Technology is a major contributor to greenhouse gases and to environmental pressures. The manufacturing of technology alone creates a huge impact (there are more mobile phones than people in the UK), let alone the problems with disposal when we get bored with last year’s model.
Yet, at the same time, technology offers the potential to save the planet if it is used and designed responsibly. The obvious example is around reduced travel, but there are many others: more efficient engines, harnessing renewable energy source such as solar power and more ‘intelligence’ in building design to reduce wasted energy and water .
There are things manufacturers can do which would help. For example, I do not understand why every mobile phone seems to have a different charger, even within brands a new phone seems to move to a new charger.
Each of us has a personal responsibility too. Switching off after use (from the mains) should be as natural as turning off the hot water tap.
But above all, there is a responsibility in the IT industry.
Datacentres generate massive amounts of wasted heat, which could readily be recycled within buildings. Manufacturers should be as concerned about their products damaging the environment as supermarkets are beginning to be about ‘food miles’. IT managers should have environmental issues at the top of their agenda in buying and disposal policies, as well as helping their organisations to be more environmentally conscious in their use of technology.
None of this will happen quickly unless there is a will.
If it is genuinely cheaper to operate in a more environmentally friendly way, people will do so, but a standard return on investment does not usually consider some of these wider costs, or we tend to look at technology investment in isolation from other assets and working practices.
In the end, much of this is down to consumer awareness and a responsibility on all of us to consider the impact of technology in our lives and on the planet.
Catherine Doran, director of information management, Network Rail
It is estimated that by 2010 environmental issues will be one of the top five priorities for CIOs in 50 per cent of the largest global organisations. As governments continue to focus on the importance of minimising the effects on the environment, more emphasis will be placed on organisations to play their part.
In my opinion, there are some key challenges that face the CIO in tackling these issues:
■ The cultural and behavioural challenge within the organisation – for example, encouraging staff to play their part in helping, such as reducing print volumes and using conference calls to reduce unnecessary travel.
■ Forward planning to ensure environmental issues are considered when designing and developing new systems. If the legislation changes radically in the future, organisations may find themselves in a compliance battle.
■ Sourcing attitudes will need to change with emphasis on ensuring partners and key suppliers are demonstrating their contribution to reducing the impact on the environment. Works being contracted will have to include environmental evaluation criteria.
Critically, we need to get beyond the hype and see real proof of concept, costs and returns. Initiatives with little or no business cases will be hard to justify and that will affect our ability to obtain capital to invest in greener technologies.
Steve Lamey, director general, HMRC
Information and communications technology is estimated to contribute approximately two per cent of the world’s CO2 emissions, equivalent to the aviation industry, and growing exponentially. Because of this, CIOs need to place significant importance on the environmental impact of ICT with sustained focus on the following:
■ Influencing hardware and infrastructure suppliers in the design and manufacture of ICT equipment such that the total environmental cost of ICT can be reduced across the whole supply chain.
■ Ensuring that procurement/purchasing departments place the environment at the top of their agendas, by ensuring tendering activities directly take the impact of ICT into consideration.
■ Establishing an environmentally-focused organisational culture for staff.
■ Changing the traditional way in which your organisation does business and utilises ICT for the benefit of the environment.
■ Obtaining priority funding and support for transformational ICT projects that will have a beneficial impact on the environment.