Green IO
#24 - IT Sustainability in SaaS companies with Niklas Sundberg and Tereze Gaile
September 27, 2023
How do you decarbonize your operations when most of the action takes part outside of your organization? 🕵️ This is the issue SaaS companies face with IT sustainability. 🌱 In the latest Green IO episode I (Gaël Duez) sat down with Tereze Gaile to get insights from Salesforce’s approach. Tereze is the lead author of the “Sustainability Guide for Salesforce Technology”. We also partnered in this episode with Niklas Sundberg, author of “Sustainable IT Playbook for Technology Leaders” and a pillar of to take a step back on Salesforce’s feedback and get a broader context. ❤️ Subscribe, follow, like, ... stay connected the way you want to never miss an episode!
How do you decarbonize your operations when most of the action takes part outside of your organization? 🕵️
This is the issue SaaS companies face with IT sustainability. 🌱
In the latest Green IO episode I (Gaël Duez) sat down with Tereze Gaile to get insights from Salesforce’s approach. Tereze is the lead author of the “Sustainability Guide for Salesforce Technology”. We also partnered in this episode with Niklas Sundberg, author of “Sustainable IT Playbook for Technology Leaders” and a pillar of to take a step back on Salesforce’s feedback and get a broader context.

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Niklas’ and Tereze's sources and other references mentioned in this episode:


[00:00:00] Gaël: Hello everyone! This episode was a bit of a stretch in terms of scheduling. Tereze Gaile is based in Wellington, New Zealand and Niklas Sundberg lives in Stockholm, Sweden. 10 hours of time difference and a 17 400 kilometer journey. Was it worth the effort? Definitely. This dialogue is a great opportunity to get actionable feedback from two experts in the field of sustainable IT, especially for software companies.

How do you build greener software and how do you make sure your customers will use them in the greenest possible way? Niklas and Tereze have a lot to share about it. Their experience might be different, but they also share quite a lot in common. Both are authors, Niklas having recently published 'Sustainable IT Playbook for Technology Leaders' and Tereze being the lead author of the 'Sustainability Guide for Salesforce Technology'.

Both are doers. Tereze is a technical architect at Mulesoft, a Salesforce company, and she is also its Global Sustainability SME. Niklas is Senior VP and Chief Information Officer at Assa Abloy Global Solution Divisions. And finally, both are sustainability advocates within their organizations, as well as in NGO and professional groups.

So I would dare to describe them also as activists in a suit, borrowing this expression from Rainer Karscher, Allianz' s Global Head of Sustainability. Welcome Tereze, welcome Niklas. Thanks a lot for joining Green IO today. 

[00:01:36] Tereze: Kia ora. Thanks so much for the opportunity, Gaël. 

[00:01:39] Gaël: Oh, kia ora. That reminds me of some wonderful times in New Zealand, when I was hiking and meeting wonderful people. Oh, thanks a lot for these days. Hi, Niklas.

[00:01:53] Niklas: Hi, happy to be here. Looking forward to a great conversation. 

[00:01:57] Gaël: Yeah, we're looking forward to it too . I'd like to start with my usual question, about your journey towards sustainability. So how did you become interested in sustainability and maybe IT sustainability? Therese, would you like to share a bit about it? 

[00:02:17] Tereze: Yeah, sure. So I've always had a strong affinity for nature. So I grew up on a farm on the border of Latvia and Estonia. So I was always quite blessed and privileged to have the wildlife literally on my doorstep. And I guess that's one of the reasons why I moved to the beautiful Aotearoa (Maori for New Zealand), for its incredibly unique fauna and flora.

[00:02:40] But I think the penny drop moment for me was when I started thinking about how I can make the most impact. And I came to the realization that's probably through. Being a change agent, if you will, within a big organization like salesforce. And because I felt no matter what I do in my personal life, you know, I could fly less, I could EAT less meat or, recycling, et cetera, et cetera.

I just had this feeling that that's not enough. So. What more can I do to move the needle and pretty much from joining Salesforce, the very first thing that I did with MuleSoft is I wrote a blog on Sustainable engineering practices with MuleSoft. Very humble beginnings. It was just, you know, I didn't get a big splash or anything , but this was two and a half years ago and since then, we've come a long way. 

Gaël: Well that's funny because you know there is this great debate, especially among young engineers, whether the software engineers or engineers in pretty much everything or graduates, shall I quit, shall I leave the regular big corporation work to make an impact and join an NGO, etc.

