Green matters: Property group DTZ greens its IT operations

Duncan Scott, CIO of global property adviser, relishes the challenges that the convergence of environmental thinking and technology evolution has brought. "It’s a good time to be in IT," he says.


DTZ is in the process of bringing green thinking into its operation. The global property adviser has even gained an ISO 14001 certification for environmental management.

In short

Q Have you calculated the carbon footprint of your IT activities?

A. No. Everyone’s aware of it and wants to do it though.

Q. Does your department pay for the energy consumed by your organisation’s IT equipment?

A: In all my days of working in IT I’ve never once seen a column for ‘power consumed’. I’m sure it will change.

Q: Does IT play a role in defining green strategy in the organisation?

A: IT has been slower than the rest of the organisation to go green. Now we’re playing catch-up.

Q: What one environmental policy have you implemented that you feel has been particularly significant?

A: Implementing a videoconferencing facility. It’s fairly straight forward - a 32 inch TV screen in a conference room. And you can plug it into an IP network, so it’s a mobile facility.

Q: Do you have an identified person within IT who is now responsible for green IT?

A: Yes it’s the person who looks after our IT governance. It’s not his sole responsibility but it does mean that he attends meetings such as datacentre planning and asks hot questions like: 'Why are datacentres based in hot countries like India?'

As part of these efforts, the IT department is actively trying to improve the company's environmental impact. For instance, one recent decision has been to replace all desktops with laptops to lower their carbon footprint. “They consume a lot less power”, reasons Scott, although he admits the ‘big bang’ decision made the CEO a tad nervous.

What's more, as Scott is finding with a lot of things, what’s good for the planet is also good for the business. “Laptops are so flexible, people don’t have to work at their desk, they can take them home and work their too. With a lot of these IT green issues it’s a win-win situation.”

Videoconferencing has been a similarly successful investment, with a £200,000 capital outlay more than recouped by the savings made in flight and travel. The calculation was that DTZ would replace half of all meetings with videoconferences – if anything the take-up has been even more enthusiastic. As well as cutting down on flights by 20%, videoconferences mean “people don’t suffer the same wear and tear personally”, notes Scott.

Scott, who coordinates the running of the global IT operations over five continents, admits that the international scale of his remit brings with it green burdens as well as opportunities. An advantage is the many conversations with his green team overseas and their fresh perspectives.

“The Germans and Dutch are keener on green issues such as recycling and we benefit from their knowledge. But then we have offices in China too, which is at the opposite end of the spectrum,” he says.

At the moment, Scott is busy formulating a new green datacentre and desktop strategy that will percolate to all the regions. But nailing down what is good and bad practice in the datacentre, Scott admits is confusing. For example, there’s no consensus that consolidating servers is the most environmentally friendly option. Some experts, including BT, claim that consolidation exponentially generates more heat and cooling is more harmful to the environment.

The fact that datacentres are frequently over cooled by air conditioning to suit the people rather than the computers doesn’t surprise him. “A lot of computer technology is designed in the US, where the use of air con is pervasive," points out Scott.

In his research of datacentres, he is enamoured of one supplier that has offered to bill on the amount of energy consumed, rather than the traditional model of servers hosted. The costing model makes a direct link between IT usage and energy consumption, something that has eluded IT departments and procurements to date.

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