Sustainability as an integral part of quality engineering


In the third edition of the book "Quality for DevOps teams" the quality attribute Sustainability was added. Sustainability is no longer an afterthought. Find out how integrating sustainability into the quality policy not only helps the planet but also saves costs. From energy-efficient IT to social impact, discover the multifaceted benefits of ‘sustainability-by-design’.

Sustainability as an afterthought? No longer. Find out how integrating sustainability into the quality policy not only helps the planet but also saves costs. From energy-efficient IT to social impact, discover the multifaceted benefits of ‘sustainability-by-design’.

Sustainability starts with choices made by people

“Why should I completely shut down the test environment over the weekend? Getting everything up and running again is a hassle, and I’m not being judged on sustainability, after all. My job is to ensure that everything continues to function well.” A common response from IT managers when asked why applications run non-stop without any interruption. This often occurs in organizations where sustainability is treated as a separate entity. However, things change when sustainability becomes an additional focal point within the entire Quality Engineering policy, alongside the evaluation of functionality, user-friendliness, speed, and security. Let’s call it ‘sustainability-by-design.’

The change from testing to quality engineering

Twenty years ago, software testers were primarily focused on identifying problems, and applications primarily needed to be functionally sound. However, times have changed. End-users now take center stage and expect IT to constantly adapt to the rapidly changing needs of different user types. Sustainable IT is still in its infancy, and while awareness exists, the big question is how to integrate sustainability into the daily practice of quality engineering.
It starts with adding sustainability as a new aspect to previously established quality considerations. No, this doesn’t entail additional investments. In practice, the addition of sustainability to quality criteria only results in cost savings. So, if there isn’t (yet) widespread support for embedding sustainability into the quality engineering policy, the business case is easily made.
Read more on the quality characteristics in general, and the new characteristic Sustainability that was added specifically by TMAP, here!

From Green IT to Sustainability

Integrating sustainability into quality management aims to minimize the negative impacts of IT deployment on the environment. The development, setup, maintenance, management, and replacement of software and systems are all geared towards sustainable and energy-efficient use. This goes beyond Green IT, which often involves a specific digital solution designed to be energy-efficient and environmentally friendly. It’s possible that replacing an existing solution with a greener alternative may cause more environmental harm in the long run, for example, due to the use of scarce materials.
Furthermore, the current focus on sustainability often extends only as far as the design, development, and construction process of IT. Sustainability becomes truly effective in quality criteria when the entire life cycle, from the drawing board to system retirement, is examined. For instance, less structural maintenance may be more sustainable than low energy consumption during application development. Allocating more resources in the development phase of a digital product may be necessary to reduce energy consumption during operation. In short, look primarily at the future impact.

Three sub-characteristics

Sustainability as a quality aspect consists of three subdomains. First, there is the environmental impact of IT, including energy consumption, CO2 emissions, pollution, and the use of rare natural materials. Economic sustainability is the second component, providing insights into financial consequences such as costs, revenues, profits, and technical debts. The third, and equally important, subdomain is the social aspect: the impact of IT on individual citizens, groups of people, or even society as a whole. Consider unintentional discrimination by artificial intelligence, for example.
Experience shows that when the environmental sustainability is improved, usually the economic and social sustainability also benefit, because the three are closely related. People that don’t want to improve sustainability because of the economic impact therefore should reconsider!
All stakeholders should have a clear understanding of the scope of sustainability as an integral part of the quality policy. Therefore, adding this aspect is truly a management decision. If this policy adjustment is a step toward a sustainable society and simultaneously saves money, there is essentially nothing standing in the way of making this decision.
Read more about quality and test policy.


By adding sustainability as a focus point of quality engineering, your organization will make major steps to minimize the unfavorable impact that business processes, the IT components that support them, and the infrastructure that hosts them, have on the planet!!

Published: 1 November 2023
Author: Rik Marselis