The Role of ESG in IT Services Pricing: Is There a Case for a Green Premium? | Blog

Service providers who lead in green engineering and can produce significantly more carbon-efficient software have an opportunity to price their sustainable IT services at higher premiums and pioneer this emerging space. Read on to explore more on IT services pricing in today’s ESG-focused marketplace.  

In the book How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need, Bill Gates popularizes the concept of a Green Premium. Simply put, a Green Premium is the incremental charge/cost that buyers must pay to use a clean technology over a “dirty” one.

Now, this isn’t a new notion by any means. Consumers pay more for products that are marked “organic” and happily shell out extra bucks for greener packaging or responsibly-sourced coffee. Green Premiums exist because organizations typically incur more costs to deliver cleaner products and services. But they also generate pricing power due to differentiation.

This concept has mostly restricted itself to mass usage products in a business-to-consumer setting. Can IT service providers replicate this in the enterprise technology marketplace? By introducing sustainability into the technology services, is there a case for a Green Premium?

We believe two distinct paths can lead to a Green Premium in IT services pricing – an external-facing route and an internal one. Let’s explore the external opportunity first.

Green software

While building software, the most important priorities are typically user-centric – user experience, performance, latency, security, etc. Developing carbon-efficient software has never been a core objective. And in the process, the impact of emerging technologies has largely gone unnoticed. Only recently has a host of research been published pointing out the tremendous negative impact the likes of blockchain and artificial intelligence could have on the planet. For example, according to a study performed at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 2019, training a single Artificial Intelligence model can cause as much carbon emission as five cars in their lifetimes. No one saw that coming!

But we do see emerging signs of this changing. There is an industry-wide push towards greener software development practices. This includes steps such as considering the carbon impact of architectural decisions, choosing more energy-efficient languages, using data practices that reduce redundancy, and building more hardware-efficient applications. Given that this is an emerging field, there is no single service provider who does it better. And this creates a unique opportunity for service providers to aim for leadership in this blue ocean and materially differentiate their services

Providers who can lead in green software engineering and produce significantly more carbon-efficient software will differentiate themselves from competitors around parameters that genuinely matter to enterprises today. Alongside typical cost savings quoted in most proposals, future slide decks might have a percentage reduction in carbon emissions as one of the key benefits to the enterprise.

Getting the internal act together

Now, let’s explore the internal route that could lead to Green Premiums. Alongside providing green software engineering practices, service providers need to focus on achieving environmental, social, and governance (ESG) goals. A provider who leads in green software engineering but scores low on ESG metrics might not be able to establish credibility with clients.

Sooner than later, enterprises will inevitably start to consider ESG as a key parameter in their sourcing strategy. Traditionally, ESG parameters were mere check-the-box or good-to-have selection criteria. But according to Everest Group research, they are now becoming deal-breakers – or makers – in many instances. We expect to start seeing enterprises look for energy efficiency, impact sourcing, community impact, board-level governance, and transparency/disclosure standards. Service providers who score high on these metrics will be able to materially differentiate themselves against the competition.

The way forward

The primary challenge in this entire process lies in being able to calculate the exact Green Premium of sustainable IT services. No consensus exists yet. Both internal-facing ESG initiatives and cutting-edge green software engineering practices require investments from service providers and are inherently more expensive. A first mover in this space will face this challenge but also have an opportunity to literally set the benchmark.

In an increasingly commoditized industry, ESG offers promise for technology service providers to set themselves apart by creating truly differentiated services. As any ardent observer of the industry will acknowledge, such occasions are few and far between.

Are you a service provider aiming for leadership in this space? As an enterprise, are your providers exploring this opportunity to the fullest? Let me know by reaching out to [email protected] to discuss the emerging topic of ESG and its impact on IT services pricing.

Also, don’t miss our webinar, Key Issues for 2023: Rise Above Economic Uncertainty and Succeed, as we explore major concerns, expectations, and key trends expected to amplify in 2023.

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