And obviously we need a lot of these great people in NGO's, but that's also true. I remember, I think it was, Antoine Monnard. Yeah. Alexandre Monnard, who told us in a conference recently, do not quit, do not leave. We need change makers within a big organization, because if everyone leaves, there will be terrible issues to move the needle, as you say. So I guess you're the one who will make the change within the organization. Am I right? 

[00:04:25] Tereze: Exactly. At least I try to. 

[00:04:28] Gaël: Yeah, you can try. And after, after a while, if it doesn't move the needle that much, then you've got a free pass to try something.

[00:04:39] Tereze: Exactly. 

[00:04:39] Gaël: Exactly, and the second thought that just popped into my mind is, you have the, as you say, the nature on your doorstep, and that connects with something I read very recently :- when you assess how many animals can be spotted in Walt Disney movies as a proxy for how much kids are exposed to nature in cultural content. There is a dramatic reduction, like something from several dozen in early 50s and 60s movies to one or two animals, that's pretty much it, in other, more recent movies like Aladdin, (it's not that recent, but anyway). And that really resonates because, with my daughter, I need to expose her a lot to nature and a lot to movies or TV shows with nature, because that is actually the very best way to make people aware of just being connected to nature, which is not that easy in cities.

And what about you, Niklas? 

[00:05:42] Niklas: Very similar story, I would say. What I love about technology is the impact you can have on a global scale. And, like Tereze was saying is that, yes, you can do a lot of things in, in your personal life, getting closer to nature, living more sustainably and so forth, but if you really want to move the needle, make an impact, you need to apply it into your corporate setting . 

And fortunately in my role, I was also tasked to, to create a sustainable IT strategy as part of our overall enterprise sustainability strategy. And this is about two years ago. And as I started researching into a number of areas, I had a lot of revelations in terms of the impact of tech and IT, here and now, but, but also what lies ahead in the next, seven or eight years, to 2030. And, that sort of had the revelation for me to put together a playbook, based on my own learnings, based on our own findings, our own journey within my company that I work for. And that turned out to be a playbook for technology leaders to apply in their everyday life. And I really want to make something that's very hands-on, very tangible, something that you can really pick up, read a few chapters and then you can start applying it into your business environment. So that was the whole idea: to empower, to inspire and to activate people to get started. Because I think we have a big knowledge gap in terms of the impact of tech on climate change.

[00:07:15] Gaël: Absolutely. And actually we're going to use your book during this podcast episode, and we're going to start with two questions. I would love to ask Tereze first, about her journey, writing the book with Salesforce, and how Salesforce and MuleSoft, obviously, the entire salesforce company, is moving toward being more sustainable regarding its software practices. The focus of this episode is really sustainability in software companies or departments building software. So, Tereze, you've got a unique viewpoint and I would love you to share with us how and why your company recently released this sustainable it playbook, and I would love then Niklas to [reply] , I will come back to especially one chapter in Niklas' book a bit later. But Tereze, if you could start, that will be great if you could explain to us a bit why this book, why it was released, and what has been achieved so far at Salesforce and /or MuleSoft.

[00:08:15] Tereze: Of course. I think before I jump into how the guide itself came about, I just want to spend a moment or so just covering the fact that sustainability is actually one of our core values. And I think given that it's embedded essentially in the organization, it made it a lot easier to get support from leadership and to influence internally. So in terms of that initial journey that I alluded to initially, and I just wrote a very humble little blog on sustainable engineering practices, but that over time snowballed into being connected with the core sustainability team. :- we love this ; how do we elevate it? What more can we do ? and being connected across different leaders across technology and product organization as well. And they're saying, look, we're working with AWS on the sustainability pillar, and we're trying to do this. And it's like, how do we marry all of those things up and really combine it all together? So I think It was a real mammoth group effort, to be absolutely honest. We had some product managers, for example, who had already put some ideas around. So, for example, if you're creating products or services, what are the kind of principles you need to think about. So, for example, even things like a webpage, how long does it take to load? How heavy are the graphics? Things like that. So, really the whole initiative spanned from starting to raise that collective awareness internally, but how can we really make it really polished and share it with the world, share it with our hundreds of thousands of customers that we have, and take them on that journey. Needless to say, I'm sure Niklas had a similar experience. But it went through many rounds of reviews and so many different feedback and ideas. So I think the tricky bit was actually, how do we still make it true and useful, but also not letting perfection get in the way of progress. So really, this guide for us, it's a conversation starter. By no means is it perfect. It's just to raise that awareness. It has practices across architecture, design, architecture, development and operations, and the idea is to give a couple of really practical examples of what you can do across the software development life cycle to reduce the impact of using our products.

