Climate Change— is your IT Department going Green to help the environment?
I had the opportunity to meet with some good friends and colleagues while vacationing in the Philippines last month. A colleague of mine, Roland Vera Cruz, who leads Alternative Fuel projects in CEMEX Philippines, encouraged me to write about Green IT Initiatives. We talked extensively about his enthusiasm for energy efficiency and green initiatives. Is your IT department going green? Desktops, laptops, printers and all other IT equipment account for 9 percent of all energy consumed by businesses. Did you know that a typical computer (CPU and Monitor) sends 1,000 pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere every year? To put that into perspective, 20 computers will equal CO2 emission of a midsize car. There are a lot of opportunity areas for IT to contribute in Green initiatives, starting with improving energy efficiency of the IT infrastructure.
Based on a McKinsey report, 60 percent of global executives view climate change as important to consider within their companies’ overall strategy and nearly 70 percent see it as an important consideration in managing corporate reputation and brands. No wonder there is a lot of buzz about green strategy. I hope this translates to the importance company leaders place on the environment and not merely a gimmick for corporate image building.
In nearly all the places I have been this past 5 years, I have personally experienced serious evidences of the shifting global climate. While in Germany during the winter of 2005, I remember Germans being anxious about a particularly unusual winter. The temperature wasn’t going down like previous years. They worried that insects that normally perish during the long winter chill will survive and propagate, impacting ecological balance. Another example is the great flood in Manila just last year — I talked about it in one of my articles. The rainfall was unprecedented and some low-lying areas were reclaimed by growing lakes. Lastly, just arriving in Florida this month, I was greeted by an unusual winter chill (which turned out to be record low temperatures across the state and, in some areas, it even snowed in sunny Florida). It troubled farmers that the famous Florida orange crops might be freezing. The signs are obvious everywhere. What can we do to help in each of our industries?
Challenge for IT
CIOs and IT managers in many multinational companies now face growing pressures to become more sensitive to their companies’ energy consumption and environmental impact. It is evident with the rising trend. More major companies are implementing comprehensive plans for green IT practices and technologies. According to the new study by Forrester Research Inc., about 28 percent of companies are into Green IT initiatives. That’s up from 20 percent in April of 2008.
One of the primary ways to pursue IT Green initiatives is through energy efficiency. The challenge for IT innovators and industry leaders is to continue to come up with ways to support the constant need for increasing computing performance without increasing power consumption. I think a thorough understanding of IT energy consumption and operations is the groundwork of this initiative. From this foundation, IT leaders can work out strategies to help them improve IT efficiency, address emissions and reduce energy costs. Results of these initiatives must be measured against business goals. Many organizations have demonstrated that significant return on investment can be achieved from pursuing green initiatives through energy savings.
IT can also take advantage of business process initiatives. Some business process projects can be Green initiatives if some specific objectives are integrated into the overall vision— whether the goal is reducing the company’s carbon footprint, decreasing overall transportation and distribution costs, finding alternative fuels, improving operational efficiency and optimizing supply chain.
The following are questions that IT leaders must consider in their quest for Green initiatives:
- Are we looking for ways to improve IT operations and generate more computing performance without increasing power consumption?
- Are we looking to assist the business in transforming processes so as to reduce environmental impact for operations end-to-end?
- Do we have a strategy to educate our employees, contractors and partners about means to contribute to green initiatives and help the environment?
These questions summarize the challenges for IT managers to develop IT practices, policies and technologies that are both good for the planet and good for business. Going green is really about using IT and industry best practices to create more efficient processes which benefit both the company and the environment.