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Green IT survey

IT managers are unaware of the impact that technology has on their firm’s carbon footprint

TMCnet, BIOS magazine, Western Mail & others – August 2007

Three quarters of IT managers are unaware of the impact that technology has on their overall carbon footprint, according to new research conducted for independent IT consultancy, the DMW Group. With IT responsible for up to 40 per cent of a typical large UK enterprise’s carbon footprint, it is worrying that 71 per cent of businesses are largely ignoring an area which is right under their noses – the data centre. And, it is the data centre which is highly likely to make the most significant contribution to reducing their carbon footprint.

David Elwen, director at DMW, commented: “The corporate IT infrastructure requires vast amounts of electricity just to keep the technology ticking over. In order to reduce this giant energy guzzler, businesses need to look at how they can conserve energy used by IT. One of the most effective ‘green’ measures is looking at environmentally-friendly ways to build their data centre and to consider more energy efficient ways to run the IT equipment within it.”

What is alarming about the findings is only 30 per cent of UK corporates have plans to create a new green data centre in the next five years. This inertia was reinforced by the fact that 83 per cent of IT mangers considered IT performance to be important when selecting IT equipment. Only 23 per cent of respondents ranked green as an important factor when selecting IT equipment.

Elwen continued: “It seems that IT managers are more interested in ‘grunt’, i.e. performance, than the reduction of carbon emissions. The good news is that high performance can still be achieved through environmentally means. For example, Google found that by turning down their cooling equipment and turning up the ambient temperature on their IT servers, reduced the failure rate and saved energy.”

But, it is not all doom and gloom, as 82 per cent of businesses did claim to have a generic green policy. However, rather than strategic IT measures, these policies focused mainly on reducing energy usage in light bulbs, recycling paper waste and disposing of electrical waste in an environmentally-friendly way.

Despite the fact that the ‘green issue’ if quite firmly on the corporate radar, no company has yet to take the lead on this issue. When respondents were asked which company they felt was leading the way in making a significant environmental impact in implementing green policies, respondents failed to pick out a clear leader.

Part of the problem, in Elwen’s opinion, is that senior management is doing very little to influence or persuade IT managers to take more responsibility for reducing carbon emissions. Furthermore, with this issue becoming an important boardroom agenda item, it is surprisingly short-sighted, as there is a huge opportunity for a forward-thinking IT vendor to make a name for itself as the environment champion.

Said Elwen, “The problem is exacerbated by the fact that businesses are not being given enough incentive by the Government to reduce their IT energy consumption. 82 per cent of those surveyed were unaware of Government initiatives to help businesses improve their carbon footprint. Of the 63 per cent that were aware of the government initiatives, they didn’t believe that the initiatives went far enough.”

Elwen concluded: “Unfortunately, there’s no stick or carrot to motivate businesses to do anything other than take easy, visible, green measures. Worse, it seems that it won’t be Government rhetoric that will be the catalyst for change. It is more likely to be the creaking of the national grid that will force UK businesses to implement significant change to reduce their carbon footprint.”

The research, conducted by Vanson Bourne, interviewed one hundred and five IT managers and IT directors in UK corporates with a revenue exceeding £50 million, across sectors including financial services, manufacturing, retail and transport.