Environmental issues have been a major concern all over the world. Carbon dioxide emissions and greenhouse gases is one of the environmental issues facing most organizations. The measure that is used to quantify the greenhouse gases that are emitted by organizations or products within a particular time is referred to as the carbon footprint. Green IT is a term that is used by companies and organization to manage and sustain their operations and to sustain the environment. Green IT policies try to address several issues energy efficiency, waste reduction and management, reduction of carbon footprints among others.
Climate change is also addressed as part of Green IT as it has been attributed majorly to the effects of the greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide in the environment. Power management is among the most effective ways of adapting a Green IT policy. The ICT industry can help other companies and businesses to run their businesses more efficiently and consume less energy. The role of ICT in protecting the environment has been enhanced by the regulations and the legislations regarding the misuse of natural resources leading to depletion of resources.
The impact of the goods and services has also been governed rules and regulations especially in areas that directly affect the environment and the health of consumers. 1. 0 Introduction Environmental issues have been a major concern all over the world for very many years. These are the issues concerning the world’s natural resources that are mostly non renewable. Human beings have been using these resources with little or no regard for the impact the usage is having on the world. As a result, there is an increase in issues affecting the resources.
Some of the environmental issues that the world is facing today include pollution which comprises the pollution of land, air and water (Kemp , pp xvi). These environmental issues are mainly caused by human interference either through the numbers or via the employment of technology. Over the years the human population has been living as per the checks and balances of nature, but with the increase in numbers and technological developments, the situation has changed drastically (Kemp , pp 16).
It is worth mentioning that other environmental issues which affect the world today include the threats on the plants, wildlife, restriction of water availability and its quality as well as the threats on the atmospheric environment. Specific concerns and issues include those of waste disposal, loss of biodiversity, drought, desertification, ozone depletion, global warming and acid rain. Environmental issues have been given attention since the 1950’s and 1960’s before they began to be more dramatic.
Companies, organizations and governments are showing more concern and commitment in handling environmental issues through their operations. A World Environment Day has been set aside during the 5th of June every year to create awareness on the need to protect and conserve the environment and prevent further degradation (UNEP , para 1). The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is one of the international organizations that are involved in addressing the environmental issues. It is also the largest agency with most of the countries being members of the agency.
Governments have been involved in the development and enforcement of laws and policies that help in the conversation of the environment. Carbon footprint is one of the environmental issues facing the world today. It is the total set of greenhouse gases that are emitted by organizations or products within a particular time (Velte, Velte and Elsenpeter , pp 13). Moreover, Carbon footprint is the measure used to quantify the amount of carbon greenhouse gases mainly carbon dioxide during a particular activity at a given time. The term carbon footprint is used by organizations in different circumstances.
In some it has been used to refer to the amount of carbon dioxide output while in others it has been used to refer to the amount of greenhouse gases. The analysis that is carried out on the carbon footprint within a company helps in measuring a company’s efficiencies in combating pollution, reducing its costs and as part of its corporate social responsibility to the general public. IT Companies have been establishing effective and economical ways of carrying out their operations and conserving the environment. Some of these companies are developing and researching on the impact of technology on the environment.
They have developed methods to aid in environmental sustainability and the same methods are aimed at helping other organizations to grow. With this setting in consideration, this paper will objectively discuss the role and significance of Green IT in enabling existing companies to reduce their carbon footprint and comply with related legislation. In addition, it will give an insight into the manner through which organizations have achieved cost savings, organizational change and gained competitive advantage thanks to Green IT. 2. 0 Background of Green IT
Green IT is a term that is used by companies and organization within their context as the optimal use of information and communication technology to manage and sustain the operations of the organizations including the supply chain to sustain the environment. It refers to the study and practices by companies especially those that are involved in the information and technology industry to efficiently and effectively reduce their impact on the environment in its activities. The companies are able to reduce the materials that they use in their hazardous processes and adopt materials which conserve the environment.
The practice also enables companies to maximize their energy efficiency levels, reduce their wastes by adopting several measures such as recycling and producing biodegradable products. The decisions that the companies need to make regarding the environment and their best practices that they can adopt involve weighing of options and choosing the best approach. Green IT mainly concerns sustaining the environment through meeting contemporary needs in a manner that does not compromise the future of the environment.
Through this approach, the companies that practice Green IT are able to go beyond being energy efficient and address several environmental issues affecting the IT industry. Besides, Green IT also involves the improvement of processes and activities to allow for efficiency in energy and materials. Green IT policies try to address several issues. These include concerns such as clearly stating the environmental suitability of IT, assessment of the organizations in terms of their operations and activities, their energy efficiency, waste reduction and management practices.
