In a previous post, Something Substantial on Technology and Green IT, I wrote about the difficulties we face as an industry in putting together well thought-out recommendations about how to raise ‘green’ higher on the IT agenda. IT tends to revert to meeting reliability and cost-requirements in the absence of well-defined green standards. Indeed, the problem we face is that the most direct way of aligning green to IT is aligning energy costs with the IT P&L! However, this doesn’t exactly promote the imperative that IT should consider ‘green’ as a core business aim with an undertaking that requires a new strategic approach. Knee-jerk reactions like replacing IT kit with more energy-efficient hardware actually creates a waste problem in itself.
Since I wrote that post back in March, two major factors have emerged which are changing the way we are now thinking about Green IT. First, there is greatly increased media and environmental-watchdog scrutiny in addition to directives such as WEEE, RoHS, and REACH*; and around the world, various government climate change legislation, like the soon to be passed UK Climate Change Bill. Second, we are currently experiencing what can only be described as broadly-impacting economic events, which are greatly changing the context in which cost-control is viewed (the much maligned “credit crunch”).

At the moment, the IT industry is responsible for an estimated two percent of global CO2 output (says Gartner). However, if that increase is as a result of deploying technology to help the other 98% to reduce its carbon footprint then that’s a net gain. (eg: video conferencing, clever buildings, etc). At the same time, it is still under pressure to cut energy and resource consumption and costs wherever possible, or at the very least, extract greater output from the same expenditure.
This issue is not going to go away and yet we don’t seem to be seeing any real progress in terms of factual standards to assess positions etc. My colleagues at Capgemini felt we needed to come up with a better understanding of how the corporate world has so far responded to this growing commercial pressure to define a “sustainability” or “green” policy. Today, the emphasis is on proving green and sustainability credentials for in-house activities as well as external activities (like production). But there’s no standard scale by which infrastructure manufacturers can be measured and compared so I am pretty impressed with their results and think I can rightfully recommend the Capgemini Green IT Report 2008, which looks at the lifecycle of computer equipment.
I think it’s the first place to show a green-grading of some of the biggest technology vendors in the market, including EMC, Google, HP, IBM and Sun Microsystems. Even better it’s a snapshot not limited solely to the immediate datacentre impact of products, but which also assesses the product lifecycle from manufacture through to disposal and – in the absence of an accepted and recognised standard – which uses a scale to demonstrate the findings.
I think it’s a really valuable look at the green credentials of the IT industry’s leaders as examples of where the industry is now. The report also looks at developments and innovations that may affect the industry’s footprint in the future. Based on the five key categories of; manufacture, transport & logistics, ownership & operation, disposal and, corporate social responsibility, the survey provides a grading (based on 1,500 available points) for each partner’s eco-friendly practices, as represented by the Capgemini Sustainability Scale.
* Waste, Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directive; Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) directive; Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemical substances (REACH) regulation