An increasingly popular corporate policy is to substitute global travel with video conferencing. Not only does this save on travel time for highly paid executives and the cost of travel itself, it also reduces carbon waste.
Telecommuting is also becoming popular, encouraged by jammed motorways and the advent of UK road congestion charges. More and more businesses are becoming virtual organisations with departments springing up in their employees' home offices, and IT support centres managed remotely. This both reduces commuting emissions and allows for smaller offices with reduced heat and lighting overheads. There are, of course, costs associated with this type of solution, such as the need for more robust and complex ICT networking, which in turn brings us back to the issue of power consumption.
One way around this is to find alternative electricity supplies. A truly eco-friendly company might want to consider developing its own power source, such as solar, geo-thermal or wind and then selling the excess back to the National Grid.
The brave new world of e-commerce was supposed to lead to a paperless and greener office. While going paperless may still be unrealistic, consumption can be reduced through centralised printing (which controls volume), more efficient document management, double-sided output and, of course, recycling. Although most businesses are now in the habit of recycling paper, knowing what to do with old PCs is not so clear.
And while directives such as WEEE cover the disposal of electrical equipment, reuse remains an intriguing possibility. Some organisations have developed schemes for recycling computers, first removing sensitive data from the hard drive and then donating them to countries where the availability of any PC is a rarity.
Another approach is California's Electronic Waste Recycling Act, a state-wide programme for recycling obsolete computer and electronic equipment, the expenses of which are covered by a fee imposed on each unit at the time of sale.
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Greenness has become a key competitive differentiator. Companies want to be seen by customers and prospects as being good community citizens and so are including their green credentials in corporate social responsibility policies and demanding eco credentials from their IT suppliers. But, with a rising tide of green IT solutions and services now hitting the market, how should a CIO go about discerning between the good, the bad and the average when it comes to green IT credentials?
To begin with, the choice requires an ability to compare specifications against the latest legislative requirements and best-practice industry standards. This, however, only goes so far. Deciding how an individual supplier stacks up against peers usually requires access to independent industry knowledge and a large, statistically suitable, database that is typically available from IT benchmarking specialists.
Not only does this data help companies make informed decisions about their IT investments, it enables them to measure their own operation to see how green they are compared with the competition. This is difficult to do internally since it's a bit like trying to recognise one's own blind spots.
Green IT benchmarking can help identify an organisation's standing in the real world and what the organisation needs to do to improve its green credentials. While this type of study does require investment, the returns can be substantial in terms of operational improvements, a reduction in carbon footprint, and as an independent statement of IT efficiency.
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