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Hard copies means hard choices: why low carbon thinking means ITTs for printers must change

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In this guest blog, Tracey Rawling Church, Director of Brand and Reputation at Kyocera Mita UK explains why the public sector must stop buying printers

Hard Copies Mean Hard Choices

To cut its costs and carbon emissions, the public sector should stop buying printers.

That may seem a ridiculous statement, coming from an imaging company executive, but actually there's a serious point here. Most ITTs are written around a notional product - calling for a certain number of machines of a certain specification. And the tender process is quite rigid, so companies invited to tender are forced to propose a solution that fits the criteria in the ITT. But in many organisations, the number of devices has crept up over time and device to user ratios are unnecessarily high - so replacing machines on a one-for-one basis only perpetuates a system that has become bloated and inefficient.

Sometimes the decision is made to consolidate devices, replacing desktop printers with shared multifunctional devices and an ITT is written on that basis, but to achieve real efficiencies that could reduce costs by typically 30% and carbon by as much as half, a detailed print audit should be undertaken to determine precisely what hardware is needed at which locations to support business processes.

However, even this approach misses the opportunity to obtain a solution that is properly optimised not just at the point of implementation, but into the future.

In the private sector, there is a growing trend towards managed document services, a holistic approach that encompasses every aspect of the printing and imaging needs of an organisation. A managed document service project begins with a detailed audit of both the machines currently in place and the document flows through and within the organisation. Then a solution is designed that aims to reduce reliance on hard copy by combining document management software with a fleet of machines that have exactly the right functionality to support the document flow.

In most cases, this results in a much smaller number of devices, usually with more extensive functionality than those they replace. A bespoke service contract is crafted that includes remote monitoring of device states, service support to agreed service levels and detailed reporting of device use that can be segmented and analysed in a myriad of ways. And using the business intelligence gained from the reporting suite, the service can be continuously optimised to ensure it remains efficient, accommodating changes in the organisation over time.

For example, the managed document solution provided for insurance giant RSA has reduced paper consumption by 21% in just one year - despite the fact that their product depends on having a printed certificate. And energy consumed by imaging devices has been reduced by 55% with resulting savings in both electricity costs and CRC levies.

As you can imagine, this type of service doesn't fit easily into a device-centric ITT. So vendors who know they could save cash and carbon through applying a managed document service are forced to respond with a 'round peg, square hole' solution that is less than ideal, simply because the tender process focuses on products rather than outcomes. Concerns about carbon emissions and resource scarcity are driving the evolution of innovative business models that overturn conventional norms and challenge the status quo. But unless procurement processes keep pace with these changes, the benefits of this fresh thinking won't be realised.

To really drive through change, let's have ITTs written by commercial managers and procurement departments that focus on objectives and targets rather than feeds and speeds. Throw down a challenge to reduce paper consumption by x, cut energy use by y% and drive down costs by z and see what the industry comes up with. I guarantee it will deliver solutions that are more resource efficient, productive and economical.



MDS in the public sector

RSA case study

For the full results of latest independent research into printing attitudes and behaviour, email Tracey:






CZS promises a new approach to tackling energy efficiency programmes within organisations

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I was interested to see that the former Head of Sustainability at the Royal Mail, Dr Martin Blake, has set up a new organisation, Carbon Zero Solutions (CZS) to support organisation executives in the deployment of energy efficiency programmes that improve profitability and reduce environmental and social impact.

While at the Royal Mail, Dr Blake was the architect of the Carbon Management Programme at Royal Mail and oversaw a multi-pronged strategy in the areas of energy reduction and efficiency, waste management, water conservation and workplace diversity. The Royal Mail's team of energy experts is credited with reducing UK Royal Mail Group's annual energy bill by over £30million.

According to Dr Blake, "There are many examples of boards that have not pursued the benefits of energy reduction because they are being sold on outputs that cannot be adequately quantified or explained. Too many initiatives have been conceived and implemented in a piecemeal fashion. Individually they may have been effective, but unless taken together within a wider coordinated programme, it is unlikely they will each deliver quantifiable ROI. It is therefore not surprising that some board directors feel ambivalent or wary."