So, I think, in terms of what resonates the most, and it was always a surprise to me, the majority of the time we speak to customers, they're completely oblivious that technology, of course, has an impact. You see these very polished products, but actually they are hosted somewhere on a data center. And just even using statistics like data centers actually emit more than the aviation sector, which is often quoted. And you just see the penny drop because they realize they have a huge footprint with our products and then well, what do we do ? How does it tie to our sustainability strategy? So just as one example, I can speak a lot from a MuleSoft angle because that's what I've worked with organizations on. So one thing, and I think this is maybe a little different to what's been covered in the past, is also looking at API usability and what's the impact of that, not just from a technology perspective, but also in developer productivity.

So a piece of work that we did recently covered, let's look at it more holistically, not just the tech as well, but actually the human element, as if you don't need 3 times more project teams to create this, because you're already thinking about reuse and having it create all these composable little building blocks, you can leverage that for future projects. The human aspect in terms of emissions saving is also something you should not ignore. And for others, it's just learning that organizations often have their sandbox environments completely unchecked. So there's applications that are running, burning resources in the cloud.

So if you had really good governance around decommissioning APIs or applications, but they're no longer required, and actually having numbers or a process. So as another example, Salesforce has these demo organizations, you can spin them up quickly, but they expire after a certain period of time. So then it takes away the problem of 'Oh, I need to now go do some work and decommission it’. So I would say [these are] a couple of examples that usually get people to really understand how impactful it can be.

[00:13:09] Gaël: So you take seriously the issue with the cloud zombies - to quote Anne Currie. I love her expression about this. I can imagine zombie hunters. 

And Niklas, I recall you dedicated a full chapter to software, which is, quoting you, one of the fundamental building blocks of sustainable IT practices. I just don't remember if there are five or six in your book, but you will update us on this.

Does what Therese just described resonate with you, especially focusing on software and SAS providers? 

[00:13:45] Niklas: Yes, absolutely. I think like Therese was saying, the first and foremost principle when it comes to software development, is to relocate. We usually talk about 3R principles: in terms of relocate, re -architect and right size - the application. So, by putting the container or the workload that you want to run in a low carbon area, that's going to have a big impact, obviously. But then obviously zombie loads is important to reduce. So shut down your test beds, your automatic testing and so forth when you're not working on it, for example.

And, to really try to visualize it, to put the power in the hands of the software engineers, so that this doesn't become an activity that you do once a year, just because you need to calculate your current footprint. Rather giving a dashboard to the software engineers where they can actually see in real time, what is the energy consumption, what is the carbon emission on their code in their different environments and so forth, to really create that engagement, all through the organization, to have that instant feedback. I think it's really, really important when it comes to software development.

[00:14:59] Gaël: And this instant feedback approach, does it connect to your sustainable SDLC [Software Development Life Cycle] practices, or is it something different?

[00:15:10] Niklas: We are exploring in terms of how we can utilize it in the best way, to bring awareness into this because just like the rest were saying, the awareness is not there and it requires a bit of awareness, education in order to bring this to the table. As a software engineer, you're obviously tasked to bring products and solutions to market quickly. So, I think it's also important to embed this into the software development lifecycle, and not make this as a separate thing that you need to do in isolation. This should be embedded into the software development life cycle rather than doing it in isolation. So making it as easy and consumable as possible. I think it's really, really key. And I think we will see a lot more of these types of tools surfacing in the near future, that you can connect to both on premise, environments, but also obviously cloud providers like Amazon, Google.

[00:16:11] Gaël: Yeah, there is some work being done at Kubernetes level in the Kubernetes community, for instance, to get an instantaneous or a carbon footprint, using it and incorporating in your CI/CD pipeline, the carbon footprint of your code. But I'm always wondering that, both of you, you're hands on people. So you do it for real, in real life all the time. And how much do you believe this automation is kind of the best possible outcome? Because this is, as you said, you need to make it very visual, you need to make it available all the time and not some kind of yearly committee where everyone gets nervous two days before and then forgets about it. So having it automated in your CI /CD is a great achievement, but Is it really doable? And could you share any examples where it has actually worked or is it too early at the moment? 

