A few decades ago, I was talking with the head of engineering for a Canadian mining company at one of their mines in the heart of the jungles of Indonesia, on an island called Sulawesi. We were discussing his plans for reducing the environmental impact of the site, particularly the smelter with its large chimney that was visible from miles around.

I asked him if he had faced challenges in obtaining resources from the company. Competing for capital in what was a tough market for nickel at the time was not easy.

He confessed that it had been challenging, but he was determined not to give up.


He had brought his daughter to visit him at the site, and when she saw the smokestacks, she asked, “Daddy, how can you let this happen?”

He felt ashamed, perhaps for the first time in his career. So he made her a promise that he would find a way to clean it up and make it better. That’s what was driving him. He wouldn’t, couldn’t take no for an answer.

He applied all of his skills to achieve that, demonstrating remarkable creativity and an innovative spirit—solving a problem with a purpose.

Over the years, I’ve reflected on this story. I have always been proud of my work with technology. I won’t claim to be the world’s greatest innovator, but I love collaborating with people and technology to solve problems.

However, there is a darker side to technology as well—the significant carbon footprint of our digital activities.

By 2025, digital technology will account for 8% of greenhouse gas emissions. Energy consumption from digital technology is growing six times faster than the rest of the economy.

We have become the digital equivalent of those smokestacks in that island paradise.

Like many others, I have become increasingly interested in how we can harness the benefits of our digital world while reducing our carbon footprint. We need to leverage our abilities and our spirit of innovation to reverse the impending disaster of climate change—a promise we should all make to our children and future generations.

Our company, like many others, has signed up for the Digital Governance Council’s sustainability challenge, where we share our experiences and expertise. For those interested, I will provide a link.

As CIOs and technology leaders, we are striving to make a difference. According to Gartner’s latest CIO survey, environmental sustainability has risen by 25% compared to the previous year’s survey, marking the first time sustainability ranked among CEOs’ top 10 priorities. Gartner predicts that by 2026, environmental sustainability will be a higher strategic business priority for CEOs than the technology-related category.

The CIO Association of Canada reflects this growing interest among its membership. They invited Robert Barton, Chief Technology Officer and distinguished architect at Cisco Canada, to speak at our annual gathering. I was amazed by his presentation.

I hurried over to Rob and said, “I have to have you on my podcast.” I wanted to share some of his ideas with my audience.

Robert understands innovation firsthand—he holds over 200 patents, has authored three books, and somehow manages to find time to play hockey occasionally. He is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to sustainability.

For more, check out my interview with Rob using the player (above). And here are the links mentioned in the interview:

The Digital Governance Council’s Sustainability Pledge 

Cisco.com on sustainability.

Hope you enjoy this. Please let me know what topics you’d like to hear more about or people you think I should interview.

Enjoy your weeknend!


The post Sustainability and IT with Robert Barton, CTO Cisco Canada for Hashtag Trending, the Weekend Edition first appeared on IT World Canada.

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