Can IT Win The Green Turf Wars?

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The recession has put IT and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) on a collision course. Will IT grow up , and take control of areas where it can deliver efficiency?

Unlike the aviation industry, IT has largely avoided having to face up to its environmental responsibilities, until now.

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The concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR) is forcing organisations to think twice about what they are spending their power budgets on – and IT has a big part to play.

But, in order to turn CSR commitments into meaningful action, organisations must take into facilities, operations and even building management into account. It will take a partnership with IT to actually start to reduce power consumption and carbon emissions – and that is going to be tough to get going.

“Our PC Energy report looked at the numbers of organisations actively reducing the power consumption of their desktop PC estates and found that the situation had only improved by about 10 per cent over the last couple of years,” said Sumir Karayi, chief executive of PC automation vendor, 1E.

“But I would say this reflects an increase in awareness because someone reporting to the board, having been given responsibility for CSR, can now talk to facilities and IT together.”

Two separate worlds

According to Karayi, the fact that IT often doesn’t even have sight of its electricity bill reflects the division between IT and facilities or operations management functions in a business and is holding back the realisation of a truly holistic power management strategy.

“Rather than shifting around responsibility for who pays IT’s power bill, in our experience, CSR programmes are bringing these two departments together, where cost reduction is also becoming a key motivator,” he added.

Indeed, recent global research conducted by analyst firm, Freeform Dynamics among almost 1,500 information professionals suggests that few organisations are motivated by ‘green’ concerns for their own sake.

According to the results of that research, as published in the book Green IT for Dummies, genuine concern for the environment comes way down the list of drivers for environmental initiatives. Cost savings came out top among just under 80 per cent of those surveyed, and was closely followed by regulation, image public relations, and sales respectively. In fact, genuine concern trailed last, behind shareholder pressure in fifth place.