[00:17:08] Niklas: No, we can definitely say, I think, if you incentivize and you tell you software engineers to shut down your cloud environments over the weekend or when you go home from work, because we want to save costs, that's not really a great motivator, but if you can visualize that this is how much CO2 you're burning when you're not actually utilizing your code or your environments, then I think that's the best motivator. And, and I have a colleague, Elsa Westin, she says that ' it's not my wallet, but it's my planet'. And I think that's probably the best motivator you can have, to really visualize it, and we've seen, that this really works, that the people are actually taking this seriously and decommissioning resources far more readily than they usually do. 

[00:17:56] Gaël: ' It's not my wallet, but it's my planet'. I really love it. Therese, is it like integrating in CI/CD pipeline, at MuleSoft or Salesforce? Is it something that you've already done or how do you enable or unpower I would say, your developers to make the best possible decisions?

[00:18:14] Tereze: So I have two things to say here. I'll start with a custom example and this echoes what Niklas was saying. If there's really demand and desire, developers can move really, really quickly. So for example, I was working with a large bank based, based out of India, and initially they said, look, we're starting our green computing journey, we are really curious to know what MuleSoft's point of view is, what data can you expose, or how can you help us shape our strategy? And the next time I checked in with them, they were using green algorithms. They had integrated it with their CI/CD pipelines. They already had dashboards set up, like, look, 'we can see the missions per API per environment, and now we're essentially collaborating'. 

Okay, this is awesome. You essentially created your baseline. You can track and you can actually see what's the impact of each respective action. So going through identifying those greenhouse gas emissions opportunities, from both architecture, both from operational perspective and so forth. So that's really exciting. I think that's the first thing, there are tools and if you have backing and you really want to do that, you can go really fast and it can be really, really amazing. 

 The other thing is we fully acknowledge that we need to be transparent with our data and we're really actively working on how we expose that data through the UI or so that then you can programmatically retrieve it via our platform APIs. So there's work being done on our core platform. So for CRM, it's not officially released, but it's essentially in the works. So I've seen a couple of demos, just had to play around with it. But it's really, really fascinating because it actually shows you what different apex classes, what are the carbon emissions, for your different components that you've configured, the front end or more back end, if it's making calls to back end systems, and exposes all of that out of the user interface, which is really, really powerful, and which is the biggest thing customers constantly ask us for. And it's something that there's demand for, and we have to do our part in making sure that data is available, so they can also start making better informed choices. Because the minute they can see what the emissions are, and start to understand what that actually means, they will want to do something about it. So that's the first thing that we're focusing on. 

[00:20:45] Gaël: Well, I've got a bit of a dilemma because of the two examples you gave, I would like to dig a bit deeper. So let's park for the moment your great example with this bank in India, because I wanted to connect next about which kind of support they got from their leadership level. And I know that there is a full chapter in Niklas book about it as well. So let's park this for a moment and let's go to this data question, because that's something that I hear over and over among my guests here in the podcast and people that work with, for instance, in the climate action tech community or Boavizta that the data is not here, data is not transparent, data is only scope one or scope two the website. So, how much do you know, and how much Tereze do you believe that Salesforce or maybe only MuleSoft, you tell us, would be able to provide open and checkable data, including scope three? And how much pressure can you put on your own suppliers? Because as I recall, Niklas, just quoting it by heart, but there is something in your book about leveraging your purchasing power or something like that.

[00:22:00] So I'd love both of you to come up and maybe Therese, if you can start first on what is your ambition with data so far? 

[00:22:08] Tereze: Great question. It's always a little bit prickly, isn't it when it comes to data ? But no, that's why it's important to talk about it. So I guess the first thing to mention here is MuleSoft is built on Amazon Web Services. So actually, we have been working very closely with AWS and pushing them to share more data and be more transparent because, of course, we put our products on their infrastructure, so it's another layer. So, from a customer perspective, there's like layers and layers, and it can become very tricky then to try and calculate what the emissions are.

And that's progressing, so I know. That pressure, and I know it's been talked about in previous podcasts as well, but that's 100% our strategy, and me being in the customer success organization, I'm always educating the customer to say: put pressure on us because that's how we shape the product road map. The minute we have every customer demanding this, it will be there. So, I'm essentially also a customer advocate in that regard because I show them the art of the possible, but also say, look, sustainability is important for any large organization. I started asking the questions of how, as part of your 2030 strategy, you also want to reduce scope for your missions, which is purchasing goods and services, which means us.

