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Is green IT special or business as usual?

Is green IT special or business as usual?

Local insight

I remember when I started in this industry with IBM, a key sales strategy was to create FUD -- Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt -- in the minds of our customers. The idea was that if we covered prospective customers with a thick layer of FUD, going with the 'big, safe' IBM would be an easy and logical decision. In those days 'no one ever got fired for buying IBM' was the subtle subtext in IT decision making.

Fortunately things have changed now...haven't they? What about green IT?

Have you noticed how our day-to-day lives in this industry are 'greening'?

Logos are going green, green is the 'in' colour for much of our advertising, headlines across marketing campaigns are proliferated with 'green' this and 'green' that and our products (which used to be light grey or dark grey) are now suddenly 'green'. Even my own company's website now features a dedicated green section with green grass no less!

So what is green IT? Should we approach it as something special, or just business as usual? The answer to this question starts with another question -- is there a global issue in environmental sustainability?

If you believe this is an issue, and I do, and if we believe the most recent assessment that emissions directly from our industry are equal to those of the global aviation industry, then the answer to this question is how we as individuals, as organisations and as an industry, respond.

If we see it as 'business as usual' then our response will be driven by sales and marketing people -- another opportunity for a bit of differentiation, to spread a little FUD and create buying imperatives not by leading but by 'chasing the fire engine'. We do this really well because we've been doing this forever.

If, however, we see this as 'something special' then our industry response must be to lead. I see us doing this on four fronts.

Firstly, the products we recommend to our customers increasingly need to stress the environment less: Vendors need to lead with R&D and with transparency that allows the environmental impact of products to be measured and compared. The reseller then needs to lead by supporting vendors who make that investment.

Secondly, we as organisations need to increasingly reduce our environmental footprint. We must adopt systems to define and measure this footprint and processes that decrease it continually over time. We must also make our progress transparent to all stakeholders. And we must influence those stakeholders -- our people, customers and partners -- to lead.

Thirdly, as individuals, we must make lifestyle choices in the context of reducing our personal environmental footprint.

And, fourthly, industry associations, such as the AIIA, must lead by lobbying both industry and governments on the importance of responding urgently to the issue and by ensuring their smaller members in particular have access to tools and advice to take a leadership position.

Finally, governments have a leadership role to play through procurement and legislation. Through ethical procurement, their spending power can force compliance. And through legislation they can corral the recalcitrant.

So how will we as an industry and as individuals respond? And how urgently will our governments respond? Let's make our efforts something special.

John Grant is the managing director of Data#3 and national chair of the Australian Information Industry Association.


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