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Blancco Study Shows Environmental Impact of Data Footprints as 2024 ESG Standards Loom

ESG Standards

With a global push for better environmental stewardship from all industries, regulators are cracking down on green efforts that sound impressive but do very little and fall into the greenwashing category. New standards will go into effect in early 2024 that will require disclosure of Scope 3 emissions.

Enterprises in highly regulated industries, such as healthcare and financial services, treat data very carefully but storing more data means using more power and generating more carbon emissions. Research released by Blancco in March 2023 found that 66% of IT decision-makers in these markets reported concerns about rising energy costs and the impact on storing large quantities of data. Now, with the imminent rollout of the new emissions measurement standards, enterprises in highly regulated industries have to act fast. But are they?   

A new research study from Blancco, in partnership with independent research company Coleman Parkes, looks at the environmental impact of data footprints, current attitudes to sustainable data management and Scope 3 emissions measurement among enterprises in highly regulated industries. The resulting report, The Sustainability Costs of End-of-Life Data, shares findings from a global survey of 1,800 data retention and data disposal decision makers across six countries (U.S., Canada, U.K., Germany, France and Japan), split evenly between financial services and healthcare organizations.

Good news at first glance for sustainable IT practices

The study found that the majority of IT decision-makers are aware of the importance of business sustainability as they prepare for the new ESG regulations. Of those surveyed,85% of respondents said that their organizations are measuring their Scope 3 emissions and, for 88%, environmental sustainability has a high to moderate influence on their approach to processing end of life data.

Furthermore, 83% say that there is a company directive to work with partners that do not negatively affect the environment. 

However, ESG stragglers remain

A substantial segment of organizations are still not where they should be with regards to business sustainability planning, including their IT initiatives. While a majority of respondents said they are confident that their organization is reducing the environmental impact of its IT, more than a third are not — in fact, 39% of organizations in highly regulated industries are yet to implement a plan to reduce their data footprint. Excess data storage has both a financial and environmental cost. Careful consideration must be given to “hidden” sustainability issues such as End-of-Life (EOL) data as the pace of cloud migration is working against companies in heavily regulated sectors.

Furthermore, 37% say that a Net Zero plan is not yet a major selection criterion for selecting partners — this is important because our past research has found that 60% of IT decision-makers in highly regulated industries say that their cloud provider handles their EOL data for them.

Benefits beyond regulatory compliance

The report also discusses the additional effects of improving sustainable practices beyond the need to meet regulatory demands. For instance, 44% of respondents believe that investors and customers favor working with sustainable companies. Also, 51% feel that current and prospective employees favor working for sustainable companies.

There are many ways that organizations can reduce their data footprint to curb environmental impact, including reductions in ROT data or information that no longer has added benefits, as well as guidance for asset EOL management. For full analysis, read the report here:

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