So, I sort of plant the seed and that also helps us get more momentum and how many resources we can put on to expose that data. And while we're working all of that out in terms of, what's the method, how much can we share, there are other ways at the moment that I've used to help customers at least get a really good ballpark figure. Because often the best that you typically get from vendor is : "let's look at how much you spend with us and that spend proportion is your missions out of our entire missions", right?

It's like a spend-based allocation method, and for most organizations, that's just not good enough. It's not granular enough. So then using a third party API, for example, ThoughtWorks framework, we can actually reasonably well go back [and say] ‘Okay, so you're hosting your MuleSoft integrations and APIs in this region, on this kind of worker, the CPU is roughly this’, like that's enough input for me to actually work out what those emissions are. And then, it's granular enough also to track if they do something, what's the impact. And that's actually something we're doing with a couple of large organizations. And the reason why it's so important is if we have those success stories, we can go again, go back in and say, look, this is the impact you can have, and we need to amplify it.

[00:24:55] Gaël: Yeah, you know, when I'm listening to you, I always feel a bit schizophrenic because when I listen to you, I'm like, oh, great, there are these great doers inside big corporations pushing, and basically raising awareness in departments and companies, where the simple idea that your software or your data centers is actually an issue, an environmental issue. It is something that is not here at all that's great et cetera, and then i made i made this very hands on activist - we're already talking about scope 3, we need also to pay attention to resources and not only carbon, and we need to have way more information from big cloud providers especially at AWS (which is not the number one at the moment in their wish list I would say). Because it's not only the carbon which is emitted by the energy you use, but also the quite significant carbon footprint when you build a hardware and you've got even other issues with water usage, et cetera. 

So I always feel a bit schizophrenic. So, Niklas, can you, can you be my shrink here and help me, with all the different experiences you've got in this, also your very important role in the sustainable, are we getting better? Is it bad, doctor? 

[00:26:19] Niklas: Well, I think, if we take the doctor example, I think we're all starting to come to a realization that the patient is sick. And in this perspective, it's the planet that we need to create, or come up with a remedy for. I think also, as I state in my book, is that no-one has all of the answers. I think this needs to be a very collaborative approach between technology leaders like myself sitting on the buyer side, but also working with the vendors like Salesforce service now, Microsoft, and what have you.

I think it's really, really important that transparency is key, because if you're not going to have transparency, I think a lot of companies are going to be doomed, to be honest. So, it's rather better to have an approach saying that we are working on it, we don't have all the answers. These are the assumptions, this is how we're trying to work it out. Because we're also have emergent legislations in, in Europe, for example, with the CSRD, the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive; that by 2024/ 2025, you need to start reporting on your full scope one, scope two, and also your scope three. So these tough questions need to happen.

And it's just a matter of months and, and less than a year, where we need to start getting these type of data points from vendors. And, I think that will probably be enough to start driving impact, because as we discussed in the beginning of the podcast as technology leaders, when we put something into motion, we do it on a global scale and it has a massive impact if you do it right from the beginning.

So, I'm very confident that once we sort of have an established baseline, I've seen examples where you can reduce your CO2 emissions by two thirds, quite rapidly, if you use some well equipped levers to do so. 

[00:28:13] Gaël: That's always something that I love to ask ‘What is kind of the top actions or the top tips that you could share that are workable pretty much everywhere in every company ? And what are the actions which are more specific to each company?’. So obviously you cannot list all of them, but more like, if you want to start and achieve this very successful results in a matter of months or years, whatever, what you should start looking at pretty much in any companies and what is usually a bit more company specific ?

[00:28:47] Niklas: Yeah, so we already discussed the cloud and the impact that you can have by choosing the right location on the right provider. Software development is always one key. But then also, in my role as a CIO, you usually. managing thousands of applications and having a good application portfolio management around those. And this is the great thing about that, you're not not only going to reduce your CO2 footprint by rationalizing your applications and moving things to the cloud and migrating things and removing legacy applications, but there's a very compelling IT cost reduction built into that. 

