Report finds IT could do better when it comes to green IT

Tuesday, 07 September, 2010

Sponsored by Fujitsu, the maturity assessment enables comparisons of green IT activity across industry sectors and by country. It sought to quantify current practices to better understand the role IT can take in enabling sustainable business models for the future and will be measured over time to determine the extent of improvement. The report provides a number of valuable insights into the comparative performances of green IT.

The most significant finding in the report was that while green IT has been highly topical in the last five years, real progress and action has been slow. The report quantifies the relative lack of maturity of green IT policies, practices and technologies - in every industry sector and in the four countries.

For every aspect of green IT, there is significant opportunity for improvement. The two best-performing areas are 'enterprise', which includes data centres, networking, communications, cloud and software architecture, and 'end user' including personal and departmental computing and printing. At the bottom of the scale was 'metrics' which is hampered by the lack of measurement of even the most basic aspect of IT department power consumption and billing, and supports the adage you can’t manage what you don’t measure.

Enablement, the use of IT to improve performance and reduce the carbon footprint outside of the IT function, also scores low, and this is a particular concern given the immense benefits IT can deliver to society. IT leaders need to do more to educate their businesses about the many benefits of enabling technologies, and this measure needs to improve significantly in order for IT to deliver on its full potential.

Alison O’Flynn, Global Executive Director Sustainability, Fujitsu Group, said: “Tomorrow’s business leaders will be leaders in sustainability; they will understand the importance of an integrated sustainability strategy. IT has a fundamental role to play in enabling change and must step up to face this significant global challenge.

“Fujitsu is calling on ICT industry forums, user groups, professional bodies and corporate social responsibility board members to use this research to energise green IT action.”

Report highlights key issues in green IT:

  • Overall green IT maturity is comparatively low with the index across all industries in all countries rated at 56.4 (out of 100). The findings show that green IT practices and technologies in most organisations are often quite rudimentary. It is possible to improve them substantially with comparatively little effort.
  • The best-performing country of the four surveyed is the UK, with an overall green IT Index of 61.0. The UK has the most stringent carbon reduction and carbon reporting regimen of any of the countries, and awareness of green IT is higher than in the other countries.
  • The US rated second - a function of the relative sophistication of IT usage in that country - followed by Australia, which was let down by its poor metrics, and India where end-user green IT is not widely implemented.
  • There is consistently very low performance in the metrics that enable green IT to be properly measured and monitored. Few organisations are measuring the impact of green IT. The power bill for IT is only rarely included in the IT department’s operational budget. Even in the US, the country with the highest IT power consumption visibility, only half the respondents knew how much power IT was consuming.
  • Environmentally unsound IT procurement and e-waste practices remain widespread and performance is strongest where regulation exists.

The report uncovered that there are significant differences by industry sector, with the best-performing industry being ICT while the wholesale, retail, logistics sector ranked the lowest. The relativities between industry sectors remain remarkably consistent across different countries - the same industries tend to perform similarly in all countries, with a bank in the US, for example, likely to be more similar to a bank in India than it is to a manufacturing company in the US.

Transforming intent into action requires a green IT champion who is responsible for green IT technologies and policies to achieve truly sustainable outcomes. In the countries surveyed, however, fewer than half the respondents have appointed a specific leader to the green IT role.

A whole-of-business approach to green IT needs coordination, which, to be achieved, requires dedicated leadership. Non-IT leadership of green IT is important because it provides a broader perspective and is more likely to consider IT’s important role as a low carbon enabler.

The use of IT to improve performance and reduce the carbon footprint outside of the IT function rated very low, indicating the inward focus of many green IT initiatives. There is significant potential by harnessing IT for wider sustainability activities.

In Australia, the government sector is leading the charge with the Australian Government ICT Sustainability Plan 2010-2015 an example of the success of affirmative action, the promotion of quick wins and the value of measurement. Nationwide, however, we are let down by our low performance in metrics.

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