MEET THE EXPERT – MARK O’NEILL
We meet up with leading Green IT expert, Mark O’Neill, author of “Green IT for Sustainable Business Practice” and ask why going green is relevant to small and medium sized business.
What is Green IT?
The term is quite subjective and can mean different things to different people. However, I see it as being two sides of the same coin. On one side, IT is responsible for a significant proportion of an organisation’s energy consumption. Consideration of what can be done to minimise this to reduce CO2 emissions and costs is required.
On the other side, it’s about using and harnessing technology to rescue CO2 emissions and costs, across all aspects of a business’s operation. Often delivering operation improvements at the same time.
What impact does the use of IT have on our carbon emissions?
ICT is the World’s fastest growing sector of energy use, contributing an estimated 2 to 2.5% of the World’s total carbon emissions. This is about the same as the aviation industry and as high as 5 to 6% for developed nations. However, ICT is also having a positive impact on carbon reduction as innovative IT solutions are used to reduce energy consumption in other sectors, most notably transport.
For office buildings, ICT typically accounts for more than 20% of the energy used and in some offices up to 70%. However, recent advances in smart energy solutions and building management solutions have also had a positive effect in helping to reduce energy usage and subsequently carbon emissions.
Why would my business want to adopt Green IT?
Businesses need to see clear bottom line benefits from adopting a Green IT policy. Traditionally, seen as an “expensive indulgence” but this isn’t the case. With ever increasing energy prices, investing in Green IT can deliver real savings together with reducing a firm’s carbon footprint.
Customers, whether other businesses, consumers or public sector, are increasingly expecting companies they buy from to have strong “green credentials”. In many markets, this can provide a genuine competitive edge. Additionally, for many businesses, there’s growing legislation and regulation that puts pressure on them to reduce their carbon emissions.
What are the first steps a business should take to put in place a Green IT Policy?
This will very much depend on the type and size of the business. The goal must be to reduce carbon emissions by a reasonable margin whilst also saving money in the longer run. I would advise a company asks heir IT Provider to carry out an audit to identify areas where savings can be made on energy consumption of their IT infrastructure. Whilst also, identifying ways the organisation can exploit technology to reduce their overall carbon footprint.
Whatever actions are taken there needs to be a good return on investment. Also, someone with authority needs to champion the cause and make sure changes really happen!
So, give some examples of how a typical business can reduce its IT energy consumption and CO2?
There’s a multitude of things most companies can do ranging from the simple to the more complex. Turning PC monitors and printers off overnight will instantly reduce your energy bill. Correctly configure PCs to optimise energy saving. Thus going into “sleep mode” after 20 minutes of inactive use.
More involved actions can be to upgrade Servers, printers etc., to modern, energy saving systems. Consider the use of virtualisation and cloud computing – whilst also improving your operational performance and bringing other benefits. Use of the “business grade” PCs with the latest power management features, as well as potentially migrating to using laptops and tablets, will all help reduce CO2 emissions whilst enhancing productivity.
And how could the average business use technology to reduce carbon emissions in other areas of its operations?
Again, this will be very dependent on the type of business you are. However, with car travel accounting for more CO2 emissions than any other form of transport, a great application is teleconferencing. Whether it’s simply using audio conferencing or more sophisticated collaborative web conferencing, conducting meetings using these applications can dramatically reduce carbon emissions, as well as saving time and money.
Another example is to move towards a paperless operation, using IT systems to replace many traditional paper-based processes which can be responsible for high CO2 costs through printing and use of paper.
There’s a host of other ways a business could potentially use technology to lessen its carbon emissions whilst also delivering other business benefits. It’s worth exploring this further with your IT Provider.