Australian CIOs are coming under increasing pressure from a range of sources to contribute to the overall environmental sustainability strategies of their organisations. However, the majority still see these green initiatives as an inconvenience.
The reality is that, for most Australian organisations, the IT operation is a significant source of carbon emissions, and CIOs (if they haven't already) will have to get involved as their organisations seek to reduce their environmental footprint.
As a systems integrator, Dimension Data's job is to establish a connection or, if the connection already exists, to enhance the connection between what our clients are doing in the IT department and this emerging business agenda around climate change.
Fortunately, green ICT strategies are largely an extension of existing ICT best practice to decrease waste, reduce cost, remove complexity, increase productivity and manage risk. We have identified three major areas where there is an obvious and direct connection today between traditional and green ICT strategies. They are power, waste and travel.
Reducing power consumption is a simple one. Energy costs are expected to rise considerably over the next three years and electricity production is a significant producer of carbon. For example, the NSW Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) has factored in electricity costs rising by more than 20 per cent by 2010.
There are also some significant global statistics on energy usage. In a recent study by the Uptime Institute, Special Report: Data Center Capacity and Energy Efficiency Survey, it found that US data centre energy consumption in 2006 and 2007 grew at 20-30 per cent and will continue to grow at similar rates, far in excess of government predictions.
IT needs to look closely at both the datacentre and at the desktop, and determine what can be done to reduce the use of power, through a combination of process improvement, technical and educational initiatives.
Businesses are currently tackling consumables and waste throughout the entire business. IPART has just proposed an increase to the average household water bills of $203 a year by 2012. Consider the impact of these price rises on business' water use, particularly as a component in datacentre cooling and facilities air-conditioning. Printing is also both a big consumer of resources and a generator of waste, but you can achieve productivity gains and environmental benefits by consolidating your fax, printer and scanner fleets with multi-function devices, and by making double-sided printing a default setting on each user's desktop configuration. With IT equipment, from PDAs through to the large tin sitting in the datacentre, source equipment from vendors that have progressive re-use or take-back recycling programs.
Corporate travel is another key area for cost savings, productivity gains and also carbon reduction. There's a very important role for the IT department to play in ensuring that the tools are available to help collaboration take place. Tools like video, audio and Web conferencing can provide a viable alternative for executives that travel a lot. From a remote access point of view, we can make better use of VPN technology to provide greater functionality for staff working from home - it's not new but these are some things that can be encouraged and made easy.
As members of the IT industry, it is important that the issues we discuss around climate change and the measures we adopt are both considered and sensible, or we threaten to make the challenge facing our clients appear to be an insurmountable one. IT departments are facing enough pressure from within their own organisations, so we need to find ways in which we can relieve it, not increase it.