IT departments can save the planet

Staff Writer on

According to a new report released by the Climate Group and the Global e-Sustainability Initiative, changes to the way that businesses operate could have a dramatic impact on emissions and energy consumption, and can help reduce enterprise carbon footprints.

The report, called Smart 2020, enabling the low carbon economy in the information age, is supported by analysis from management consultants McKinsey and Company, and states that by making some changes to their use of ICT, companies would be able to contribute to a reduction in global emissions - up to fifteen per cent, and would be able to take a share of some US1 trillion in energy savings.

According to the report IT departments currently contribute about two per cent of all global emissions, an amount that is set to double by 2020. However the authors say that reducing this could be relatively easy, because of "ICT's unique ability to monitor and maximise energy efficiency both within and outside of its own sector."

Rather than talk up the use of teleworking and video-conferencing the group has made a number of alternative suggestions, recommending that physical machines be replaced with virtual solutions, or that firms consider further " transformational" cuts.

In the first instance the report recommends that firms look at how they operate, saying, "to help, rather than hinder, the fight against climate change, the ICT sector must manage its own growing impact and continue to reduce emissions from data centres, telecommunications networks and the manufacture and use of its products." It added that this could be achieved, in part, through a focus on next generation networks and long-life devices.

The groups also recommend that firms follow a SMART project management framework, explaining, "through this enabling platform, transformation will occur when the business models that drive low carbon alternatives can be developed and diffused at scale across all sectors of the economy."

Molly Webb, ICT project director at the Climate Group, said, "ICT is a vital tool to combat global warming because of its unique ability to make energy visible and communicate the information in real time to business managers who can use this to make valuable efficiency gains. It is certainly possible for ICT to reduce global emissions by 15 per cent by 2020, but by no means inevitable. Although many low carbon technologies already exist, a more integrated policy framework is required to kick start industry action and enable these to be taken to scale."
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