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Facing the heat

Facing the heat

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

As a matter of personal belief, CIOs are free to count themselves among the diminishing band of troglodytes that continue to deny the reality of human-induced climate change.

However, with global warming soaring to the top of the political and social agenda, the organization that employs CIOs does not have that luxury. Shareholders and board members are starting to press their companies to go green as the harsh clamor 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.

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. 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 helps save the planet and the future prospects of your employer. For instance, after GE deployed its digital cockpit -- a $10 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 per cent in a decade and saving tens of millions of dollars through environmental, safety and productivity improvements.

AISO, which describes itself as a 'responsible green Web hosting company' and has customers around the globe, is saving $160,000 a month by running its data center 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 per cent less heat and using 60 per cent less energy since migrating to AMD's Opteron-powered servers.

Dow Chemical Company estimated it would spend over $1 billion on technology and processes to save $3.1 billion to reach its 2005 Sustainability Goals, but saved $5.2 billion through a combination of rising energy prices and better use of its resources, including energy.

Investa, included on the third Global 100 list of the most sustainable corporations in the world and named one of the leading companies on the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index, is saving $1.7 million a year, with a combined ROI of 61.7 per cent, through its energy and water programs.

"Over the past two years alone, Investa has reduced water consumption in our commercial office buildings by 28 per cent through a number of new initiatives," Craig Roussac, Investa's general manager, sustainability, safety and environment, said. "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 ActewAGL, while admitting there is a long way to go before any 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 center entirely on green power.

And let's face it, if you don't take action voluntarily, you are bound to be dragged to it kicking and screaming sooner or later -- and later is likely to come at far greater cost. Already in Europe and to a lesser extent in the US, corporations are being subject to a host of environmental regulation and the brutally critical appraisal of an increasingly anxious public. Businesses are unlikely to remain free of demands that they drastically reduce their carbon footprint. Nor should they be allowed to, as long as their data centers suck power like humongous vacuum cleaners and their discarded electronics spew toxic metals and other pollutants into the environment.

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