Tech Watch: Why the IT industry needs to change its green tune

Tech Watch: Why the IT industry needs to change its green tune

Australia is still well behind in the quest to demonstrate energy savings through recycling devices, which something that costs the environment as much as carbon emissions, analyst firm claims.

Late in June, Australian scientist, Frank Fenner, reignited the chilling concern that many share - that the world is quickly heading to an environmental catastrophe.

Fenner compared current resource use to the devastation the Rapanui wrought on their isolated Easter Island home when the Polynesian people overworked the land to the point it became barren. As a result it nearly annihilated its own culture.

This is now happening on a global scale, according to Fenner. In an interview with The Australian, Fenner said "We'll undergo the same fate as the people on Easter Island. Climate change is just at the very beginning. But we're seeing remarkable changes in the weather already.

"Homo sapiens will become extinct, perhaps within 100 years. A lot of other animals will, too. It's an irreversible situation. I think it's too late. I try not to express that because people are trying to do something, but they keep putting it off," he said.

Of course, Fenner's claims are grandiose and almost certainly designed to shock. There are many scientists that would dispute the future timeline for humanity. A few would even dispute whether the changes in the environment are worth getting concerned with at all.

What is harder to dispute is whether taking measures to be more eco-friendly is a good idea or not. Being a good corporate citizen and belonging to a responsible organisation will not only prove that those ethics courses we all do in university are relevant, but it's good business sense too - customers and requests for tender will often now require clear demonstrations that the organisations they are dealing with are kissing by the book and doing right by the environment.

As one of the biggest consumers of resources (in terms of both electricity and the materials that go into products), IT is an area that has come under fire from a green perspective.

And experts claim that, unfortunately, there's just not enough being done about it at the moment.

Fujitsu head of sustainability, Alison O’Flynn, said that while there had been some good progress made in the past 12-18 months, it was still a case of organisations grabbing at low hanging fruits.

Fujitsu partners with research organisation, Connection Research, which recently posted a report claiming more needed to be done around green IT awareness.

At the time, the research director and author of the report, Graeme Philipson, said: “Three-quarters of IT departments have no idea of how much energy their IT is using.”

"I’m still finding that most customers can get a 20 per cent saving on their bottom line in year one by implementing green IT initiatives, and that looks both at technology, behaviour and process changed, without large capital investment," O'Flynn said.

"I still think we’re in that phase, I don’t think we’ve even moved out of that maturity phase yet where we’re looking at enabling technologies."

Enabling technologies is, of course, referring to the currently fashionable unified communications (cutting down on travelling), virtualisation (consolidating servers and the like), and cloud computing (offsetting your carbon footprint to datacentre somewhere else, making it somebody else's problem).

The IT industry will get there - it will eventually educate virtually the entire market on the benefits of all three enabling technologies (amongst others), because in all cases these technologies present strong business cases.

However, if you talk to Frost & Sullivan ICT group director, Andrew Milroy, focusing on all those technologies is actually taking away the focus from green IT.

"At the end of the day all of those green IT technologies effectively enable an organisation to increase its efficiency, and achieve things such as reducing the sleep times on notebooks."

What's often forgotten in the quest to demonstrate energy savings is stuff like the recycling of devices, something that costs the environment as much as carbon emissions, Milroy claims. Australia is well behind in that regard.

"The devices we’re using aren't made of recyclable components, which at the end of the day is something a responsible industry should be doing," he said.

Australia does have an e-Waste disposal legislation in the works, as of last year, but until the use of recyclable materials becomes more widespread, it will continue to be a black spot on any green IT measures the nation might take.

How to drive efficiencies

It is a much more compelling discussion point with the customer when there are efficiencies involved.

"What’s starting to happen is a few years ago people talked about environmentalism a lot, but a lot of companies would just go 'it’s a nice to have'." Milroy said. "When it’s pitched as a way of lowering costs and improving efficiency, people take it much, much more seriously."

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Tags IT industryFrank FennerGraeme Philipson


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