Creating a sustainable business

01 Feb 09

A raft of rules and regulations linked to national carbon emission targets come into play over the next few years, and many New Zealand businesses are looking for effective ways to leverage technology to drive sustainable business practices.

There’s growing pressure for businesses in all sectors to become more environmentally responsible by creating sustainable workplaces, products and services. With energy and fuel costs pushing up operating expenses, they are also looking for ways to improve efficiencies across their organisation.

The big issue for most businesses is to find the optimal relationship between shareholder value and the preservation of the world’s natural resources.  Business and consumers will accept some small increases in cost “to save the planet”, however, the organisations that will prosper will look beyond compliance and see sustainability as an opportunity to drive resource efficiency through their organisation.

While technology is responsible for about two percent of global carbon emissions, on a par with the airline industry, there is a huge opportunity to leverage ICT to help control and reduce carbon emissions and IT-related energy consumption.

It doesn’t need to stop there. Along with environmental advantages, sustainability initiatives can bring a number of additional benefits to an organisation, including improved efficiency and productivity, cost savings, and a boost to the brand as customers lean toward companies that market themselves as “clean and green”.

Tackling technology

To put an effective ICT sustainability strategy in place, businesses need technology solutions that reduce IT energy consumption, minimise carbon emissions, and improve the management of asset lifecycles and e-waste.

With IT playing an increasingly important role as a business enabler, the use of technology devices and data centres is growing and driving up energy consumption.  According to IDC, for every dollar spent on hardware in the data centre, another $0.50 is spent on energy.

Fortunately, there’s room for improvement – and substantial cost savings – with solutions that aim to reduce energy consumption, shrink the carbon footprint of PCs within the enterprise, and manage the use of equipment such as printers, faxes and copiers.

Many companies are implementing virtualisation solutions that run multiple operating systems and multiple applications over reduced hardware.  They are developing a centralised approach to managing and monitoring the ICT environment, and rolling out thin client networking solutions that require less PC and cooling power.

Simply turning equipment off and turning power management on can be a huge energy saver.  For example, idle servers still use about 30 per cent of their peak energy consumption, and half of ICT energy consumption comes from office equipment, including desktop PCs, monitors and printers.

Save fuel, travel less

When it comes to reducing fuel use, technology innovations come into their own.  Audio calls, video conferencing and online collaboration tools enable remote working and reduce the need for travel.

Research demonstrates that mobile technologies deliver real productivity results, with teleworkers producing more value for per hour than their office-based colleagues – as well as saving on travel costs.

Not so PC

Meanwhile, the short lifespan of PCs means that nearly 125 million computers are removed from circulation each year, with most ending up in landfills. Reducing e-waste is critical and can be addressed by looking at extending the life of assets through reuse inside and outside the organisation.

Centralised remote management of assets can play a big part in reducing energy consumption across an organisation and enable more informed decisions to be made.

Companies are also looking for solutions that contribute to their sustainability reporting and sustainable procurement practices, chosing energy efficient alternatives where possible.

Green marketing

Consumers are increasingly aware of where goods are sourced and the associated carbon miles. Security scares have also meant there’s a greater focus on being able to identify the origin of goods and components. Systems that can track and trace goods can help address these sustainability concerns.

Companies that can demonstrate that their business is actively making progress in achieving sustainability goals, can leverage this in their marketing activities and build a competitive edge.

While ICT is part of the environmental problem, it is also part of the solution, by enabling businesses to measure, manage, control and reduce carbon emissions, reduce IT energy consumption, and help with the mandatory reporting requirements.  With big-picture thinking, sustainability initiatives enable businesses to operate smarter and more efficiently, and deliver a competitive edge.

Practice what you preach

Gen-i provides clients with a number of ICT solutions to sustainability and, through its independent consulting business Davanti, can provide help to define a sustainability strategy.  Gen-i has put many of these solutions into practice, including :

* Measurement and tracking of our carbon footprint over the past three years;

* Video, web and audio conferencing to reduce travel and related  costs. A new TelePresence videoconference solution aims to cut travel-related costs by 20 per cent;

* Energy efficiency programme across over 4,000 sites;

* Documents stored on intranet and sent electronically;

* Decommissioning old equipment and using best environmental practices to recycle or dispose. 

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