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Sustainable Software Products Development: How To Follow The New Eco Trend

Updated: Dec 7, 2021

Have you noticed how environmental protection has "occupied" our daily life?

We're following the latest news on global warming, trying to throw paper in blue containers and glass in green ones. Even the software creation process has transformed to meet sustainable development goals.

Probably you have too many thoughts and guesses about sustainability in digital product development and its impact on business. To make sure you’re moving in the right direction, let’s dot the I’s and try to find the answers to frequently asked questions.

The Magnificent 7 Answers On Questions You Might Ask About Sustainability & Green Software Engineering

What is sustainability?

If you've googled the above, you've found hundreds of explanations with complex terms usage. Well, it's time to break the cycle and talk about it in plain language.

Sustainability is a concept following which any action or product should integrate with a human, society, the environment, and the economy seamlessly, bringing benefits within its entire lifecycle.

What is sustainability

The main metrics of compliance with sustainability are:

  • consideration of its core principles and using “green” tools for product creation;

  • product viability over a long period;

  • measurable advantages for four components of sustainability from a product operation & usage.

What is green software development?

“It’s the ability to design, develop, deploy and use reliable and long-lasting software that corresponds to the needs of users while improving impacts on society, economy, and environment during the whole lifecycle.” HAL.

Green software development is part of the overall sustainability plan. Its core goal - to create environmentally friendly digital products most optimally. They can make a further sustainable company operation more clean bringing it closer to the end goal.

Sustainable software development approach

Applying this approach, enterprises should pay attention to the nature of used equipment (like laptops), development cycle duration, technologies, and future solution functionality.

What are the engines of spreading green software engineering?

Over the last 2 years, companies have shown an increased interest in sustainability. We could talk to Maryna Grytsenko, an expert in sustainable development, to find out the reasons for this hype.

Maryna Grytsenko expert in sustainable development

“Companies choose to adhere to these standards for various reasons.

One of the main ones is compliance with state and international regulations. Within international agreements, states have committed to ensuring the achievement of sustainable development goals. Such an obligation also applies to enterprises conducting business in these countries.

For example, for several years now, companies have been required to file non-financial statements. It discloses employee salary levels, total energy consumption, carbon footprint level, etc. Unsatisfactory figures are equal to penalties. So, businesses try to avoid such a fate.

Also, don't think that non-financial reporting is a part of a government bureaucracy. Many large companies select their contractors and partners by analyzing this document. For example, Unilever turned down several potential partners because they did not provide decent working conditions for their employees. As seen, now it is crucial for business development.

Last but not least, non-financial reporting leads the way to international markets. You are unlikely to sell your company's shares on reputable exchanges or attract foreign investment without a credible sustainability report.

But the concept implementation is not only a consequence of pressure. The world knows many examples of how a business has come to it independently. Because of the desire to be a market leader, to care for customers, employees, the economy, and the environment. This way, an enterprise kills a few birds with one shot.

Why has the sustainability boom been observed over the past couple of years? - It's all about the vigilant problem of global warming and, of course, a pandemic. Sustainability is primarily about people and the environment. That is why the issue of implementation is so acute right now.”

What are the benefits and obstacles of sustainability implementation & green software development usage?

Ok, let’s swallow the bitter pill first to discover it’s not as scary as it seems. Reading about sustainability businesses often imagine something extremely hard and responsible. The management thinks that this concept will work for the distant future, but it is necessary to invest in it today. It's the holy truth. Companies will see real ROI over the years.

But talking about sustainable software engineering - it's possible to notice improvements from the first day of a cycle. For example, short development terms, streamlined processes, reduced operating costs, and increased employee productivity.

So, what general advantages should a company rely on when it has decided on sustainability implementation?

  • improving the quality of the provided product/service

  • the ability to bring business to the international level

  • increasing the level of trust from customers

  • reducing energy consumption and carbon footprint

  • boosting employee experience

  • optimization all back-office departments operation

  • the ability to implement new ideas in the tight schedule

  • use of detailed in-house regulations

  • effortless compliance with legislation

  • production and application of green, quality software products

What features does sustainable software have?

Since we have already started talking about digital solutions, why not continue? This is how software should be to receive an honor status "sustainable":

  1. efficient and flexible

  2. multifunctional

  3. consuming a minimum of natural resources

  4. requiring minimal efforts for the maintenance

  5. using Industry 4.0 technologies

  6. viable for a long period

  7. having a user-friendly interface

What’s the difference between a sustainable software development cycle and an ordinary one?

They are practically the same. The only significant distinction is the preparation & analysis stage. The case is software development is practically the last thing a company should do on the way to sustainability.

Step 1. Transformation

Above all, management should transform employee approaches to work and create internal policies. It will ensure high productivity and optimize the development process.

Step 2. A lengthy choice of suppliers

To write green code in the right way, engineers must do it on green hardware. Everything here matters. For instance, where a supplier gets the laptops, how much energy it uses to deliver them, and how much CO2 the manufacturer has emitted by producing every piece of equipment.

Sustainable software engineering phases

Based on this data, the company should choose the most suitable equipment. Moreover, it needs to purchase products at an affordable price. Otherwise, the process will not be considered sustainable.

Step 3. Analysis

Here, an enterprise should conduct an in-depth study of its business processes, create a list of requirements, and check its compliance with the sustainability principles.

Green software development also requires a previous design. It should be tested to make sure the product will be sustainable.

At the following stages of creation, there is no difference in the processes.

How do different companies comply with sustainability in practice?

Case #1

Following Time, a few years ago, Google was actively building its data centers throughout the US, including the arid regions of Arizona. Meanwhile, the company withheld information about water consumption for cooling centers, citing commercial secrecy. But the truth comes out. In 2019, the enterprise ordered 2.3 billion gallons of water for this purpose.

According to Water Smart, this volume is enough to irrigate over 15,375 golf courses or keep 20,000 households!

This fall, the company said it is going to replenish 20% more water than its offices and data centers use by 2030. Google plans to not only cut water consumption in its buildings but also help the surrounding communities.

“In Southern California, Google is helping to install toilet leak detection technology in low-income housing, to cut waste and keep the water cycling through plumbing systems,” reports Reuters. Moreover, to achieve sustainable goals, the company has created Carbon Footprint reporting for Google Cloud. It allows users to control carbon pollution associated with a cloud.

Case #2

One more digital giant, Microsoft, also distinguished itself by wasteful water consumption for cooling the same data centers. And here's what they came up with. To reduce water consumption, the company decided to build data centers on the seabed. In 2018, they deployed a Northern Isles datacenter near Scotland. It contains 864 servers and boasts a sustainable cooling system infrastructure.

The Bottom Line

Sustainability is one more rock that businesses should overcome to achieve their digital transformation goals. In the future, no software compares to a sustainable one.

To be a lucky owner of it, you need to create a corporate responsibility strategy now. You must be ready to change internal business processes, select reliable suppliers, and perform green digital product development.

Sure it's about superhuman efforts and significant investment. But, the advanced customer experience, healthy environment, and commercial prosperity of your enterprise are worth it.


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