How Green Is Your IT?

London — December 4, 2007 — Your company's information technology department may be gobbling up enough power to turn your "green purchasing" initiatives to red and negating the impact of efforts to become a more "carbon-neutral" business, if a new survey out of the United Kingdom is any indication.

The so-called "information communication technology" (ICT) sector in the United Kingdom has a carbon footprint similar to the aviation industry, and its skyrocketing growth means it will soon surpass that poster child for climate change, a report by Global Action Plan with guidance from the Environmental IT Leadership Team (EILT) revealed today.

In all, 86 percent of ICT departments surveyed for the report do not know the carbon footprint of their activities and less than 20 percent even see their energy bills. The report concludes that growth in carbon emissions from the ICT sector is being exacerbated by government policies requiring higher levels of data to be stored.

"An Inefficient Truth"

The report's authors believe that increased efficiencies using proven techniques could lead to rapid and significant carbon savings. Most ICT professionals are aware of green technology and would like to be involved in sustainability initiatives, but they are in great need of support to do so, according to the report.

The report, called "An Inefficient Truth" (a reference to the climate change documentary "An Inconvenient Truth"), was advised by the EILT, the U.K.'s first independent expert user group focused on exploring and publishing best practice sustainable information communication technology strategies.

The environmental non-profit Global Action Plan today calls on the U.K. government to introduce legislation and tax incentives to support the adoption of sustainable ICT policies and strategy in British businesses.

The report includes a national survey that is the first to measure the use of ICT in business and its contribution to the U.K.'s carbon footprint; to identify the proportion of companies seeking energy efficient strategies; and to promote examples of best practice.

Server versus SUV

Key findings in the report include:

  • 61 percent of U.K. data centers only have the capacity for two years of growth.
  • 37 percent of companies are storing data indefinitely due to government policy.
  • Nearly 40 percent of servers are underutilized by more than 50 percent.
  • 80 percent of respondents do not believe their company's data policies are environmentally sustainable.

Barriers to Change

Article continues below.

Call for "Green Computing"

  • Government to provide incentives to help companies reduce the carbon footprint of their IT activities.
  • Government to ensure that there is a sufficient supply of energy for data center needs in the future.
  • Government to review its policies on long-term data storage to take into account the carbon implications.
  • ICT vendors to significantly improve the quality of their environmental information.
  • ICT departments to be accountable for the energy costs of running and cooling ICT equipment.
  • Companies to ensure ICT departments are fully engaged in their CSR and environmental policies.
  • Companies to ensure that their ICT infrastructure meets stricter efficiency targets.