I read an industry analyst report last week that proclaimed that "Green Computing" is no longer relevant in today's IT market. It probably comes as no surprise that in this economic environment very few CIO’s will purchase an IT solution solely because they want to do something good for the environment. Nor is it unexpected to see signs of fatigue with the 'green washing' that has emerged over the past 24 months. However, the fundamental promise of 'Green IT' has always been that it will help clients overcome operational inhibitors (they are out of power or cooling capacity or unstable power supply is resulting in availability issues) while taking out cost (energy costs, operational costs, and deferral of capital investments).These benefits are more relevant today than ever - whether a CIO or IT Manager labels them as 'green' or not. Furthermore, it is clear that sustainability continues to be high on the corporate agenda. Demands that customers are making on the companies they do business with are prompting such companies to consider their impact on the environment, and as such they’re beginning to worry about a possible negative impact on brand value. Likewise, increasing regulations and laws to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and protect the environment are beginning to gain steam. And in parallel, we are seeing an increasing number of incentives offered by utilities and regulatory bodies in order to drive energy efficiency and sustained demand reduction in commercial companies, with IT and data centers being primary targets for efficiency gains.
Our focus at IBM has always been on improving efficiency. We're all about helping our customers overcome very real operational inhibitors, reduce costs, prepare for these new, impending regulations, and attain sustainable operations. And the by-product of these efforts - what some may consider "going green" - can only mean good things for the environment.
Energy efficiency and sustainability are certainly not just waning 'fads'. Let me give just a couple examples:
First, legislation around greenhouse gas emissions and energy efficiency will probably come more quickly and with broader reach than anticipated. In many cases, the IT organization will represent a substantive portion of the overall footprint of the organization. As a case in point, the UK government announced the final format of the CRC on Wednesday of the week before last and will begin mailing out registration packets to 5,000 businesses across the UK by the end of the month. What was once thought of as an issue only for large emitters such as utilities and heavy manufacturing is clearly relevant to businesses of all sizes in every industry.
Second, as we begin to emerge from the recession, all the traditional issues that we see will in fact remain (cost cutting, availability, etc.), but forward thinking CIO’s will also have on their agenda how they can help lead/enable sustainability across their organizations. As sustainability strategies are defined and environmental management systems are deployed, it will fall to IT to provide the supporting infrastructure.
Energy efficiency and sustainability should really be top of mind for a CIO both today and tomorrow. It’s not about the gimmicks and superficial actions that some marketing organizations have promoted and which feed the perception of 'green' as simply a 'fad'. Energy efficiency and sustainability are relevant and important, and we'll continue to help our customers along these lines. Companies will ultimately be held accountable not only for what they do - but also for how they do it. They will have to tackle these issues straight on so they are ahead of the curve when new regulations emerge, and we’ll be there every step of the way. How we change the way we work today might be the catalyst toward providing a better tomorrow for the environment and for our planet.
Whether you call it 'Green IT' or not, make no mistake - energy efficiency and sustainability still matter.
VP, IBM Energy and Environment