Introducing the Sustainable CTO

Global study shows the chief technology officer has the potential to become the greatest driver of sustainability.


  • June 27, 2023

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Humanity is at a critical point in history. We face the convergence of two major forces: sustainability and digitalization.

As we approach 2030 – the target date set by both the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change1 and the U.S. government2 to significantly reduce CO2 emissions – organizations are under growing pressure to help mitigate climate change. At the same time, the rapid development of disruptive technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), advanced automation, the Internet of Things (IoT) and edge computing has led to exponentially rising demand for compute. How can we balance climate action and digital growth strategies to protect societies and advance global economies?

For business leaders, technology plays a paradoxical role in the sustainability agenda. Global computing is inarguably a significant contributor to carbon emissions and e-waste. But technology also holds the key to the solution. It’s in how we meet the ever-rising demand for computing performance in a sustainable way. It’s also, and more importantly, in how we use technology to sustainably transform entire organizations and business models to deliver a cleaner, greener, nature-positive future.

Leadership will be critical to this sustainable transformation. This requires a long-term, deep technical system-level architecture view of the problem, and we believe that chief technology officers (CTOs) play a critical role in aligning business strategy, technology and sustainability to meet this challenge.

The journey will not be easy. It will require not only reducing IT-related emissions but harnessing the power of technology to transform organizations.

To get there, tech leaders must embrace their new roles as the most pivotal sustainability influencers in the corporate C-suite: the Sustainable CTO. This new model of CTO must land “tech zero” (greener information technology) and use technology to affect the sustainable transformation of their entire organization to be “tech positive” (a greener business). Both tech zero and tech positive provide business-driven value to power growth and win in the new economy.

With this report, we are launching Intel’s new Sustainable CTO initiative, which will help us all make this journey together. We will bring together our global CTO community to share understanding, insights and best practices to bridge knowledge gaps and help shape a roadmap to tech positive.

In a global study, we set out to discover how enterprise leaders are approaching the interconnected challenges of sustainability and radical digital transformation. We also looked at the actions they must take to accelerate progress, as well as the barriers that stand in their way. We would like to thank our Sustainable CTO advisory board and the 2,020 global business leaders from 22 markets who participated in this global research to share their perspectives as CTOs, CEOs and chief sustainability officers (CSOs) in the world’s largest companies.

They told us that while tech is among the most challenging areas of their businesses to address in the race to net zero, technology has a critical role to play in sustainable transformation. Eighty-four percent of senior IT leaders believe technology has a pivotal (53%) or important (31%) role to play in their organizations’ strategies to become sustainable businesses. Most important, four in five (79%) senior IT leaders aspire to become sustainability leaders in their organizations – Sustainable CTOs. And they have mandates from their boards: 84% of CEOs and CSOs believe that CTOs have the potential to become the greatest drivers of sustainability in organizations.

This report reveals the immense potential of CTOs and the key steps that business leaders must take to support them. If the C-suite, including CTOs and CIOs, rally in support of a tech-positive approach, technological transformation can propel us toward a future that is greener, fairer and smarter.

For more than five decades, Intel has shaped the technology that has powered growth and innovation. And, over the next five decades, technology has an even more critical role to play in building a sustainable future.

Greg Lavender is senior vice president, chief technology officer and general manager of the Software and Advanced Technology Group at Intel Corporation.