In addition, it also includes the procurement guidelines that the organizations practice as well as detailed plans to improve their energy efficiency. IT companies understand the issues that are facing the environment and how they are contributing to the impact. Green IT is therefore not seen as a passing fashion but a practice that will lead to significant and material change in the conservation of the environment. 3. 0 Carbon Footprint in Existing ICT Companies Carbon dioxide and other green house gases are the main focus of organizations, governments and companies.
Climate change has been attributed majorly to the effects of the greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide in the environment. Since the industrial revolution the concentration of these gases has increased leading to an augment in the pressure for the companies in industries that contribute to the increase in these gases to develop ways of reducing their impacts. It therefore worth noting that carbon footprint is the measure used to provide a yardstick for these bodies to gauge the progress when it comes to climate change.
It is being used to monitor the emission of gases by companies and in the conservation of the climate as well as the environment. On the same note, companies have been engaging in activities especially manufacturing processes which pollute the environment leading to a depletion of the non renewable resources. Similarly, the ICT industry and community has not been left behind by the rest of the world in trying to sustain the environment. All companies in various industries are to some extent responsible for the rise of these gases.
Consequently, organizations, governments and other bodies have been establishing the extent of carbon dioxide gas emissions as well as other hazardous gases by companies, in a bid to prevent further environmental damage. These bodies are targeting over a 20% decrease in gas emissions by companies by the year 2020 and targets of 60% and 80% being set by the years 2050 all over the world (Mingay , pp 3). Some of the industries that are highly targeted include the oil and airline industries.
In the information and technology sector power consumption is high as well as the emission of carbon dioxide gases. Change is being implemented in data management and in server demands as these are the two major operations that contribute to the increase in gas emissions. The change in the gas emissions is targeted to occur in the ICT industry among other industries as measures are set to reduce to manage the industry more efficiently. Some of the methods being suggested include server virtualization and highly efficient as well as energy saving computing chips.
Other measures comprise influencing the behavior of buyers, and compliance to regulatory and fiscal measures by environment industries. The IT industry has been under increasing scrutiny from nongovernmental organizations such as Green Peace because of their chemical contamination and green house emissions which are mostly due to their power consumption of their products during their entire life cycle. They have also been scrutinized because of their power consumption during manufacturing and distribution processes and their use of non renewable resources.
Some of the ICT companies including Google, Microsoft, IBM, and HP, joined hands to launch an environment protection agency that would help in the reduction of green house gases and other gas emissions through energy efficient computers and components (Business Wire , para 1). Companies such as Vodafone, BT and Nokia Siemens were targeting reductions in emissions by 50%, 80%, and 49% respectively during the year 2009 (EurActiv , para 10). 4. 0 Role of Green IT Green IT is increasingly becoming very common and is being practiced all over the world in most of the Information and Technology businesses and corporations (Wheeland , para 1).
Many organizations are adopting green practices as a way of becoming more efficient and effective in their activities. Some of the measures that have been used by most companies include the use of energy efficient power suppliers, products and consolidating projects. Power management is considered among the most effective ways of adapting a Green IT policy. The IT companies can help other companies and businesses to run their businesses more efficiently and consume less energy. 4. 1 Achieving a Reduction in Carbon Footprint
The biggest opportunity of Green IT is in enabling the IT companies to reduce the impact they have on the environment through its products, services, supply chains and production. It is estimated that the carbon emissions by the IT companies are about 0. 6 gigatonnes (Gt) (Mingay , pp 4). The emission of gases by the ICT industry is estimated to be at the same level as that of the aviation industry to make up 2% of the total global gas emissions (The Economist Intelligence Unit , pp 6). The data centers are the major area of concern in these industries when it comes to energy consumption.
The ICT companies have a role in establishing energy efficient processes, reduce the harmful and hazardous materials that they use as well as reduce the emission of the harmful gases. (a) Teleworking This is one of the most efficient and well established means developed by companies to reduce the carbon footprint levels of ICT companies and other businesses. Though the practice is not widely practiced in most of the companies, the method has proven to be an effective way of reducing the carbon emissions of the ICT companies.
It is notable that teleworking can be adequately defined as a working arrangement used in the work places by managers and employees as they allow their employees to carry out their duties away from their central workplaces (Jackson and Wielen , pp 26). The employees use technology to perform their tasks while they are away from the central work place depending on the agreements made by the management of the company. Moreover, teleworking can be utilized in the reduction of the unnecessary trips to the work place on a daily basis and as a result carbon emissions are adequately reduced (Offstein and Morwick , pp 53).
