BA: Too Much Vendor “Bollocks” In Green IT

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The chief information officer of BA defended the airline’s green efforts – while sniping at “greenwash” from IT vendors

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Vendors need to provide clear advice to companies around sustainable technologies and less hype and spin according to the chief information officer of British Airways.

Speaking at the Green IT ’09 Conference in London on Thursday, BA’s CIO Paul Coby said that attending other green and sustainable events around the world he had been struck by the lack of clear information from IT suppliers around the issue.

“I have been to several green conferences in the UK and abroad and on the whole they are quite long on the corporate and supplier bollocks but short on practical guide of how to do this stuff,” he said.

Coby was at the show to discuss how BA is trying to lower its carbon emissions related to IT while also using technology to improve the sustainability of the whole organisation.

The BA CIO claimed that the airline had to do a lot of the work itself as despite the claims made by consultants and suppliers, there is still a lack of expertise when it comes to issues such as measuring green house gas emissions.

“Working out your green IT emissions is not easy – lots of people who say they will help but you have to spend a lot of time getting that right,” he said.

Given the poor reputation that airlines have when it comes to carbon emissions, Coby was quick to admit that the airline doesn’t have the best image when it comes to being green.

“Green and BA often not mentioned in the same sentence and usually not favourably,” he said.

But in defence of his company’s green efforts, Coby said that BA was the first major airline to push for carbon trading and is actively trying to reduce its green house gas emissions. “ We have a 50 percent reduction target for C02 by 2050. Our plan is by 2013 is to reverse increases in emissions and then by 2020 to have held them and then drive them down from then on,” he said.

Coby explained that reducing the carbon footprint of the IT department was a key part of the strategy to improve the sustainability of the whole organisation.

“This is the worst recession since 1945 and think its important that we demonstrate that green IT wasn’t a fad of 2007/8 – the acid test is if we take green issues seriously in very challenging times,” he said.

According to Coby, the IT industry has emits similar amounts of carbon dioxide as the airline industry but is actually increasing at a faster rate.

“There are many myths around aviation and sources of green house gases. The percentage of green house gases from transport is about 14 percent which is the same as agriculture – flatulent cows and things,” he said.

The total amount of green house gases attributable to aviation is just 1.6 percent of the 14 attributable to transport as a whole, he claimed. “ I am not saying it doesn’t matter but aviation is seen as major contributor but absolute numbers are not there although rate of growth is,” he admitted.

Looking specifically at how much BA’s IT contributes to its total carbon emissions, Coby said that looking at direct energy burned or “scope 1” emissions, IT is a very small contributor – only about 1 percent – compared to emissions attributable to the fuel burned by its planes.

However, looking at the next level down – or “scope 2” emissions, that is carbon emissions from transport, facilities etc, IT accounts for around 23 percent of the airlines emissions. This discovery pushed the airline to set a goal in 2008 of reducing its carbon footprint by 25 percent by 2011

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