Reed Managed Services has the advantage having an eco warrior chairman at the helm: James Reed hosts a green conference call every week and signed up to Prince Charles’ mayday environmental summit earlier this year. His interest is the reason the recruitment and HR service provider got into carbon counting early - 2005 is practically ancient history in terms of business involvement in green affairs, after all.
Head of IT services, Sean Whetstone believes this personal passion is what drives the green business agenda. Unusually, Reed Managed Services can substantiate its professed green credentials with a raft of facts and figures that show its carbon consumption and reduction. An implementation of thin client technology has reduced energy consumption at Reed by 5.4 million kWh of power, which is equivalent to 2,800 tonnes of CO2 per annum.
But it’s a passionate concern for the planet that has led the company to embrace complex calculations and measurements rather than a fondness for bean counting or reducing energy bills. Whetstone also sees this as a motivating force in the grass roots engagement with greener practices at the company. "People really want to get involved in climate change prevention - they’d be less motivated to change their behaviour if it was simply to save the company a few pennies," he says.
Being has certainly made his job easier – "there is commitment and funding from the board."
These precious commodities have been ploughed into two major IT initiatives to date. Ripping out 4,500 PCs on the desktop switching to thin client devices and consolidating the data centre using blade technology and virtualisation.
Whetstone trialled thin client terminals from Wyse Technology for three months.
Users were able to securely log into a session and access files from any workstation, whether they were working from home or from another office, without going through complicated log-on and networking procedures. The fast start-up time of the terminals also meant that Reed could encourage staff to switch off at lunchtime and at the end of the working day.
Redesigning the datacentre also entailed adopting new mindset. “I came from a government mainframe environment where the datacentre was like a fridge and the humidity was 50%,” says Whetstone. Like most other businesses, Reed ran its data centre at 18 degrees C but has since raised that to 24 and has also switched the humidifiers off.
The entire investment into greener desktop and datacentre was £3 million but the business case shows it will pay for itself in 18 months. And according to Whetstone the IT collateral makes the early action very worthwhile. "The outcome is not only green, it’s secure and cost effective."
Have you calculated the carbon footprint of your IT activities?
Yes - not only for IT but the whole of the organisation. We did our first audit in 2005with Carbon Neutral and calculated that the IT department had a carbon footprint of 4,500 tonnes. We included the commute emissions of our staff within that but not the cost of delivery of IT kit – none of the vendors we spoke to have worked it out.
Does your department pay for the energy consumed by your organisation’s IT equipment?
No, not all of it but I have visibility of the costs. Cutting carbon was a business target and so it was important to know the size of energy bills. The electricity bill for the data centre is a line on my P&L sheet, for example, but I also know the electricity bill for every property so I could measure the impact of introducing thin clients onto the desktop.
Does IT play a role in defining green strategy in the organisation?
We have a ‘mayday’ champion appointed for the whole company, a graduate whose sole responsibility is to promote and coordinate environmental issues. Plus, the company has weekly green committee that meets that is chaired by the company chairman, James Reed. IT has a big input into this because our energy consumption is a significant factor.
Which environmental policy have you implemented that you feel has been particularly significant?
Our thin client implantation was a massive one: we replaced an 185 kWh device - that was on 14 hours longer a day and weekends - with a 17.2 kWh device. It’s shaved 25% off the energy bill – that’s around £100,000 a year.
Do you have an identified person within IT who is now responsible for green IT?
It sits on my shoulders – I am Mr Green. As well as internal strategy and policies I talk at external events – I was on the House of Commons Working Committee and am now advising Defra (Department for environment, food and rural affairs) too. Because we started our work early, we’re seen as a benchmark for other industries.