However the major criticism of this approach is that the workers and the company are merely swapping from an environmentally friendly building to one that is badly insulated, that is their homes. However companies can help to improve the insulation of the homes of their employees. Some of the ICT companies have however adopted alternative measures to tele-working and are now offering more environmentally friendly means of commuting to work instead of allowing the employees to drive to work.
Microsoft for example has offered financial incentives to its employees who use environmentally friendly means to work such as bicycles, walking, carpooling or using public transport. The company has also gone ahead to provide new shuttle buses for its employees. The buses are equipped with Wi-Fi so that the employees are able to access their emails and internet on their way to work. The company has also set a target that 40% of its employees should have adopted environmentally friendly means to work by the year 2015 (The Economist Intelligence Unit , pp 7).
(b) Kicking the Flying Habit This is another method that is being used by the ICT companies to reduce the carbon emissions and the carbon footprints. Managers who are skeptical about letting the employees work from home have viewed this approach as better and more beneficial in reducing the carbon emissions. The approach of reducing the business travels and instead increasing the use of technologies such as web and video conferencing has become more efficient (The Economist Intelligence Unit , pp 8).
However despite the enthusiasm that the companies have in adopting the approach, some of the business entities have been reluctant in making the web and video conferencing mandatory. Moreover, some of the companies have argued that the method is appropriate when it is carried out within the organizations among the colleagues but it does not bear much fruit when dealing with either business customers or partners. The virtual meetings carried out can take several forms depending on the users and the technology available. Audio conferencing can be carried out between two or three participants through a telephone number.
Web or data conferences can allow participants to follow a presentation through a website. This is the most widely used approach and the fastest growing approach. Video conferencing is also being used where the participants can see and hear each other and communicate easily. The adoption of either of the modes of conferencing has been widely used by the ICT companies as it is easily measureable after it is adopted. Companies are in a better position to quantify the car miles driven or the air travel upon the use of conferencing approach.
This makes conferencing a very attractive method as it delivers direct benefits after it is adopted. However the major concern for the companies is the loss of the person to person interaction. When the meetings are carried out through this approach no matter the level of high and specialized technology used, the method does not substitute a handshake. The argument used for this is that once the parties are able to meet for the first time in person, the second meeting can be done using the approach as the connection has already been made.
(c) Streamlining Supply Chains This method is less obvious than the other two approaches discussed above as it focuses more on increasing the efficiency of the company in its supply chain and logistics operations through increasing the use of ICT technology and generate environmental benefits. More use of the technology reduces the length or distance the goods have to travel. It also improves the consolidation of shipments and thereby reducing the number of trips needed to transport the goods.
Studies that have been carried out on the improved efficiency in the supply and logistics operations have shown that the approach is the biggest contributor to a reduction in carbon footprint among the ICT companies. The approach contributes up to 29% to the reduced level of carbon emissions. It has also been proven that the approach contributes to a reduction in paper consumption by 33% and that it also increases the use of virtual meetings by 43% (The Economist Intelligence Unit , pp 10). Some of companies have been using their energy efficient operations to influence and improve the entire supply chain.
A company such as Wal-Mart which runs and operates a chain of warehouse stores and department stores has used its efficiency operations to influence its suppliers to reduce their carbon footprints. The company announced that it would ask it’s over 60, 000 suppliers to measure and report their carbon footprints. It was arguing that it was becoming more equipped with information about the energy consumption as part of its wider strategy to become equipped with energy saving information that would help it drive down its costs and that of the supply chain.
This company was acting in partnership with Carbon Disclosure Project, which is a group of institutional investors who approach companies to publish their gas emission figures. GlaxoSmithKline Company (GSK) has also used its ICT infrastructure to communicate and connect with its suppliers and other contract manufactures that it works with as a means to gather information about their gas emissions (The Economist Intelligence Unit , pp 10).
The company sent questionnaires through its electronic network to its suppliers and manufactures enquiring on the environmental impact of their work on the company. The information was to be used together with the information gathered by the company from its operations to determine the environmental impact of the company’s operations in the environment. Deutsche Post World Net a company that is found in Germany dealing with provision of postal services has been looking at innovative ways of using ICT skills to reduce the miles that are travelled by its worldwide fleet of over 130,000 vehicles.
The company is the parent company of DHL which has developed an innovation center that is using satellite navigation to plan efficient routes for the companies and thus reduce its carbon footprint. The management system also minimizes the left and right turns of the long vehicles especially in the urban areas which are congested with traffic. It also allows for vans to swap goods if both are heading in the same direction and hence become more efficient. The system is striving to reduce the carbon footprint by 5% (The Economist Intelligence Unit , pp 10).
