Green computing initiatives are now widely viewed as the way IT can contribute to building a cleaner and healthier global environment.
Green initiatives don't usually differ significantly from other business initiatives, says Sheila Patel, vice president, sustainability and business technology, North America, at Capgemini Invent, a unit of business advisory firm Capgemini. “They must start with a vision or definition of a desired future state, which in the sustainability space takes the form of commitments to reducing the environmental impacts of doing business.”
Start With Baselines
Patel suggests launching a green computing initiative with a deep analysis of the organization’s current IT infrastructure and practices. If conducted with sufficient structure and rigor -- spanning across processes, practices, and infrastructural lifetimes -- this baselining activity should uncover the hotspots disproportionately contributing to the enterprise’s computational footprint. “These hotspots become the targets for future action,” she says.
The next step should be assessing and identifying the most important issues. “Recognize that issues material to your enterprise and employees may be different,” cautions Corie Pierce, vice president, external communications, and sustainability at NTT Data Services. “For example, organizations may prioritize reducing risk related to climate change, while their employees may be more concerned about safe working conditions,” she explains. “With this understanding, you can identify near- and long-term objectives for your green computing initiative and how to measure and report them to your stakeholders to gain buy-in and support.”
Enterprises that have already created an environmental, social, and governance (ESG) program, may wish to review their existing goals to determine how IT can best support them with a green initiative. “If your organization does not have a program in place, you can begin by thinking about how and where IT can initiate a program to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, reduce waste, and recycle,” says Kathy Rudy, chief data and analytics officer with global technology research and advisory firm ISG.
Power consumption, refrigerants, and e-waste are the areas targeted most frequently by IT green initiatives. An important first step is measuring the baseline. “There are numerous software tools and templates available to define the areas to measure,” Rudy says. With a data center, for example, it's necessary to determine the amount of energy required to cool the center, as well as the type of energy that's supplying the power, such as coal, gas, nuclear, wind, solar, or a combination of several sources. “If you're working with a supplier to provide data center services, ask it for an overview of the emissions produced to support your organization,” she advises.
IT leaders should also consider how they handle e-waste disposal to determine if they need to create a policy or modify an existing one. “The inventory should also extend to devices used in offices and their power consumption,” Rudy notes.
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