In spite of COVID-19 IT sustainability projects are on the rise

The Google-commissioned survey showed that various internal and external factors are pushing IT leaders to prioritize sustainability, even as other projects fall by the wayside.

The COVID-19 pandemic over the past 18 months spurred businesses to accelerate a number of IT initiatives, from moving to the cloud to adopting AI-powered applications. That doesn't mean, however, that organizations forgot about their sustainability goals. If anything, a new survey suggests that IT leaders have put more emphasis on sustainability over the past year. 

According to a survey of 2000 IT decision-makers around the globe, 27% introduced or accelerated sustainability initiatives over the past year. Just 14% delayed or canceled sustainability initiatives. 

The increased focus on sustainability is notable given that 55% of survey respondents said they delayed or canceled at least one technology project in the last year as the pandemic upended everyday life. That included core initiatives in areas like automation and building digital customer experiences. 

Google Cloud commissioned IDG to conduct the survey to gain "a more definitive understanding of where our customers are in their sustainability journey," Chris Talbott, Google Cloud's product and solutions sustainability lead, said during a roundtable discussion on Tuesday. 

"I've had the opportunity to talk with hundreds of organizations about the challenges they face when it comes to sustainability and in particular how Google Cloud might help them," Talbott said. "That conversation has accelerated recently."

The survey showed that sustainability is a priority for the overwhelming majority of IT organizations -- 90% of respondents said so. Two-thirds of the respondents' organizations have put sustainability targets in place, and another 29% have a plan to implement them.

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Google

As many as 75% of respondents report that sustainability is a "must have" or "major consideration" when evaluating cloud providers. 

Various internal and external factors increase the pressure IT leaders are under to prioritize sustainability. More than half surveyed said corporate social responsibility was the reason it was important, followed by environmental regulations and climate change impacts. 

Chelsea Mozen, Etsy's director of impact and sustainability, said that Etsy's engineers, investors, and users have all demonstrated that they value the company's sustainability initiatives. 

Etsy gained insight into customer interest in the matter during an A/B test it ran following the launch of its carbon offset shipping initiative. The customer conversion rate actually increased when buyers saw the carbon offset signal in their shopping cart, Mozen said during Tuesday's roundtable. 

Meanwhile, employees are becoming "more and more vocal" about sustainability, she said. In response, Etsy has been developing tooling that would enable developers to visualize in real-time the energy impact of cloud products and services, feature launches and other technology decisions. 

Sustainability is "one area where we constantly get questions from engineering," she said.