(d) CIO’s as Agents of Change The role of ICT in managing and reducing the impact of organizations carbon footprint across all industries is very important. The ICT companies can quickly deliver in a realistic manner and provide results for unintended consequences. The Chief Information Officer (CIO) is the most senior executive in the enterprise for the ICT department. This is the officer who reports to the other chief officers including the CEO, CFO or the COO on the operations of the ICT department.
The individual serves as a bridge between the top managers, IT professionals and the end users of the department. Besides, the same offers leadership and vision in the department focusing mainly on the senior executives with respect to issues such as information and technology, investment decisions and other decisions that needs to be made on the organization regarding ICT. Moreover, they also act as business change agents challenging the conventional approaches of the department and the entire organization.
They then develop new methods and systems that can help deliver the mission and the goals of the organization (McClure , pp 24). The CIO’s have role to play in the environmental debates that concern their organizations. The ICT departments have huge roles to play and make positive contributions to the implementation of green IT practices in companies (The Economist Intelligence Unit , pp 11). A survey that was carried out listed the CIO’s as one of the most important people to drive and implement change in the organization. Other important figures include the CEO’s and CFO’s.
However the CIO’s are yet to define themselves in the climate change and environmental debates. 4. 2 Compliance with Related Legislation The role of ICT in protecting the environment has been enhanced by the regulations and the legislations that have been established regarding the misuse of natural resources leading to a depletion of resources. The impact of the goods and services produced by the ICT companies is being governed by the introduction of rules and regulations especially in areas that directly affect the operations of ICT companies.
Some of the regulations include the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) and the Restriction in the use of certain Hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment (RoHS) (INFORM , pp 1). (a) Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) The EU has developed a legislation that governs e-waste and was founded in the EU as part of the European Union Electrical and Electronic Products Directives. These directives were established after years of debate but they finally came to be effective on February 13, 2003 (INFORM , pp 1).
They have been adopted in the EU region by over 15 member states and the ICT firms in the region have been abiding to them. The directives were targeting the electrical and electronic equipment after there was a fast growing waste problem that mainly comprised of electronic waste. The directives were targeting to reduce the waste and improve recycling procedures. The EU estimated that the electronic waste was growing at three times the average municipal waste stream. Since this waste contained more harmful and toxic materials, there was need to get a quick solution to the problem before the situation got out of hand.
Electronic waste is a major pollutant in soil, air and water. The directives were aiming at reducing the amount of electronic and electrical equipment entering the incinerators and landfills and to eliminate the hazardous substances that they contained. The WEEE directive which is a model that should be practiced in other countries all over the world requires the producers of the products, who are the ICT companies that engage in the manufacture of computer hardware and other electronic products to be responsible of the products even after the end of their consumer life.
The directive also puts up measures for the recycling and recovery of the products and the waste. The European ICT companies have been complying with this directive as part of the green IT practices. Intel Company for example has been following the directive and has taken some of its products, even though they do not fall in the category mentioned of a final product by the directive. The company offers recycling services to businesses and consumers for its products which include motherboards, micro processors and other computer components (Intel , para 3).
However the company limits the recycling services to only its products and does not include other products that are branded by other companies. HP Company has also been mitigating the damage that is done by its products by implementing the WEEE directive. The company which was prepared and ready to be compliant in each country of the EU before the legislation was passed, has been taking back its products after their consumer life is over (Hewlett-Packard , pp 2). Consumers of the company’s products have been returning these electronics free of charge to the company’s authorized collection points.
It has been providing free recycling services to all of its electronic equipment for its customers all over the European Union as well as in Norway and Switzerland. The company has co-founded a platform to facilitate complying with the directive and to help in the recycling. The European Recycling Platform (ERP) has been encouraging competition among the recycling suppliers to make sure that the recycling costs are low and the impact to the customers is also kept at a minimum (Hewlett-Packard , pp 3).
The impact on the environment of its products has been mitigated from the design stage to the recycling stage. The company has been reducing its ecological footprint of its products throughout all of its stages which include the design, manufacturing, usage and disposal. The company has also been urging other companies and institutions in the EU to comply with the EU directive and reduce the impact of their products in the environment by carrying out processes such as recycling services. (b) Restriction on the Use of Certain Hazardous Substances (RoHS)
Other directives and legislation have been developed on the use of certain hazardous substances and materials in the production of electronic and electrical equipment. Countries have been adapting this legislation from an example that has been provided by the EU since 2008 when the legislation came into effect within the EU region (National Measurement Office , pp 5). The legislation restricts the use of certain materials and substances such as lead, mercury, cadmium, beryllium and brominated flame retardants that can cause environmental and health damage to the environment and to the consumers.
