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Software Development

How to build green software development?

date: 8 September 2022
reading time: 7 min

What is green software development and why is it important?

What is green software development?

Also known as sustainable software development, green software development is a new and important discipline that applies to software practices and architecture, climate science, data centre and hardware design, and electricity markets.

Green software development refers to software that has been developed with the goal of limiting its negative effects on the environment, particularly in terms of energy consumption. It aims to reduce its subsequent carbon footprint by generating fewer greenhouse gases, making it kinder to our environment and positively impact the world around us by operating as efficiently as possible.

The importance of green software development

The concept of ‘green technology’ has been floating around for the past two decades, but it is only recently that it has begun to build meaningful traction. The green tech and sustainability market was valued globally at $11.2 billion back in 2020, but is expected to climb to $36.6 billion by 2025 with an annual growth rate of 26.6%.

Data centres use huge amounts of energy to run, sadly contributing to the global climate issues that we are experiencing today. Between 2010 and 2020, global data centre electricity use was around 200-250 TWh – 1% of the global energy demand.

In 2020, global internet traffic surged by more than 40% with the total usage rising to 260-340 TWh in just a single year – 1.1-1.4% globally.

It is therefore clear how important it is to curb global energy use in digital technologies given its monumental saturation of the total demand on our planet. Only through continued and sustained efforts within the IT industry will this happen, making green software development and practices more crucial now than it has ever been before in our past.

The principles of green software development

The principles of green software are an established set of fundamental guidelines that engineers must follow when developing and implementing software applications.

What are the benefits of building sustainable software?

The environmental benefits of green software developments are clear. Greener tech means less energy usage and better efficiency. In turn, this reduces carbon emissions which positively contributes to reducing the damage to our environment. This is a widely accepted concept that everyone is on board with. Everyone in this world has a personal and collective responsibility in fighting climate change within their own personal sphere.

As well as these aforementioned environmental benefits, there are further sustainable software benefits that help to make an excellent case for green software development.

  • Less complex architecture

    Green software typically runs with less interdependencies, meaning that they are inherently less complex, and therefore, they use less energy to function.

  • Cost effective

    Fewer interdependencies means few resources are used, which in turn means that they are cheaper and more cost-effective to run.

  • Faster computing speeds

    Similarly, lower complexity in a system means that it can often run much faster.

  • Positive brand recognition

    Being seen as an ‘environmentally friendly’ company is hugely positive in today’s global social climate. Making your brand visible as a champion of green tech, pioneering the way in your industry for positive change does wonders for your brand image and will gain you a loyal following of similarly eco-focused customers. Of course, it’s important to ‘walk the walk’ and not only ‘talk the talk’, but that should go without saying.

How to build a sustainable software development Team

Green team building is much the same as building any successful tech team, but with a central and continuous focus on ‘sustainable’ practices.

When compiling any crack team of professionals, it is important to set out a hiring plan so as to onboard members who not only have the relevant skills and experience, but the right mindset. This is particularly important in sustainable team building as you need every single member of the team to have a deep understanding and passion for green development, and for them to have this concept at the forefront of all their operations. When interviewing potential candidates, go through their own personal thoughts and experiences of green and sustainable tech, discuss examples they have worked towards in their career to date and get to understand their own philosophy on the matter.

Going through these areas early on will help to cement not only your trust and confirmation in the individuals themselves in terms of how they can successfully impact your green projects, but the employees’ own understanding of your company philosophy and what will be expected of them moving forward.

Once you have assembled your team, positively promote the sustainable culture into all of your operations. Meetings, budgets, product proposals and so on should always be viewed with the underlying thought process of ‘how green is this?’ and ‘what steps can we take to become more energy efficient, to run more effectively, and to reduce emissions?’. Regularly sharing your sustainable values, in a non-preachy or patronising manner, will help to build this ideology in your company effectively, motivating your team and shaping all of your operations effectively.

Lastly, it is really important to encourage the flow of ideas on how to better approach your green software development. Operate with an ‘open door’ policy and build transparency and autonomy into everything you do. If staff members feel that no stage of the tech development is hidden or ‘off the table’, they will feel empowered to bring their thoughts and opinions on how to better improve efficiency and build more sustainability into the project.

How to build a sustainable product roadmap

Building a green product roadmap is the final piece in the puzzle to becoming a truly sustainable-focused tech team. In order to create a successful environmentally friendly roadmap, it’s important to consider the following 4 key aspects:

Environmental impact

First and foremost, the product roadmap should detail where and how it will positively impact the environment. Some key questions to ask yourself at this stage include:

  • How will it reduce emissions compared to another approach?

  • How will you build in energy efficient strategies?

  • What materials will you use? Are there other ‘greener’ materials you can use?

  • What supply chains will you rely on? What green strategies do they have in place?

  • Will this strategy be ‘green’ right away or will it take time to develop?

  • Defining the answers to these types of questions early on will help you develop and refine your sustainable product roadmap and act as the framework to which all decisions can be based throughout its lifecycle.


Once you have defined the areas that you intend to build in sustainability and green processes, consider who your stakeholders are.

All your stakeholders will need to share your ‘green’ focus and sustainability efforts to as to maximise the positive impact of your project. This is applicable at every level, from your investors who will provide you with funds to develop your product, to your team members (as discussed previously), right through to the end users. Personnel at each stage will wield social and financial influence on your product so making sure they are all on board and share the same environmentally friendly vision is key.

Sustainability strategies

After defining the scope, reach and philosophy of a green software development project, it’s then necessary to focus in on the fine details.

How will you ensure that sustainability will be built in to all corners of the project? Perhaps you will hold regular meetings with your team to review the sustainability of each aspect of the project, or maybe even regular sustainability reports to help stay on task and keep the end goal in mind. This could also extend to working more closely with suppliers and other third parties to review their own strategies and practices. Whatever form it takes, the devil is in the details.

Measuring success

Last but not least, your green product roadmap needs to include measurables which allow you to define what sustainability ‘success’ looks like.

It’s no good making such a big effort to onboard your team, build a company philosophy of ‘green tech development’ and work tirelessly to reduce your carbon footprint without understanding what that success looks like. Set out clear and measurable goals in your sustainability roadmap, along with achievable time deadlines, and check off those successes one step at a time. Breaking it down developmentally will also allow you reset, readjust and reevaluate in an agile manner, further adding to your chances of success.

Conclusion: How to build green software development and stay competitive in the market

Working in a green-focused mindset with all team members building efficiency into every area of the software product is the key to reducing the global energy expenditure that software development inevitably contributes. On the other hand, it’s crucial that we don’t just jump into these green initiatives with both feet without thinking first.

Green product development needs to be sustainable both in terms of the environment and the viability of the product itself. It needs to be cost efficient so that you can stay competitive in your pricing when compared to the competition.

It needs to provide the same level of functionality to your main competitors (or more), as well as a high level of user satisfaction. It’s no good having a wonderfully sustainable product and company model, only for it to be expensive and perform poorly, as no one will use it. Everything needs to come together symbiotically, and this takes a group of highly focused individuals who share the same passion for sustainable software design and love for the state of the Earth. It can be done, it will be done, let’s do it.

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