The climate for IT is going to change

Whether you are fed up with a tide of “greenwash” marketing from IT suppliers; whether you are a climate change sceptic put off by revelations of dodgy research; or whether you are an active environmentalist – if you are an IT manager too, none of those will matter soon, because green IT is about to get serious.

From April, the UK’s Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) becomes law, forcing around 20,000 private and public sector organisations to measure and benchmark their CO2 emissions with potential financial penalties for the worst offenders.

The statistics for IT’s environmental impact are well known: 2% of global emissions are attributable to IT – the same as the aviation industry – and a quarter of that comes from datacentres. The large organisations targeted by the CRC are likely to be among the heavier users of datacentre power.

Of course, green concerns have become a staple of most IT strategies by now. But delve deeper into the practical steps that most firms have actually taken, and you tend to find that strategy really translates into projects such as virtualisation, reducing printer paper or turning off PCs at night.

These “low hanging fruits” are important staples of green IT, but are not enough to be called a truly sustainable, carbon-reduction plan for corporate technology use.

Many companies will point to outsourcing as a way to lower their datacentre energy bill – but those outsourcers will be among the hardest hit by CRC, and the fiscal effect on them will find its way back to customers.

CRC means that one-off CO2-cutting initiatives will not be enough – the law effectively forces firms to continuously improve or find themselves dropping down the league table of emitters and paying higher costs as a result.

The emphasis will be on measurable, ongoing improvements, constantly seeking and implementing the latest best practice and for IT managers to share their experiences with their peers. Forget the weather, the climate for UK IT is going to change.