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If I could have a rand for every article I have seen entitled something like”10 ways to go green” or “3 ways to reduce your emissions by 50%” I think I would be a rich man by now.  In fact, I have probably written a couple of these myself!

The reality is that going green requires systemic change in a business and is not as easy as switching the lights off or migrating to energy efficient technology.  Without a holistic strategic business focus around sustainability initiatives, organisations are doomed to failure and maximum business benefits and minimizing environmental impacts will not be realised.

From an ICT department, the opportunity to assist the business in this respect is immense.  IT is uniquely positioned as it is a department (like HR or Finance) that cuts horizontally across the business.  This means that IT’s reach is deep and can be a significant change agent in the business, if positioned correctly.

IT can obviously provide technology that dematerialises business processes and provides opportunity to manage excessive carbon out of the business.  Internally IT can also apply technology that reduces its own emissions such as power management or virtualization. But the role of IT does not stop there.

IT must also play a significant role in corporate governance and sustainability initiatives in general.  If we presuppose that the primary goals for IT governance are a) to ensure that investments in technology yield an acceptable ROI and b) mitigate the risks that are associated with IT then the interlock with green IT initiatives are indisputable.

Green IT initiatives by their very nature are determined by ensuring the maximum return on investment with the least impact on the environment.  These include:

  • energy efficiency
  • green house gas emissions reduction
  • dematerialisation of business processes
  • sweating of assets
  • embracing innovation and efficiency

“Going green” is definitely not easy, if it was we would not be sitting with global warming and rampant climate change.  The same can be said around green IT and without change to business process, procedure and underlying management systems, green IT initiatives will fail.

Taking this further, IT is uniquely positioned to provide business with the non-financial metrics and reporting that will be of necessity in the low carbon economy.  As the cost of carbon increases, through cap and trade, carbon taxation or merely escalating energy rates, the roll of IT and green IT will become increasingly important.

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