Going green in the IT world

Perhaps as controversial as any topic can get. Today I'm talking about going 'green' with reference to the difficulty (or not) this idea presents within the IT industry.

'Green' has become a bit of a buzz word since issues of climate change became widely publicly addressed during Thatcher's stint in office. Now we live in a world of sustainable energy sources, hydrogen power, receding icecaps and global warming. There is also a giant hole in the ozone layer. Treaties have also been signed by various countries in an effort to adhere to the planet's needs rather than our own and documentaries on television have shown that becoming completely eco-friendly is a battle in itself.

However the premise of this article is founded on a more specific question. What is the IT world doing to reduce its carbon footprint? After all, all computers run on electricity. The idea for this article came from a peep on the BBC technological website where i saw an article named 'Mixed results for green IT goals' which highlights the UK government's strategy for its in house IT to be carbon neutral by 2012. However, survey results have been announced which highlight the fact that the majority of the public sector do not know about the environmentally friendly targets the government have put in place with their greening strategy.

Amongst those who were aware of this fact, nearly one third said that they had not made any significant changes to their own ICT usage and had no plans to make such changes.

Poor collaboration

Trewin Restoric, the Global Action Plan director puts it down to 'poor collaboration' and sharing knowledge across the sector. He states that the most obvious route to knowledge sharing is for IT managers to liaise with those who pay for the energy which the equipment consumes. Then, perhaps discussions between the two would produce a more eco-friendly outcome.

"Government electricity usage is continuing to rise, and it is likely that one of the big reasons for this is the proliferation of computers, laptops, chargers, lobby televisions and the air conditioning in server rooms", Rebecca Willis, Sustainable Development Commission

Its clear to see that the UK government cannot get it quite right, so how are some of the big names in IT getting on with going green? A concise article from computerweekly.com sets out some of the issues involved.

According to the article, measuring the progress of these initiatives is not an easy thing to do as it is not as simple as a company simply providing an eco-friendly product. Obviously this plays a significant part of the overall solution and certain companies have got it down to a fine art; Fujitsu Siemens achieves the best ranking with 75% greenery. Ericsson is also high with 74% due to their work with evaluation of green practices during the manufacturing process of their goods and after those come Google, Hewlett-Packard and BT.

According to the other end of the spectrum, Lenovo, Nortel and Dell sat between the 20% - 30% benchmark. Perhaps the success of Fujitsu Siemens and HP are the fact that they broke away from governmental benchmarks of eco-friendliness and set up their own standards in areas they thought they could succeed in. HP now has their own environmental labeling system.

Delivering products which help the end user reduce their emissions is a great thing, however, companies who wish to be properly green have to look further back in their supply chain according to Simon Mingay, vice-president at Gartner. They need to begin looking at asking their suppliers the extent to which they audit their own supply chains along with their own manufacturing processes in terms of their environmental standards. Throwing this into the mix for a business is a potentially dangerous thing. To this end, companies need to decide what is more valuable to them, going green totally and having to potentially change a whole supply chain which may be costly or continuing to look at setting their own environmental standards.

Whilst writing this article I was reminded of an episode of Dragons Den, a business based programme, where budding entrepreneurs pitch for investment in their sometimes wacky companies. The following is a clip from this very programme where a representative from a little known company named VeryPC boasts his eco-friendly products and does get a little shot down by one of the Dragons.

Video: VeryPC on Dragon's Den

What the pitcher fails to mention though is how his products would benefit a home user more then perhaps a business; despite this it's quite amusing to watch. Please comment with your thoughts and feelings, do you 'go green' or is green just not your color?

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