I wonder whether this will set a trend, with successful heads of sustainability leaving their organisations to set up a company, providing energy efficiency services to others. It will be interesting to see how this approach develops.

The CZS website says this about carbon reduction plans within organisations.

"Too often carbon reduction is hived off into a specialist function from where only incremental savings in energy costs can be made. At CZS we believe businesses could be more ambitious. We understand the importance of getting key stakeholders onboard and engaging the wider workforce. We are familiar with the many reasons to resist change and understand why some organisations remain fixed on 'business as usual' strategies. However, only when there is top down leadership, able to harness the intellectual capacity of an organisation, can the full potential of a business be realised."



Corporate sustainability strategy: now part of the CFO's remit

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Sometimes it seems as if corporate responsibility within the organisation for sustainability strategy is being passed around like a relay baton.

So far, those touched with responsibility for sustainability include the corporate social responsibility (CSR) team, marketing (because of the future brand and reputation implications in the UK of the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) league tables), IT and Facilities who are having to manage and measure energy usage, and in theory, the CEO who should surely know the big picture at least.

Now, an Ernst & Young report, 'How Sustainability has Expanded the CFO's Role', recommends it is also the CFO's turn to pick up the baton, because, in the US at least, as Triple Pundit explains, sustainability trends are shifting the role of the CFO into three key areas:

  • Investor relations:  "Shareholders are speaking much louder and much more stridently than they did just a few years ago.  During the 2011 proxy season, 40 percent of shareholder resolutions were related to ESG issues. And over a quarter of ESG-related resolutions gained a 30 percent "Yes" vote, which Ernst & Young describes as a critical threshold (other observers say anywhere from a 10 to 20 percent vote can motivate companies to rethink their policies).  Mutual fund companies are paying more attention to sustainability related issues, and the rating companies are directing more focus towards ESG matters as well.  All this leads to a shift in the duties of companies' investors relations staffs; and CFOs, according to Ernst & Young, will lend more than a few hands with the demands placed on IR departments.
  • External reporting:  More than 3000 multinationals issue sustainability (or CSR or ESG) reports, and many of these companies now provide more than static or trite glossy PDFs. Companies including UPS, Timberland, and Microsoft are raising the bar in offering frankness while encouraging increased stakeholder engagement.  To that end, more companies are having their sustainability reporting audited by third parties (such as the Carbon Disclosure Project for carbon emissions performance).  And that experience with third party performance falls into the CFO's lap because they know how to balance the challenges and opportunities that arise from third-party verification.
  • Operational controllership and financial risk management:  Early last year, the US Securities and Exchange Commission issued guidelines to companies on how to disclose risks possibly related to climate change.  Carbon data, and more frequently, water data, is becoming financial data because of these resources increasing price.  What was once tangential to the costs of running businesses has and will be central to the financial risks that come when running a company.  Whether evaluating the costs of large capital projects or ascertaining the reliability of sustainability data, CFOs and the departments they head will be careful when ensuring that all this data is accurate."

Five suggested actions that CFOs can take to enhance corporate value through sustainability include the following:

• Actively pursue a sustainability and reporting program.
• Ensure that those responsible for sustainability matters do not operate in isolation from the rest of the enterprise -- especially the finance function.
• Enhance dialogue with shareholders and improve disclosure in key areas, particularly those related to social and environmental issues.
• Ensure that directors' skills are relevant to the chief areas of stakeholder concern, including risk management tied to social and environmental matters.
• Consider using nontraditional performance metrics, including those related to environmental/sustainability issues.


GE goes Platinum with pioneering green data centre

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There has been much coverage of GE's unveiling in the US of a new pioneering "green" data centre, built on the original site where the world's first commercial computer was deployed in 1954.

The new data centre, developed by GE's IT department is based at GE Appliances & Lighting in Louisville, Kentucky.


The data centre is one of the world's first to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum Certification, a rating awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council for projects that go above and beyond standard building codes to create sustainable, energy-efficient buildings.