Some of these substances especially lead are very damaging. Lead for example is known to cause brain damage in children and can also cause damage in the central and peripheral nervous system, the blood system, kidneys and the reproductive system in humans. The legislation which has been implemented in other countries such as the U. S, China, Japan, Korea and Canada among other countries seeks to ensure that EEE producers reduce the amounts of hazardous substances in their products in the processing and refining processes. The directive which was enforced in the EU has faced a certain amount of non compliance from the producers.
However the authorities have gone ahead with the implementation of the legislation and have also undertaken educating and influencing the market to comply with the legislation. Most of the businesses especially the producers are more aware of the directive and have been complying. Other legislations that have been developed like that of California have a much narrower scope of limitation limiting only four metals namely lead, cadmium, mercury and hexavelent chromium. The legislation affects the producers, marketers, distributors and wholesalers as well as the retailers from selling or offering for sale prohibited products.
Toshiba Company is among the companies that have complied with the requirements of the legislation that restricts the use of harmful substances in electrical and electronic products. The company as part of its commitment to its customers and their requirement for lead free products and electronic components has been implementing new manufacturing processes that support the legislation. The lead free measure has been taken seriously by the company and it has selected various optimal alternatives to the use of lead in its products.
The company has also been developing green PC’s that are environmentally friendly and that are in compliance with the regulation (Toshiba , para 7). The company is known as the first company to have ever created a green personal computer in compliance to the various environmental regulations. 5. 0 Significance of Green IT (a) Cost Savings The companies that have been engaging in green IT practices to conserve the environment have also gained considerably. The environmental policies that have been developed under the Green IT programs have been a key contributing factor to the gains that these companies have experienced.
The major benefit that Green IT brings to the companies apart from conserving the environment includes the reduced costs of operations and other activities within these companies. Some of the policies that have brought a reduction in costs include the recycling of materials, reduction of hazardous materials, reusing some of the products among others. The companies that have also adopted measures such as video conferencing and teleworking have also reduced their costs remarkably and benefited in the process.
Some of the conservatory measures that have also been adopted by the ICT companies including switching off computers when not in use and conserving energy have reduced the energy consumption levels thereby reducing the energy costs incurred (Mingay , pp 3). The changes that have been adopted in the supply chain have also reduced the costs of some of the supplying costs such as packaging and distribution. Other measures that have been adopted such as the distribution of information electronically instead of the distributing the information on paper has also reduced the costs that the ICT industry spends on printing of information.
It has been argued that most of the companies that are engaging in the ICT industry are driven by the cutting of costs instead of the environmental issues. This is not a surprising discovery as the behavior is consistent in the large enterprises as well as the mid size enterprises. However the behavior also shows the extent of awareness among the companies on the environmental issues such as climate change on the environment. Most of the European organizations are more interested in the conserving the environment and being in compliance with the regulations instead of saving costs (Mingay , pp 3).
A study carried out by Natural Logic has revealed that the ICT sector has been able to reduce its costs by over $2 billion as a result of the environmental conservation practices it has been implementing over the years. The industry has reduced its carbon emission by more than 32 million metric tons all over the world since 2007 and has been able to save a lot of energy costs in the process (Environmental Leader , para 1). The carbon emissions have been reducing annually and a decrease of 32 million metric tons has been seen worldwide since the Green IT practices started being implemented by the sector.
A coalition of some of the key ICT companies globally has come together through this initiative to reduce the impact of the IT equipment and technology on the environment. The key players include Google, Microsoft, CSC, Dell, HP, Intel and the World Wildlife Fund among other members. (b) Organizational Change The companies that have implemented Green IT policies have undergone organizational change in most of their operations. The change that these companies have gone through has been to implement the different environmental policies that they have adopted.
Organizational change is normally a difficult process and for it to be effective, it needs to be carried out systematically and implemented in a way that reflects on the processes and operations of the business. The Green IT processes are implemented in a logical manner so that they remain effective and achieve the targets and goals intended. The policies implemented in the environmental program tend to affect the organizational processes, structure and the behaviors of the staff.
They also affect the direction of the organization in terms of its objectives and vision. The Green IT policies and processes need to be reviewed formally annually to ensure that they remain relevant and are still being effective in achieving the objectives set. They should also be reviewed together with the other organizational changes that occur in the organizations such as technical changes, mergers and acquisitions among other changes. Organizations that have also undergone the changes when implementing the Green IT pr