So you have sustainability, you have IT cost reduction, working alongside together. So application rationalization on a bigger scale is quite important to work with, as a CIO, as a CTO. One thing that we haven't mentioned is the embodied carbon, for example. And when I mean embodied carbon, I talk about all of the hardware that you procure, for example. Anything from your smartphone, your laptop, your servers, your network equipment, and so forth. And, if we take some examples, just an Apple iPhone 14 emits 70 kilos of CO2 over a three year life cycle. A typical Dell laptop, off the shelf, roughly emits 320 kilos over a four year life cycle. So I think also, as consumers, we need to make sure that we prolong the longevity of the hardware and make sure that we can find a second life and we can pass them on in the value chain, by not only disposing [of] them. But to work with a reputable partner that can give the asset a second life, they can refurbish it, they can repurpose it, they can take apart components and put them into new or old assets. And recycling should really be the last asset to be honest. And from what I hear talking to some of these vendors like Apple and Dell, is that we haven't really done a great job of creating circularity, where these assets actually come back to them. Apple, for example, have created the robot Daisy and they have them on a number of locations across the world, [and] from my understanding, they only get back a very, very, insignificant portion of the number of assets or number of smartphones, for example, that they are putting out there in the marketplace. 

So I think we also have a responsibility to make sure that we apply a more circular approach to this, to prolong the longevity of the assets, but also when they become end of use or end of life, then we make sure that we work with a solid partner that can provide us with a transparent supply chain that provides us with good data, and to make sure that the assets are being refurbished or recirculated. 

[00:31:54] Gaël: So to sum it up, the three main culprits to investigate first, if I follow your ideas will be 1) be carbon aware with your cloud location 2) rationalize your application and decommission as much as possible of them. And then 3) be aware of the embedded carbon of your own devices and hardware and make sure that you go full speed toward a circular economy or the circularity of it. Am I right? 

[00:32:25] Niklas: Yes, for sure. And then to the fourth point, is really to leverage your vendor ecosystem to start putting pressure on your vendors. So, so really leverage your buying power and work with the vendors that are serious about this. Look at the vendors, what type of commitments they have done, for example, and how they are working with it [sustainability] and replace the vendors that are not serious about it because there are a number of vendors that haven't really taken the series so far. 

[00:32:57] Gaël: And so, Tereze, do you feel the pressure? 

[00:33:01] Tereze: Well, as I joked earlier, I think we can always apply more pressure to really, really move the needle forward. But yes, similar to what Niklas said in terms of choosing your suppliers, we actually do have something called a sustainability exhibit. And the whole idea behind that is to put climate commitments into our supplier contracts.

The idea being, again, we want to take our suppliers on that journey and say, okay, do you have science based targets? If not, we can share everything that we're doing, to really knowledge share. Because at the end of the day, we only win if we all win, right? No-one wins alone in preserving and saving the planet. The more people we can get get on board the better. 

[00:33:52] Gaël: You started to explain that basically you do a great job educating your own customers and actually that in a perfect world that should be the opposite. So do you [have] different kinds of customers or different locations? Do you experience more pressure from customers based, I don't know, in Singapore or in the U. S. rather than in other countries? Or is it mostly you who would actually, will actually, raise awareness, and explain that using Salesforce or MuleSoft, has some environmental impact and that they should be aware of it. How does it go today? 

[00:34:33] Tereze: The first battle was actually raising awareness internally, and really, bringing to light the impact ,and again, it's not just carbon, right? As Niklas mentioned, it's also that all of our devices need rare earth metals. So there's a myriad of different issues, but coming back to the question in terms of organizations that we work with and customers, it is a really fascinating trend. Maybe I speak at a community event or, we do something with our developer community, all of a sudden a techie is like, 'Oh. This is fascinating, I didn't realize this', and we started to see more and more demand and requests around 'Well, what can you, what can we do? Do you have any guidance?’.  And then they want to partner up. So, it is a little bit of push and pull. So, planting the seed, and you have to also remember traditionally the audience or the stakeholders from organizations that we work with tend to be your architects, developers and so forth.

So while these really mature, large organizations have a very mature sustainability or ESG department, the IT organization often has no idea. And those 2 departments are essentially in silos. So again, just for some of our work, we sometimes say, 'Hey, your organization has these goals. How are you working from an IT perspective, how does IT feed into the wider strategy?'. So that's again, how we influence and work with these large organizations to really make the penny drop, and also show them what could be done and share some of the successes from other organizations. 

[00:36:23] Gaël: And I would love to bounce back on what you say, because the strategy part is something that I'm facing more and more with my customers. You know, you've got a strategy for everything, a strategy for accessibility, the strategy for sustainability, if you've got a strategy for security, cyber security, et cetera, et cetera, and obviously strategy for marketing a product… What would be your advice to incorporate a sustainable IT strategy in your corporation? Is it something that should be separated or connected with the sustainable strategy? If so, how? It shouldn't exist at all ? It's a bit like a digital strategy today, as that's a very wrong signal if you've got a digital strategy, because it means that digitalization is not that advanced in your own company. So what would be your feedback on this, Tereze?

