and reducing our carbon footprint, thereby reinforcing the company’s position as the leader in de-carbonized digital business technology. We, in India have been accredited with US Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED) standards. Pre pandemic more than 500 employees in Bangalore used the electric carpool vehicle which helps to reduce emissions. Additionally, more than 80 percent of the electricity used by its South Bangalore sites is generated from wind power.

Whether through the application of disruptive technologies in operations and with clients or through R&D investments and external advocacy, businesses should advance their sustainability leadership and work towards reducing their environmental footprint. Computing sustainability isn’t just about cutting the IT industry’s carbon emissions. Cleaner computing truly shapes technology into a force for good—a good that multiplies as life goes digital. As we try to resume our normal lives and look ahead to the future of work, in some ways, the future of work will change for the better, leading to the revamping of our policies and adapting to new modes of operations.

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Sohini Bagchi
Sohini Bagchi is Editor at CXOToday, a published author and a storyteller. She can be reached at sohini.bagchi@trivone.com