Why IT pays to go green: measuring impact

Most of us don’t think of offices as being heavy polluters, instead the phrase typically brings to mind images of industrial factories pumping out vast plumes of black smoke. Yet when you consider that in some offices, IT represents over...

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Most of us don’t think of offices as being heavy polluters, instead the phrase typically brings to mind images of industrial factories pumping out vast plumes of black smoke.

Yet when you consider that in some offices, IT represents over half of energy usage, it’s easy to see why it’s important that organisations align their IT strategies with sustainability goals.

Some businesses and IT departments do consider environmental issues, while others perceive any investment as potentially being too costly. Yet the business benefits of a clearly-defined and implemented holistic green IT strategy are numerous; not only can green IT drive significant reductions in IT-related energy usage, it can also help to achieve multi-million pound cost savings on IT budgets as well as enhance reputation and brand value.

Our approach to green IT, evaluated through a Green IT Assessment, draws on recognised best practice from a variety of sources, including the EU Code of Conduct for data centres, the BCS award for data centres, the ISEB green IT definition and The Green Grid.

The study focuses on five main streams including the data centre, IT, the office, working processes, and external factors. We assess these areas and a variety of factors within them to produce a green IT plan including hot spots that help to highlight problem areas and provide the basis for the company to produce a continuous improvement roadmap.

Before the project begins, we prepare by taking actions such as identifying stakeholders and information sources as well as preparing contact lists. The next step is the all-important information gathering. This involves document research, a site review, workshops and interviews. After measurement, the results and individual areas are analysed to identify risk and rate and weight individual areas.

All the information gathered is then analysed collectively and used to form an environmental plan for change. After this, we finalise our conclusions in order to prepare the final document, which will include detailed results for each area and data on the use of power and the production of CO2 as a result of IT operations.

A recent successful project was undertaken with the cruise company Carnival UK. In 2009, it moved its corporate headquarters to a new, ultra-modern landmark building overlooking Southampton Water and the IT department used the opportunity to implement a number of changes, including server virtualisation and the move to multi-functional devices (MFDs).

As the changes had been primarily implemented for reasons of costs and organisational effectiveness, their significant and tangible environmental benefits had not been measured.

The IT department had also not considered additional improvements that our Green IT Assessment showed would save significant levels of carbon and - happily for Carnival UK IT director Haydon Williams - lead to even more cost savings.

Post by Murray Sherwood, managing director of green IT consultancy Externus

[NEXT TIME: Murray takes a closer look at the data centre and explains how Carnival UK made important improvements]


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