[00:37:15] Tereze: I don't think you can use a cookie cutter approach, frankly. I think it really does depend on what your organization is, how it's structured, what your strategy is in the first place, and so forth. But, what I've seen at least with some of the organizations that we've recently partnered up with is they have a very strong and clear idea what their goals are. So, for example, by 2030, they want to halve their carbon emissions. They also have strategies around which sustainable development goals are priority for them, and I've seen IT leaders look at that and say, 'okay, so looking at our current estates, how does that feed up?'. And even I'm starting to see some of the organizations that we speak to actually have sustainability as part of their IT strategy as well.

So, before it wasn't anywhere written down and it's now formally captured and as part of that, they might have different domains that they call out to be a domain application or the cloud strategy. I think a part of that also echoes seeing some of the hyperscalers having sustainability in their well architected frameworks.

So, it's really fascinating to see that formally being part of the IT strategy as well. But again, that's just a few examples I've seen. I know for others it's completely different. So short answer, it really depends on the kind of organization. 

[00:38:50] Gaël: Sure. But it helps to share some feedback nonetheless. And what about you, Niklas? Because you, it's a significant part of your book which is dedicated to strategy. 

[00:39:00] Niklas: Well, I think it's important to first have an established baseline in terms of where you are and what are the levers that you can pull in order to get to a desired state. I think the journey is obviously going to be different for different industries, for different companies and so forth. But it's important to formulate that overall strategy, and similar to a digitalization strategy, it should be embedded into your overall business strategy or your IT strategy and not be a standalone piece, but to embed it and to make it part of the DNA as we progress with this.

So create a simple, actionable strategy that you can start with. It doesn't need to be something that's going to take you six months or twelve months to produce. It should be fairly simple. It should be action oriented. And, you should have a number of key tangible areas. We talked about data centers, for example, or cloud, how you'd reduce your embodied carbon with your end user computing, for example, how do you look at your application portfolio? So very, very tangible and, and really a great strategy should really also single out a number of items that you shouldn't do, and really focus on the key things that are going to make the biggest impact for you. 

[00:40:22] Gaël: So you are a big fan of the 'you are what you want to do’ when you prioritize things 

[00:40:28] Niklas: Yes absolutely . And I think one thing that we haven't really discussed in that much detail is dark data. And I think that's really something that's a bit concerning. I think going forward, as well, is that there's so much data that we store, single use data, and then we are never to retrieve it again. For example, and this obviously comes into the space of AI, autonomous vehicles and so forth, where we train different models. We need large data sets in order to be able to create a safe environment for autonomous vehicles and so forth. But I think it's equally important to make sure that we put good retention data in place for companies, to make sure that the data doesn't just grow indefinitely. And there are some numbers around this, that, in last year, in 2022, we generated 97 zetabytes of data, and that's 97 trillion gigabytes of data. And, by 2025, if we don't sort of break the curve or change the way in terms of how we manage data, this will double to roughly 180 zettabytes. So 180 trillion gigabytes. So it's an enormous amount of data, and we really need to reimagine the approach to how we manage data going forward. 

[00:41:50] Gaël: Indeed, and you know, connecting with what we've discussed briefly earlier, which is that there is stuff beyond carbon. I always love to quote this study from Melvin Vobson about the material footprint of data. Because if we continue that space with the current technology, but Melvin Vopson made a very simple calculation, which is that under the current data growth by 2000, I think it was 2047, we will have to excavate the size of the Mount Everest every year just to build the servers to store this data. So I get this is where, as you said, sustainable IT strategy meets data strategy, and especially data governance about deleting, when you don't use it or do not create it in the first place.

[00:42:40] Gaël There is something that we briefly mentioned for you, Niklas, with sustainable and not at all with you, Tereze, but both of you, you shared how much it's important to work in teams, to work collaboratively, both within your companies, but also outside your companies. And both of you are very much involved in all the activities, like I briefly mentioned, NGO and stuff. Could you tell us why a company today should not remain on their own when it comes to sustainability? And What are the commitments that you would like to highlight, in your professional life?

[00:43:22] Tereze: I guess I can go first. So I think it goes without saying, you can learn a lot. And I've been really inspired by the open source community, just the eagerness to collaborate, and two brains are better than one. And also some of the problems that we have, the really, really complex ones when it comes to trying to figure out how we solve it,because the systems have multiple layers, or different components, and then you have networking back end front end... You know, very quickly it can get very, very complex. So, [perhaps] partnerships with universities, because I know Salesforce does that as well in terms of what are the most recent papers that have been published in space? What can we learn from that? 

