Integrating your Green IT strategy into business objectives

As we count down to the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December, the green agenda is inevitably coming heavily to the fore.

As we count down to the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December, the green agenda is inevitably coming heavily to the fore.

With companies coming under increasing pressure from shareholders, regulatory bodies and employees to adopt a systematic approach to the management of increasingly scarce natural resources, the role that IT and in particular CIOs can play in this area will come under greater scrutiny.

Policies implemented by CIOs have a profound effect in how companies drive change on (a) how people work, (b) how much people travel and (c) how resources such as electricity, paper and petrol get consumed. 

Best practice examples cited by Forrester in the USA see KPMG save 12.7% of its cooling energy costs by allowing temperature in its data centre rise from 20 to 23 degrees Celsius; AT&T saving $12 million and 123,000 tons of carbon emissions annually by using software to turn off PCs at night; and UPS reducing its spend on petrol by $8.4 million and eliminating 32,000 tons of CO² through the utilisation of package flow software to eliminate left hand turns from the routes of 95,000 delivery trucks. 

These individual examples illustrate the business benefits that can be derived by successful “Green ICT” initiatives. Demonstrating a corporate commitment to environmental awareness can be good for the bottom line and can play a significant role in enhancing brand and corporate value. Coca Cola’s new generation eKOfreshment coolers, vending machines and soda fountains not only cost 35% less to run but give customers an added reason to choose its products.

The first phase for Green IT as a practice is focused on making an organisation’s own IT greener by improving end-user working practices, creating energy efficient office environments and reducing data centre energy consumption. 

The next stage sees IT itself ‘green’ the company through a holistic view of the procurement and supply chain, changing how the organisation behaves across material choice, travel, acquisition, packaging, delivery and disposal. 

Today’s CIO is in a position to play a key role in enhancing brand value, meeting compliance requirements and enhancing competitiveness. It is vital, however, that any policies introduced are strategic and meet the overall sustainability objectives of the organisation. 

Trying to marry competing drivers like financial savings, revenue generation and customer expectation can be complex and leaves the business at risk of implementing piecemeal or standalone projects across the organisation that are potentially inconsistent with the organisation’s aims.

The challenge is figuring out where to start and realising where on the maturity ladder your company sits. There is no current unified framework that will help today’s CIO analyse organisational performance against green Key Performance Indicators, benchmark with industry peers and identify real actions for improvement. 

“The Innovation Value Institute (IVI), a joint development from NUI Maynooth and Intel is addressing this gap with a research team comprising leading academics and members from Microsoft, ESB, Ernst & Young, SAP, The Boston Consulting Group and other organisations who are currently testing a framework for Sustainable ICT (SICT).”

IVI’s approach to SICT works across the entire organisation to deliver value which:

• Enables organisations to align Sustainable ICT strategy with the organisation’s overall sustainability and business strategies by implement defined objectives
• Enhances an organisation’s ability to define and achieve these objectives through the use of a common sustainability language, a shared sustainability-driven culture and an understanding of its sustainability capability gaps
• Demonstrates the necessary changes in policies and structure required to improve accountability for sustainability across the organisation
• Enhances a firm’s ability to deliver sustainability across its operations by integrating sustainability objectives across the entire IT operations lifecycle and all IT-enabled business processes

This SICT activity is based on IVI’s IT Capability Maturity Framework (IT-CMF), an Open Innovation IT management framework that has already proven successful in other critical process areas, of which there will be 36 in total.  The framework includes maturity models, tools and metrics to help IT and business leaders assess their current position in delivering value from IT and develop a focused action plan to achieve agreed targets.  Among the successes achieved via the IVI platform is Axa Tech's 96% reduction in the set-up time for new servers, through the Technical Infrastructure Management critical process.

By adopting a Capability Maturity Framework approach to Sustainable ICT, business and IT leaders can assess the current state, agreed a desired future state and be confident that their Green IT plans are integrated into the organisation’s overall strategy and objectives.

  • This article is written by Prof Brian Donnellan, Director IVI, NUI Maynooth, and Shelia Upton, Director Climate Change and Sustainability Services, Ernst and Young
  • IVI’s Sustainable ICT framework will be unveiled at IVI’s upcoming Winter Session in Boston, USA, Feb 2-3, 2010.

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