Sustainable business

October 2017

Lightbulb held in sunlightIt is widely cited that the IT industry is on a par with the aviation industry for carbon emissions. Experts predict that these emissions will double in the next few years.

As evidence for man-made climate change mounts, there is an increasing demand for authoritative sources of useful information to help people use IT more efficiently, in a greener way. And that’s where BCS author Mark G. O’Neill comes in. What follows is a combination of a couple of extracts from his BCS book: Green IT for sustainable business practice: an ISEB foundation guide.

By adopting Green IT the business or organisation can derive many benefits, but predominantly they will be realised through improved sustainable operations, improved organisational reputation, a shift towards a pragmatic culture within the organisation and of course, reduced cost. It is a critical success factor of the Green IT project to understand and promote the business benefits of taking an environmentally friendly approach towards IT service provision and this must be at the heart of any related business case.

Green IT has the capability of reducing the total cost of ownership of IT for the organisation, enhancing the reputation of the organisation with its customers and shareholders, and installing a culture of enterprise, social responsibility and a ‘can do’ attitude within the organisation. Many organisations are now seeking to have their green credentials recognised publicly. This can be done either formally by benchmarking and auditing against recognised standards such as ISO 14001 or by other less formal means such as media surveys and business sector awards.

Brand benefits

In addition to the social and reputation benefits of the organisation, there are also benefits to be realised from a marketing perspective. An organisation’s brand serves to create associations and expectations around it, therefore most organisations are now recognising that taking the environment seriously and committing to tackling environmental issues has the potential to impact brand value either positively or negatively and are now taking appropriate action.

Those organisations which can align their brand to internationally recognised environmental standards and certificates can only gain from such associations. Hence adopting initiatives such as green IT can only serve to enhance the organisation’s reputation and brand. The economic value and cost benefits of green IT can be realised in many ways. This includes, but is not restricted to, reduced costs provided by initiatives such as teleconferencing and voice conferencing.

These technologies reduce travel costs (in some cases by 20 to 30 per cent) and improve individual productivity and wellbeing. An organisation can derive substantial financial benefits from not having its most valuable resource (people) travelling unnecessarily, at considerable financial cost to the business. Other more complex green IT solutions (which are covered in more depth later in the book) such as virtualisation, cloud computing, grid computing, and thin-client architectures all help reduce IT costs and optimise resources. 

A culture of resourcefulness

Green IT is a collection of strategic and tactical initiatives which directly reduce the carbon footprint of an organisation’s computing operation. Green IT uses the services of IT to help reduce the organisation’s overall carbon footprint and encourages and supports greener behaviour by the organisation’s employees, customers and suppliers. Green IT also encourages investment in ICT by the organisation to assist in its own commitments to lowering its carbon footprint.

Green IT also ensures that the importance of sustainable resources are understood, by recognising both the consumed and embodied energy associated with ICT resources, and uses that understanding to help drive the need for green IT policy.

Key green IT roles include; the green IT champion, the chief sustainability officer, the procurement manager and the corporate social responsibility manager. The key factors driving green IT are; political, environmental, social and legal. The benefits of green IT are generally regarded as being organisational, cost, an improved reputation and the introduction of a sustainable and environmentally aware organisational culture.

Auditing

Before an organisation can start to deliver the improvements identified in the green IT plan it first needs to audit its current practices by measuring its current greenhouse gas emissions using a recognised carbon footprint calculator and associated methodology. Thereafter there will be a need to calculate the total cost of ownership of green IT, calculate the pay-off period of the investments in green IT and understand and document the return on investment. A defined set of targets will need to be identified and importantly, a detailed understanding of legislation and governance that is likely to affect the organisation, either directly or indirectly is essential.

Delivery

There are many ways in which an organisation can deliver green IT improvements including; environmentally friendly printing, energy efficient computing, sustainable data storage, virtualisation to support green IT, cloud computing and software-as-a-service. Other initiatives include; process redesign and improvement using a recognised best practice methodology such as ITIL, remote or mobile working, data centre rationalisation and modernisation, sustainable IT and environmentally friendly asset disposal.

Project management

The initiation of any green IT project will have to be managed using a recognised project management methodology such as PRINCE 2 and there must also be recognition that, inevitably green IT will bring change to individuals and the organisation as a whole, and will need to be managed accordingly. The different change tools and methodologies we can use include KP Potters Eight Steps to Effective Change.

Regular review

It is critical to at least annually review your green IT plan to accommodate new developments in technology, customer requests, the economy, emerging trends and new or changed legislation. It is therefore recommended that the IT service provider establishes an improvement action plan, allowing for a regular review of progress.

The plan will need to allow for measurement of progress against set targets, for example improved resource efficiency, and reduced air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. The improvement action plan will also act as an enabler for suppliers and other third parties to continue to improve and promote greener products and services, and ultimately the improvement action plan will provide a means of reporting on the progress and ongoing environmental performance of the ICT service provider.

Benefits

Finally, ensure the benefits of green IT are identified and communicated across the whole of the organisation and to all third party stakeholders via a well-defined communication plan. The benefits of green IT include reduced costs, reduced carbon footprint, improved organisational credibility, the introduction of a culture of resourcefulness, adherence to legislation and governance and, of course, the organisation and IT doing their bit to save the planet, and ultimately the human race!

Reference
The ISO 14000 family addresses various aspects of environmental management. The very first two standards, ISO 14001:2004 and ISO 14004:2004 deal with environmental management systems (EMS). ISO 14001:2004 provides the requirements for an EMS and ISO 14004:2004 gives general EMS guidelines. The other standards and guidelines in the family address specific environmental aspects, including: labelling, performance evaluation, life cycle analysis, communication and auditing.
 

Image: iStock.com/Lovelyday12

Comments (4)

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  • 1
    John Booth wrote on 11th Oct 2017

    Marks book was published in 2010 and whilst some sections are still relevant, the entire book is overdue an update, the actual IT related energy use and carbon emissions are nearer 15% in 2017.

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  • 2
    Beth Bethell wrote on 11th Oct 2017

    And on trying to find this text it's out of print. Is there a more up to date title anyone could recommend if I'm trying to action some changes in this area?

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  • 3
    Albert Williams wrote on 12th Oct 2017

    I did a search and found,

    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Green-Sustainable-Business-Practice-Foundation/dp/1906124620

    That aside, it is important that captains of industry and el supremo's of nations, make sure they know what they are talking about when they say that the want to gp' green', si in this respect, this is an ideal starting point for anyone wanting to deepen their knowledge of operating in a greener and more sustainable environment.

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  • 4
    Andy Green wrote on 19th Oct 2017

    I would caution against 14001 if your aim is to reduce your emission through energy use. ISO 50001 is far more likely to achieve better results and get you a quicker ROI. Search Exova ISO 50001 for more details.

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