To get the Platinum rating, GE ensured the data centre hit a few targets:


  • 98.3% of the walls, floors, and roof were existing space that didn't require new construction
  • The data centre is 34% more energy-efficient than a comparable code-compliant building
  • It reduces by 50% the amount of space used by the previous data centre by using high-density servers
  • Water consumption inside the building is being reduced by 42% of the industry baseline by using ultra low-flow fixtures
  • 50.7% of construction materials were sourced regionally
  • 30.2% of the building materials were recyclable materials
  • 85.4% of construction waste was diverted from the landfill (mostly through recycling)

Should CIOs be rebilling themselves as the Chief Efficiency Officer?

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The CIO should be re-billing themselves as the organisation's Chief Efficiency Officer, according to this take on Ovum's recent report on Green IT Deployments across Key Global Markets which I referred to recently.

The IE blog suggests that an efficiency audit - the practice of looking back at what you have and making more effective use of it - is the first step to realising significant IT savings. It adds that "with the traditional role of the CIO constantly evolving, CIOs should seek out opportunities to  drive and execute savings such as reducing costs related to unused hardware, software, excess energy use and time. An efficiency audit will not only reduce a company's carbon footprint, but also deliver significant cost savings."

I suspect for most CIOs this is preaching to the converted, though I like the idea of the Chief Efficiency Officer, in terms of actions and deeds, rather than titles. I think there have probably been enough nominAL recasts of the CIO role over the years. But, in the current climate efficiency is good.

By the way, IE is one of  the function sponsors of Green Monday, which next Monday will consider Sustainability in the Supply Chain. Other backers include SAP, Ernst&Young, British Gas, PE International and CarbonClear. The group sets out to offer strategic insight for corporate sustainability leaders.


M&S, Ford reports discuss profitability from sustainability, show water usage now a concern

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I came across an interesting piece regarding the savings Marks & Spencer (M&S) says it is making from its sustainable development initiative, Plan A.

According to this article, initiatives such as being more energy efficient in stores and distribution centres saved £13.5 million last year. It also saved £2 million by using less fuel, £1 million by recycling or reusing clothes hangers, and £11 million on reducing the amount of packaging it uses.

M&S' total carbon emissions have been reduced by 13%, down by over 90,000 tonnes CO2e from 2006/07 whilst its sales floor footage has continued to grow.

There is a useful story here

You can read more from M&S itself on Plan A progress here

Another familiar name that is reporting on its sustainability initiatives is Ford. It released its annual sustianability report last week, with the highlights being:

  • Carbon dioxide emissions for the 2010 model year have been reduced by 10.5 percent for U.S. products and 8.1 percent for European vehicles, when compared with the 2006 model year
  • From an operational standpoint, Ford managed a 5.6 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions between 2010 and 2009.
  • Ford has set a new goal for facility's related carbon dioxide emissions: A reduction of 30 percent by 2025 on a per-vehicle basis.

One of its key concerns is around water usage, as this report from Smart Planet makes clear.

You can read Ford's sustainability report here. There is much detail in a well laid out report, though at first sight, not a lot of references to any notable Green IT or technology developments beyond Ford's core car business.



Delivering innovation in sustainability through cross-industry and supply-chain collaboration

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I went to a very useful Guardian Sustainable Business Quarterly meeting in London last night which focused on the issue of collaboration and innovation, with a particular interest in cross-industry and supply chain collaboration.

The speakers, who were excellent, included: Jonathan Foot, chief environment officer, EDF Energy; Jo Fox, director, the bigger picture, Sky; Dax Lovegrove, head of business and industry, WWF-UK; and Miriam Turner, innovations director, InterfaceFLOR, all focusing on collaboration and innovation. 

We then split into different groups and had a roundtable discussion around sustainability communications, including the impact of social media, collaborating and innovating in the supply chain, and the role of technology in facilitating communications.

Many thanks to my colleagues around the table: Stuart Singleton-White from The Rainforest Alliance, Leigh O'Grady from The Carbon Trust, Toby Robins from Wiles Greenworld, Dr Magda Hercheui from the University of Westminster, Anne Ronan from Zinc, Robyn Kimber from Virgin, Nicole Lawler from Total  Eco Management and Petronella Tyson from the Guardian for an excellent and illuminating discussion.

