Digitally-Enabled Corporate Sustainability Transformation - Case and Context for Green IT and Green IS

The effects of the global climate disruption become ever more severe. The digital transformation of businesses and the consequential ever-growing demand for Information Technologies (ITs) and Information Systems (IS) fuel this development. Their construction consumes vast amounts of physical resources, and their operation growing amounts of energy. However, increased use of Green IT and Green IS (innovative technologies and practices organizations can use to counteract and pro-actively manage their digital and sustainable transformation) can also solve these challenges.
Despite their potential, only a few companies seem yet to use Green IT and Green IS. We see and uncover three core reasons that we seek to address in this thesis: First, a misleading conceptual understanding of Green IT and Green IS. We see that both are treated as regular innovations through which their ecological ties are ignored. They are furthermore limited to their technical nature, and their socio-technical components are omitted. We address this by undertaking two literature analyses. The first uncovers that Green IT/IS adoption is influenced by not only organizational and individual but also environmental and societal factors. In the second, we find that primarily Green IT/IS capabilities enable initial but also more sophisticated sustainability changes.
Second, the low Green IT/IS adoption rate is an issue. Without these clear and visible demonstrations of internal and external benefits, neither companies continue to refrain from initial adoption. We address this issue by undertaking two quantitative studies and one literature review. We document that while only a few companies use Green IT/IS, those that do achieve various benefits on the four outlined levels. In the literature review, we catalog quick wins that companies can adopt quasi-costless while achieving relatively high sustainability benefits.
Third, certain managerial assumptions about sustainability and Green IT/IS negatively determine the respective corporate adoption decisions. We document some of these assumptions in three initial studies and then undertake an additional interview study to confront managers with our insights.
This dissertation contributes to the academic discourse by adding conceptual clarity to the Green IT/IS concepts and their adoption determinants, means, and outcomes. Corporate decision-makers also benefit from this improved understanding, as it gives them a clearer picture of the factors that need to be considered in initializing or advancing their organization’s digitally-enabled sustainability transformation.


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