At Orange Business Live '09 earlier this year, cost control was unsurprisingly the order of the day, with green IT slipping down the priority list somewhat. But it was highlighted that green IT has the potential to move hand-in-hand with cost savings, and in the interim there have been many examples of this in practice.
Starting with the big numbers, the UK Government said it had saved "at least £7m" through green strategies. Initiatives include extending the life of PCs, making double-sided printing the default option, and ensuring that computers are switched-off at night. This has cut the carbon footprint by 12,000 tonnes, equivalent to 5,000 cars. An update on the Government's progress so-far can be found here.
There are also benefits to be had on a smaller scale. A good example comes from the University of Georgia, which is saving $30,000 to $40,000 per year by configuring computers to "sleep" when not in use. The decision to implement this was taken because of the availability of a "reliable software solution" which will be invisible to students (in this case, Faronics Power Save), and because previously IT staff were unsure how to balance the need to keep computers running in order to deliver critical remote updates with the desire to save energy.
But green IT is not having everything its own way. Forrester Research indicated that uptake of environmentally-friendly products had slowed for the first time since 2007, with 11% of the business it surveyed during mid-2009 planning to slow green IT implementation, compared with 5% intending to do the same during October 2008. The reason for this was "slackening overall demand and tighter availability of investment capital".
Sustainable practices in demand
Silicon.com published an article from law firm DLA Piper, which noted that "sustainability issues are starting to form part of the contracting process", and that while suggesting that environmental issues are a "key concern" in pitches would be "misleading", green credentials are starting to be a feature of requests for proposals. It also said that "realistically, many IT companies are motivated as much by public perception as by corporate conscience".
According to The Climate Group and the Global e-Sustainability Initiative, smarter technology use could reduce global emissions by 15% and save global industry €500bn in annual energy costs by 2020. Supported by analysis from McKinsey & Company, it was suggested in an in-depth report that the use of ICT to monitor and maximise energy and efficiency both in the IT sector and for industry in general could cut emissions by an amount "greater than the current annual emissions of either the US or China".
For those interested in benchmarking their green IT initiatives against "best in class" deployments, Aberdeen Group has created an online assessment and ROI calculator, sponsored by IBM. Business Week has also published a guide to developing a green IT policy, including a number of suggested activities which will deliver cost savings.