Painting The Co-op IT Green

Painting The Co-op IT Green

A new point-of-sale system lets devices sleep at night, saving money and energy at The Co-operative Group

The clamor for green IT raised by the spiralling cost of energy, corporate social responsibility mandates and regulations around power consumption and electronic waste disposal is beginning to have an impact on IT infrastructures in ways that aren't just confined to the data center.

Research by analysts Datamonitor found that over 75 percent of CIO respondents considered eco-friendly computing an important element in their IT strategy, while 15 percent rated it as their top IT priority.

"While green IT practices such as energy-efficient hardware, hosted infrastructure and data center. virtualization have all been around for a while now, it is only recently that companies have begun incorporating green IT in their core business strategies," says Vamshi Mokshagundam, technology analyst at Datamonitor.

So it is that, with one eye on environmental responsibilities and the other on budgets, CIOs are beginning to explore the possibilities of embracing broader eco-friendly IT strategies.

Democratically run by members who pay as little as £1 (US$1.76) to join, the 145-year-old Co-operative Group has long made ethical responsibility a core part of its brand value. Even before last month's agreement to buy Somerfield, its business responsibilities grew in scale in July 2007 when it merged with the UK's second-largest such concern, United Co-operatives. The new society is the world's largest consumer co-operative with 2.5 million active trading members and more than 80,000 employees, and covers food, financial services (including online bank Smile), travel, pharmacy, funerals and legal services.

In spite of the significant distraction created by the combination, the merged group has already switched to renewable sources to supply the electricity to its mainland food stores as part of a target to reduce energy use by 25 percent at all its premises by 2012.

As part of that target, the Co-op has launched a night-time, energy-saving program for the electronic point-of-sale (Epos) operations of its 2200 UK food stores. This is itself part of an £8.3m investment in a single IBM Epos control system for its expanded food store network.

The InControl Epos platform was developed by The Co-operative Group's own IT team and is currently installed in around 1650 of the group's food stores; it will be rolled out to 550 former United food stores through the course of this year. The system consists of touch-screen tills with customer-facing advertising screens, an integrated Chip and PIN system; a new stock and order replenishment system; and wireless networks within stores for printing labels and price checking. The group has been working to a schedule of upgrading around 20 food stores a week since March.

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