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Facing the Heat

Facing the Heat

Chances are that a good portion of an organization’s environmental footprint, however small it may be, comes from IT

As a matter of personal belief, any CIO is free to count themselves among the tiny and diminishing band of troglodytes that would continue to deny the reality of human-induced climate change until the polar ice caps disappeared and the landscape was reduced to dust. Individuals can believe anything they want, including that the universe was sneezed out by a being called the Great Green Arkleseizure or that George W Bush is a great president.

However, with global warming soaring to the top of the political and social agenda (and Peak Oil vying for space), the organization that employs the CIOs does not have that luxury. Shareholders and board members are starting to press their companies to go green as the harsh clamour of community expectations holds their feet to the forest fire and demands swift and credible action. Organizations that make like an ostrich are likely to find their nether-regions ever more dangerously exposed.

Line all those ducks up in a nice green eco-row and with any luck you can be a hero who simultaneously helps save the planet and the future prospects of your employer

It is CIOs who will increasingly get duckshoved the responsibility for leading the organizational response to global warming — and quite right too, as technology pumps ever-greater loads of carbon into the atmosphere and technological waste increasingly poisons the earth itself. The good news is that in some areas the environmentally sound is also the economically sound. Line all those ducks up in a nice green eco-row and with any luck you can be a hero who simultaneously helps save the planet and the future prospects of your employer.

For instance, after GE deployed its digital cockpit — a $US10 million system that supplies metrics on environmental performance, resource use, safety and compliance — it substantially cleaned up its act, reducing violations of wastewater emission regulations by more than 80 percent in a decade and saving tens of millions of dollars through environmental, safety and productivity improvements.

US company AISO, which describes itself as a "responsible green Web hosting company" and has customers around the globe, is saving $4000 a month by running its data centre and office entirely off solar panels. The company, which maps its IT purchasing decisions back to its overall efforts to be environmentally responsible, has been generating 50 percent less heat and using 60 percent less energy since migrating to AMD's Opteron-powered servers.

Dow Chemical Company estimated it would spend $1 billion on technology and processes to save $3 billion in reaching its 2005 Sustainability Goals, but ending up saving $5 billion through a combination of rising energy prices and better use of its resources, including energy efficiency.

And back home Australian company Investa, included on the third Global 100 (G100) list of the most sustainable corporations in the world and named one of the leading companies on the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index (DJSI World), is saving $1.7 million a year, with a combined return on investment of 61.7 percent, through its energy and water programs.

"Over the past two years alone, Investa has reduced water consumption in our commercial office buildings by 28 percent through a number of new initiatives," Craig Roussac, Investa's general manager, sustainability, safety and environment, said in a statement. "We have been able to demonstrate a 'hard dollar' increase in a property valuation due to improvements in a building's environmental performance. This supports our long-held view that superior environmental performance can create value over and above mere cost savings."

Energy, wastewater and Internet service provider to the Australian Capital Territory ActewAGL, while admitting there is a long way to go before any Australian organization can claim its technology use to be carbon-neutral, is saving energy and money by running Citrix terminals and making sure staff turn off their machines at the end of the day and helping the environment by running its data centre entirely on green power.

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