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cally when nobody is using them. You\u2019d be
accessing more of your IT needs remotely and
sharing IT assets widely.
As a result, you\u2019d have one of the smallest
carbon footprints around\u2014certainly a nice-
to-have when it comes to burnishing your
brand or trying to woo young, eco-minded
prospective hires. And you\u2019d be well prepared
for the day, not long from now, when your
in much greener directions\u2014and to look
creatively beyond the usual polemic about
payback that continues to curb many
As one of the organization\u2019s hungriest consumers of energy, IT has
unusual leverage to effect green change on an enterprise scale.
Here are five moves that IT leaders should be making now.
If you had the chance today to launch a new
company\u2014a start-up opportunity that could
quickly scale up to dozens, perhaps hundreds,
of employees in a year or two\u2014would you
do it the way it\u2019s always been done, with
employees converging on central offices each
day and a big server farm whirring away
in a back room?
Instead, you might opt for a decentralized
and largely virtual model, with staff working
flexibly, often from home. You\u2019d probably
use energy-efficient buildings, perhaps
powered in part by solar energy and with
infrastructure that turns lights off automati-
What\u2019s especially interesting is the
role that corporate IT leadership
can play. Certainly, surging energy
costs and rising volumes of data
together make it easier for CIOs to
justify spending on so-called green
data centers. But that\u2019s not the
extent of IT\u2019s potential. Working
with a wide swath of Fortune 500
companies over many years, Accen-
ture has observed that IT is often
perfectly placed to initiate and even
at some farsighted companies are
already beginning to think and act
in those terms without losing any
of their fiscal pragmatism. They\u2019re
starting to think about IT\u2019s impact
beyond the data center.
It\u2019s almost impossible to open a
newspaper or magazine these days
without reading about the conse-
quences of concern about the
change is increasingly difficult to
contest: Statistics and reports from
the National Aeronautics and Space
Administration in the United States
and from the United Nations\u2019 Inter-
governmental Panel on Climate
Change confirm that global temper-
atures are now rising faster than
The facts are rapidly making them-
selves felt in corporate boardrooms.
The environment has become a
fixture on the agenda at the World
Economic Forum in Davos, within
sight of Switzerland\u2019s retreating
glaciers. In the United Kingdom, the
Confederation of British Industry,
the country\u2019s leading employers\u2019
body, has pledged that its members
will \u201cdevelop new products and
services that will enable all house-
holds in the UK to cut their [carbon]
emissions in half by 2020.\u201d Many
Fortune 500 companies wear
their green credentials with pride\u2014
some to the point where they are
criticized for \u201cgreenwashing\u201d (see
sidebar, page 3). And many are
dabbling in carbon offsets\u2014a few
selling but most buying their way
to environmentally acceptable
Some leading companies have
invested hugely in rebranding around
an environmental stance, as BP did
in 2000 with its \u201cBeyond Petroleum\u201d
tagline. Others have launched vast
enterprisewide ventures, as General
Electric Co. did recently with its
\u201cEcomagination\u201d initiative. One of
GE\u2019s four Ecomagination commit-
ments, the company says, is to
\u201cgrow revenues from products that
will provide significant advantages
to customers to at least $20 billion
in 2010.\u201d At many companies,
sustainability reports\u2014printed on
recycled paper with soy ink, of
course\u2014have joined annual reports
as a means of helping stakeholders
gauge a company\u2019s performance.
But how green has the IT organiza-
tion really gone? The short answer:
a little. To date, the agenda has
largely been set by IT hardware
suppliers looking to seize the
opportunity presented by the new
pressures on the CIO. For these sup-
pliers, the debate is about running
IT assets and services in more
energy-efficient ways, and they
are only too happy to sell the new
equipment to enable this.
This agenda has had two results.
One is that the whole discussion
around IT\u2019s ability to drive energy
savings has focused primarily on
data center operations. The other
is an upsurge in the marketing of
IT hardware and systems that con-
sume less energy while delivering
the same processing capacity.
To date, the agenda
has largely been set by
IT hardware suppliers
looking to seize the
by the new pressures
on the CIO.
In our view, this emphasis is not
wrong; it\u2019s just incomplete. It risks
missing some major opportunities,
because the real environmental
agenda for the CIO can be\u2014and
certainly should be\u2014far broader.
Why IT? What makes the CIO a
likely or a credible champion of
the green cause?
The first answer is economic. For
almost all services businesses and
even some areas of light manufac-
turing, IT operations are responsible
for the bulk of an organization\u2019s
energy consumption\u2014and that share
is climbing all the time. In effect,
demand for IT\u2019s services is growing
faster than the efficiency of the
underlying technology. While IT can
address supply-side issues, it is also
in a position to manage demand.
become. Today, using remote access
technology, personal communications
tools and a widening range of software
options to enable collaboration, IT can
shape and help determine where and
how people work, how much they
travel and how they behave when
they get to their destinations. All of
which translates not only into how
much energy they consume but also
how much they use of other costly
resources, from paper to minerals.
IT\u2019s impact can extend still further.
The workplace environment, the
procurement methodology and the
supply chain are all within its sphere
of influence\u2014as are the automation
and efficiency of the organization\u2019s
compliance with such environmental
regulations as applicable carbon
emissions caps and the European
Union\u2019s Waste Electrical and Elec-
tronic Equipment directive.
The lesson for business leaders? There\u2019s no hiding place if your environmental
story seems too good to be true\u2014or if it\u2019s seen as a smoke screen for other, less
environmentally friendly, activities, such as excessive energy consumption or the
encroachment on habitat of endangered species.
glare of the public spotlight, they are downright daunting for green IT proponents. The key for them will be to collaborate early and often with the communications teams that manage the company\u2019s brand. They might also walk a mile in a greenwash watcher\u2019s sandals.
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