Software, the invisible engine driving our digital world, carries a hidden cost: its environmental impact. While often overlooked, it contributes up to 5% of global carbon emissions, a figure poised to increase to 13% by 2030. However, Estonian software development company Helmes is making proactive efforts to change this trajectory.
From energy consumption to electronic waste and greenhouse gas emissions, the environmental footprint of software development is a pressing concern. In response to this challenge, sustainable software development has emerged as a promising approach to minimising the environmental impact of software creation and operation.
This methodology emphasises the use of energy- and resource-efficient practices, efficient data management, and shared infrastructure to reduce the environmental footprint of software solutions. Helmes, a major contributor to Estonia as a digital society and solution provider to prominent clients such as Airbus, Telia, OECD, and Kuehne+Nagel, is at the forefront of this movement.
A win-win on all sides
Helmes has made sustainability a central pillar of their software development process, aiming to inspire broader industry adoption. The response from clients has exceeded expectations. These companies have experienced decreased expenses and emissions, demonstrating that embracing green solutions can benefit the environment and deliver substantial cost savings.
Interestingly, Helmes discovered a valuable insight while implementing their green solutions: sustainable software is more cost-effective than traditional solutions. “There’s a common misconception that ‘going green’ is expensive. However, our experience building large-scale complex business systems shows the opposite. Implementing sustainability principles leads to lower system running costs, and the long-term efficiency gains significantly outweigh any upfront investment,” Team Lead Kaspar Kinsiveer elaborates.
At the same time, the benefits of Helmes’ approach go far beyond immediate cost savings and environmental impact. The company’s green solutions seamlessly integrate with clients’ sustainability strategies, allowing them to embed environmentally conscious practices across their organisations. This alignment with ESG considerations is gaining importance and is valuable.
From internal practices to industry leadership
Helmes’ journey towards green software development began years ago with a focus on optimising internal practices, such as implementing robust recycling programs. This commitment to sustainability gradually evolved, leading them to scrutinise the environmental impact of their engineering methodologies and tech solutions. Recognising the need for broader adoption of sustainable practices, they decided to take a leading role.
With a decade of experience at Helmes, Kinsiveer reflects on the company’s evolving commitment to sustainable software development: “Helmes has looked at sustainability from a company point of view for years. But at some point, after optimising our internal processes, we started looking at the actual impact of our solutions and how we could help our customers and partners succeed in this area as well.”
Continuing, Kinsiveer pinpoints the noticed need for industry-wide awareness. “When we started focusing on sustainable software, we realised there wasn’t much talk about the ICT industry’s climate impacts. Then we felt a responsibility to become an advocate within the sector,” he explains.
The technical pillars of green software
Helmes’ commitment to sustainable software development is deeply rooted in a technical foundation prioritising resource efficiency and environmental responsibility. Three key pillars guide this approach:
- Streamlined architecture: Helmes emphasises lean and efficient software architecture to avoid unnecessary complexity and over-engineering. By minimising unnecessary components and optimising data flow, they ensure that software solutions consume minimal resources.
- Optimised data management: Recognising the growing environmental impact of data storage and processing, the company implements strategies for efficient data management. They ensure data redundancy is limited, adopt data compression techniques, and leverage cloud platforms to minimise the storage requirements and computational demands of their solutions.
- Shared Infrastructure: By leveraging cloud-based platforms and services, they share resources on-demand, minimising hardware waste and reducing the overall environmental impact of their software development processes. This collaborative approach not only reduces energy consumption but also enhances the scalability and resilience of their solutions.
Embedding sustainability throughout the software lifecycle
While adhering to best practices in software development is critical, Helmes firmly believes that achieving true sustainability demands a holistic perspective and a deeper commitment to “green practices” throughout the entire development lifecycle. As Kinsiveer puts it, “Sustainability considerations need integration into every stage – from ideation to deployment. Both business processes and technical implementation must align to create truly sustainable solutions. Because even the greenest engineering can’t offset wasteful processes.”
This holistic perspective very well extends beyond technical implementation and requires an environmentally conscious mindset from every role involved, including business leaders, analysts, architects, designers, and developers. Helmes leads by example, providing practical green checklists for each role and setting the standard. For example, analysts must ask “green questions” to identify potential environmental impacts, while architects must consider CO2 emissions when designing systems.
Explaining what sustainable solution means further, Kinsiveer notes that “well-built software is inherently sustainable.” He said, “It’s not about doing ‘something extra’ for sustainability. Rather, it is about doing it right – avoiding waste and inefficiency while building systems.” This approach manifests in Helmes’ embrace of the Minimum Viable Product Validation (MVVP) agile methodology. They implement essential features first, then extend functionality through client feedback.
The future of tech
Helmes’ journey with green solutions is more than just software development; it spearheads a green revolution within the tech sector. As Kinsiveer states, “We are constantly being invited to prestigious conferences and events to share our approach and real-world impact,” a testament to the rapidly growing global interest in this space.
This surging interest, coupled with the rising demand for sustainable software, points to a future where it becomes the standard. And with Helmes leading the charge, the tech industry has the potential to become a major force for good, driving innovation while protecting our planet.