Jul 112008

I’m curious. When IT leaders find themselves stretched as thin as can be now, how can putting yet another initiative on their plate — even one as important as IT’s contribution to sustainability — work? Cutter Benchmark Review Editor Gabe Piccoli made a strong case in his introduction to the recent green-IT focused issue of CBR:

“So much is at stake when it comes to the viability of our planet, let alone our organizations, that it is our responsibility to make green IT and green IS a priority. But note that this focus on viability does not come simply at a cost. This is where sustainability shares important characteristics with the innovation and agility trends we have been covering lately. Sustainability and green IT create significant opportunities for organizations that are nimble and forward-looking enough to seize them.”

This topic is hot — in just one hour this week, Cutter’s green IT statistics appeared here and here. The good news the CBR survey uncovered was that more than one-third of companies in the US, and over half of European companies have a long-term strategy in place for reducing their environmental footprints. The bad news? Those initiatives tend to end with the “low-hanging fruit” of pollution prevention and reducing energy consumption in the IT shop.

Question: Please indicate the extent of your organization’s action on the creation of policies (or guidelines/incentives) with regard to each of the following items.

Gabe closed with a challenge to IT/IS to leverage its strengths:

“While we are making some good progress on pollution prevention and in reducing energy consumption by the IT shop (a bit less when it comes to product stewardship), there is very limited proactive use of information systems and IT to monitor emissions and waste for the organization as whole. In other words, we are becoming more sensitive about better managing the impact of our limited domain (the IT shop), but we have yet to take a proactive stance toward enabling company-wide management. Yes, I can hear the cynics already saying: “Good idea, Gabe. I need more responsibility like I need a hole in my head.” Perhaps, but remember, we are best equipped to take on this job, and to the extent that sustainable practices are good for business, we can take credit for the savings we enable.”

I wonder what you think — is it the case, as Gabe asserts, that IT is capable of improving sustainability practices across the organization? Or is this much ado about something that can’t happen, given the realities of life in your IT shop?


  3 Responses to “Green IT and IS: Imperative or Impossible?”

  1. avatar

    “… pollution prevention and in reducing energy consumption”

    That’s great work! Are there any ways to quantify reductions in energy consumption? With electricity costs planned to go up this fall, some ways to measure or estimate this savings would be helpful.

  2. avatar

    The major energy consumers, from an IT perspective, are desktops and servers.

    In the desktop area you can gain save by encouraging employees to use their operating systems built-in power management facilities ( e.g., sleep after 10 minutes of inactivity) and to turn off their computer at the end of the work day. The EPA estimates annual savings of $25 to $75 by using power management . You can save additional energy if desktops are shutdown at the end of the day, and also reduce security risks.

    In the server domain, savings can come from virtualization and deploying more energy efficient servers. You will need to work out how many servers you can turn off by virtualization of multiple existing machines and the savings from new servers. I suggest you get a device, such as a Kill A Watt , for measuring electricity consumption so you can get precise estimates for potential savings in your environment.

  3. avatar

    I fully agree with the last comment.
    You can save a lot in energy costs with an effective power management.
    In our company after implementing a desktop management solution called desktop authority we estimated the signifacant reduction of power consuption.

    Desktop authority includes very powerful power management abilities for shutting down unused desktops and monitors based on keyboard and mouse inactivity after the business hours as well as with windows power schemes.

    I can also suggest you take a look at Power Management ROI calculator where you can find out how exactly you can save in energy costs in your particular case.

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