GM: Saving $3m in energy costs through use of Smart IT

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I recently came across a post written by Andrew Winston for the Harvard Business Review blogs which offered an insight into the role IT is playing in improving energy efficiency.

According to Winston, opportunities for improving energy efficiency and saving real money in the process are everywhere. Indeed, the proverbial low-hanging fruit is actually, in the words of energy guru Amory Lovins, fruit on the ground. So much so, that the carmaker GM recently announced that it is saving $3 million annually in energy costs across 10 plants by shutting down equipment when it's not needed.

When Winston tried to find out more from GM, it put him in touch with Mike Durak, the Global Program Manager, IT.  As Winston says, "The fact that they suggested an IT exec, and not a plant (or environmental) manager, says a lot about this story."

Essentially, GM is using GE software to automate the shutdown and restart of its equipment  GM set the lighting in one plant to synch up with the conveyor. When the manufacturing line stopped, for breaks or between shifts, the lighting would shut off. Then the managers added all energy-using systems to this automated network, from heating and cooling systems to pumps and compressed air units. The investment in connecting an entire plant paid back through energy savings alone in just 6 months.

As Winston says in his blog post, the new software/networking solution is a great step. The immediate energy savings are solid, but even more important will be the benefits that come from leveraging a completely networked factory, with the operational, financial, and environmental winnings only just beginning.

The importance of ICT infrastructure in preparing for Climate Change

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I'm grateful to Tony O'Donnell from Cambium for pointing me towards a couple of documents on the ICT implications in terms of infrastructure in preparing for Climate Change.

The first is a cross-government report, "Climate Resilient Infrastructure", which outlines the challenges to the transport, energy, water and ICT sectors. The report also sets out what action needs to be taken by infrastructure owners and operators, regulators, insurers and Government.

In a low carbon, climate-resilient world, investment in climate resilient infrastructure will help enhance the attractiveness of the UK for inward investment, benefitting the country, economy, business, users and Government. And a stable long-term policy framework for climate change mitigation and adaptation can set the UK apart from other countries left more vulnerable to climate-related risks.

The report says the ICT industry has an opportunity to play a leading role in increasing climate resilience by developing new technologies, for example, providing networks of sensors and other data points to provide information in relation to weather events.

For example, the University of Cambridge and Imperial College London are assessing the performance and condition of infrastructure. Using sensors and data management a detailed picture of the state of infrastructure assets and their resilience can be developed.

A recent report on the interactions of infrastructure stated that five sectors (energy, ICT, transport, waste and water) were all, to some extent, interdependent but that each was absolutely dependent on the provision of energy and ICT.

A second supplementary document on infrastructure adaptation features a study, undertaken by AEA Technology, to increase understanding of the long-term risks from climate change to ICT infrastructure.

The report examines the technical and operational impacts of climate change on the ICT sector, what this means for other infrastructure sectors and the international aspects of the UK's ICT infrastructure. It also examines how the sector needs to adapt to climate change and how well the structure of the sector facilitates climate change adaptation. Based on this, the study makes recommendations for the changes required to increase resilience and the barriers that need to be overcome.

These include:

·         Raising the level of climate change awareness within the research and development parts of the ICT sector. Government can support this with funding and the provision of more detailed data sets.

·         Explore the potential of using cloud computing to enhance climate resilience by enabling data to be transferred from site to site around the globe, avoiding areas of increased weather risk.

·         Planning for the location of infrastructure and key buildings such as data centres should take into account the predicted future trends of climate change as well as traditional commercial drivers. Government can facilitate this though mapping and providing access to the relevant data.

·         Major procurers of ICT services, such as large companies, should use procurement and contractual processes to require an improved level of climate resilience, emphasising continuity of service rather than compensation for disruption.

·         Raise awareness within the ICT sector of the potential impacts of climate change. The Government can contribute to this, but it is also recommended that the major telecommunications providers organise collaborative efforts to build the business case for companies themselves to address climate risks.

·         Government, ICT providers and users should work together to review models for ownership, roles and responsibilities in the context of climate resilience, and to conduct a horizon-scanning exercise to scope out the long-term trends in the ICT sector and compare them with climate change.




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