The British Medical Association (BMA) was founded to support practising doctors and today has 139,000 members. The IT department is decoupled from the lobbying activities of the association.
But that doesn’t prevent Martin Kelmanson, head of the BMA's ICTS division, from having strong views about the government’s responsibility in the greening of the IT department.
Kelmanson is on the Environmental IT Leadership Team (EILT) – part of practical environmental charity Global Action Plan – and excited about its potential to lobby government.
"My personal bugbear is that VAT should be taken off external comms lines," he says. Kelmanson is geared up for an event at the House of Commons, 3 December, where Global Action Plan will launch in-depth research on the environmental awareness of the IT industry.
"It makes a great deal of sense for people to share datacentres, rather than all build their own, but the high price of external leased lines discourages this," points out Kelmanson. He’s also well aware that exempting services from VAT would make for greener businesses but would mean government coffers were not so full.
In terms of the BMA strategy, Kelmanson is clear he’d like to locate more and shared function remotely. At present the BMA has two on-site datacentres and one off-site disaster recovery facility. “The strategy I’d like to follow is to merge resilience and recovery functions and to use fewer sites.”
Closer to home in the IT department, however, there’s a lot of low fruit for IT directors, acknowledges Kelmanson. He’s happy with the eco results derived from educating BMA’s users to use less power and also pleased with the decision to implement flat screens on the desktop at the BMA three years ago.
Flat screens have paid dividends on three fronts. There’s been a substantial reduction in use of electricity to power the device. A secondary benefit is that less heat generated also means less power to cool. “Last but not least,", says Kelmanson, “you get to feel good about it”.
Turning off computers at night has had a significant impact, but it was important not to lump all users together with a blanket policy, explains Kelmanson. Some of the BMA’s users have very sophisticated workstations with 15 or 20 applications running, including some heavy-duty graphics.
Graphics cards burn a lot of energy but users were nonetheless reluctant to switch off at night because reloading every morning was painfully slow. For this constituency, programs such as Night Watchman that put devices into sleep mode are the best strategy: “They put everything to sleep except the memory, and the fan stops whirring,” says Kelmanson.
Out in the wider business, IT has also been used to achieve quick green wins for the BMA. The use of videoconferencing at the association has reduced the need for car, train and air travel by 280 hours (and rising) every week.
There’s still a lot of work to be done and Kelmanson is optimistic about the difference that the EITLT can make. In particular he’s keen for it to play a role in cutting through 'green wash' with some kind of sensible metric.
On 3 December, practical environmental charity Global Action Plan will launch in-depth research at an event at the House of Commons, with the backing of Peter Ainsworth MP, shadow secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs and maverick MP Alan Simpson. The research, called ‘The Inefficient Truth’, will reveal environmental awareness amongst the UK IT community and what steps are being taken to reduce IT's impact on the environment. The findings have been compiled after a Green IT Survey, which was conducted by Computerworld UK, and backed by Logicalis.
"Unfortunately 'green' has become the marketing people’s mantra – it’s impossible to go to a vendor event without hearing the word half a dozen times." He points out that carbon is the metric of choice for government while IT vendors make much of the amounts of heat generated.
"What’s needed is a consistent measure, such as you are supposed to get in supermarkets when comparing labels on price per kilo.”
Have you calculated the carbon footprint of your IT activities?
Yes. The Carbon Trust Report highlighted that we could save 16% of our energy consumption. Overall we could reduce electricity consumption by almost 1,000,000 Kwh across our offices with a payback period of less than a year but giving ongoing annual savings of around £45,000.
Does your department pay for the energy consumed by your organisation’s IT equipment?
Not directly. But I’m very conscious of how much energy is consumed in delivering desktop capability, for example.
Does IT play a role in defining corporate social responsibility (CSR) and green strategy in the organisation?
I hate the CSR acronym because I think everyone has to take a level of personal responsibility in these matters. As far as IT goes, I have an open invite to the BMA’s Green Committee.
Which environmental policy have you implemented that you feel has been particularly significant?
Educating users. Whether it’s switching off computers at night or using less paper. We try not to impose policies directly or preach at users - before we reduced our printer count, there was a consultation. My printer budget has halved as a result.
Do you have an identified person within IT who is now responsible for green IT? That’s me – although I feel it has to be on your personal as well as professional agenda in order to be effective.