But also giving back to the community as well. So how can we contribute to open source or, really get people on board? I guess from my perspective, I've been involved quite heavily in terms of MuleSoft developer community. So again, this is everyone across our customers and partners and so forth. So again, just sharing things around the guide or what we're doing. But also, for example, Green Software Foundation, I follow what they do, where I can contribute on their GitHub discussions or whatnot. So again, I just think there's a myriad of different really passionate people who really want to move the needle. And the only way we're going to solve it is by partnering together.

[00:44:56] Gaël: Yeah. I love the Green Software Foundation work and a kudos to their great podcast, 'Environmental Variables', a great source of information in the field, definitely. And what about you, Niklas? 

[00:45:08] Niklas: Well, I think there's a great value of sharing. This is something that we can share across industries, among companies within the same industries and so forth, because this is really a common journey for the planet. And, so I would really encourage to get engaged with organizations like sustainable where, where I'm part of the board and, and we've seen great progress with a lot of companies joining in the last 18 months. There are others like CIOCO2 here in Sweden and the Green Software Foundation as well is another one that is propelling the purpose going forward.

So look for case studies, look for other companies doing great things. And so far, I've seen some amazing stories from some companies getting involved in sustainable IT, and really inspiring to see the journey that they are taking and taking a holistic approach. But also being very open, in terms of the challenges that they have, or the challenges that we share. I would really like to direct you to sustainable and the IT standards and environmental ESG, social and governance standards that we have put out. So that's a great starting point. It's a free resource to, to get into and start pivoting.

And it's a great complement if you're looking to create a strategy around this . 

[00:46:31] Gaël: And I will put all those references in the show notes, obviously. Thanks a lot, both of you. And before we leave, I'd like to close now with a different question. So this is my first. Could you share a piece of news which has made you optimistic about our path toward a more sustainable world, to close on a positive note ? 

[00:46:54] Tereze: It's not really a new story, me being me, I like doing something that's technically outside a little bit of the box. I did a course a couple of months back called leadership and sustainable business. And one of the key facilitators, Rachel Brown, she's been in the climate space pretty much all her life. She was even part of the cohort of presenters for Al Gore's 'Incovenient Truth’, and she's also co-founder of and CEO of the Sustainable Business Network in New Zealand. So needless to say, she's a very impressive individual, and she actually told us that in her entire career, this is the most momentum that she's ever seen in the sustainability space, and that for me personally was incredibly uplifting because I think we often see a lot of doom and gloom in the media and the more aware you become, it can feel like problem is just overwhelming.

So just hearing someone who's a seasoned veteran and expert, someone with a lot of clout, who said, well, actually don't feel disheartened, look after yourselves. But, if you're feeling down and need a little pick me up, just remember, this is the most momentum I've ever seen personally. And she's really optimistic for the future. So yeah, that's my little piece of good news. 

[00:48:17] Niklas: And I really resonate with that as well. I think we've built up great momentum going forward. I think just in the last 12, 18 months, I've seen tremendous progress. We've had obviously some black swan events in recent years with COVID 19, but now also the war in Ukraine and you see how countries in Europe are pivoting for example. And the massive amount of creation of renewable energy in Europe at the moment is really, really staggering. And, if we can solve some key issues, for example, where we can create renewable energy in the Sahara desert, Northern Africa, for example, and the transmission, then we have a great opportunity to drive down the carbon intensity quite quickly. So, I think I'm very, very optimistic in terms of the momentum, the conversation. I also get a bit beaten down on the doom and gloom, from the news and so forth, from time to time. But, then I try to reset myself and really look at the big picture and see all of the great things happening, especially in the US for example, with the great infrastructure [Inflation] Reduction Act - it has also had great momentum in the U S and that's probably one of the most important [pieces of] legislation that has come across the hill in the last 10, 15 years. So, I'm really, really optimistic for the future. 

[00:49:46] Gaël: Thanks a lot both of you for joining the show, sharing that much -  which is something that you're used to when we see your track record, when it comes to NGO involvement and then professional groups involvement, but still very enjoyable to have you on the show and looking forward to the comments from our listeners.

[00:50:06] Tereze: Amazing. Thank you so much. It's been an absolute privilege. 

[00:50:10] Niklas: Thank you so much. Very happy to be here and I had a really great discussion today.

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