Nearly all UK organisations see IT and communications technologies as having a role to play in ensuring the long-term environmental sustainability of their operations – but many have yet to apply the principle in practice.

Research by Datamonitor for BT has found that while 90% of organisations believe technology is part of the solution to reduce their impact on the environment, nearly half (41%) have no plans or targets for achieving improvements, with one in five admitting that they are not using technology effectively to improve their sustainability.

According to the study, a third of UK organisations across all the major sectors say the need to improve sustainability will be the single biggest driver of IT investment over the next five years. This was cited as more important than implementing new technologies such as unified communications (cited by 25%), taking advantage of converged networks (14%) or improving security (11%).

Tim Smart, CEO of BT Global Services UK, said the finding suggested that firms “may be paying lip service” to the issue of sustainability.

“The lack of forethought given to how to exploit this opportunity means companies may fail to see real benefit from the efforts they are making – and critically a return on their investments.”

But Neil Hendry of Datamonitor said the research had also revealed good levels of awareness about the positive impact that technology could have on areas such as flexible working, supply chain processes and building services automation.

Attitudes toward sustainability also differed markedly from sector to sector, with financial services businesses most likely (at 35%) to view sustainability as a tick-box regulation to ensure compliance and utilities the least likely (16%).

The utilities sector was also the most likely to have a plan for exploiting IT and communications to improve sustainability (66% of utilities respondents said that they had such a plan), followed by transport (58%), retail and media and leisure (52%), finance (51%), the public sector (51%) and construction (44%).

Datamonitor’s study was based on responses from 350 senior executives in companies with more than 500 employees. The research was conducted in November 2007.