For some corporations, going Green has already gone red. Green initiatives, such as lowering energy consumption and recycling, have taken on a new sense of urgency in response to legislation, eco-conscious customers and investors, and/or ever-rising energy costs. While regulatory compliance will undoubtedly become more complicated on an international scale, greening the IT department is becoming steadily simpler.
Indeed, the green movement has overgrown the IT industry to such a degree that a corporation can, in fact, become significantly greener without making a specific effort to do so. This is good news for corporate leaders who face ever-tightening regulatory requirements while also grappling with still-too-tight budget constraints.
Going Green (even if you don’t call it that) has other benefits to corporations. Because far from being just a warm and fuzzy PR move, the benefits of going green are tangible and bankable.
“At a high level, going green can (1) improve the bottom line; (2) help a business earn new contracts, especially since Fortune 500 and government institutions are providing preferential treatment; (3) increase revenue by accessing a new customer demographic; (4) compliance with environmental law and ability to get rebates; (5) hire the best talent — more and more of the young, smart graduates want to work at a company with adequate corporate responsibility culture; and, of course (6) it’s the right thing to do,” says Marcos Cordero, chief executive officer and co-founder of Green Business Bureau.
It makes sense, then, for your governance and regulatory compliance, facility management, and public relations departments (among others) to start ticking off line items on the Must-be-Green list as the IT department goes about its daily business. To get you started, here are a few areas where you can expect to reap green points on almost immediately (and without even really trying).
Refresh Cycles: Green, Mean, and Lean
Most corporations postponed regularly-scheduled hardware refresh cycles during the global recession. Aging equipment and software are now wheezing their last and upgrades are imminent. The good news: Practically any hardware you buy is significantly greener than anything currently in use.
“Energy efficiency of hardware has improved over the last few years, with the ratcheting up of Energy Star standards and the introduction of new rules,” explains Iza Kruszewska, toxics campaigner at Greenpeace International.
Kruszewska covers environmental issues in the European Union (EU), but many Greenpeace members report similar situations in other areas of the developed world.
“Electronic equipment made by all the global brands is now free of four types of heavy metals — lead, mercury, cadmium and hexavalent chromium — as well as two types of brominated flame retardants, thanks to the EU’s Restriction of Hazardous Substances in Electronics (RoHS) directive, which came into force in 2006,” Kruszewska explains.
Some companies introduced PCs that far exceed the Energy Star and other energy efficiency standards, adds Kruszewska. “Some brands now have models of PCs and monitors free of PVC (vinyl plastic) and all brominated flame retardants — not just the two types banned by RoHS.”
Thus, the simple act of purchasing new hardware for data centers and international offices will rack up significant green benefits, from energy savings (that is, lower electric utility costs) to regulatory compliance.
Hardware Recycling Can Net Free Servers or Cash Rewards
Recycling efforts have become more sophisticated in recent years. Some programs actually give you new equipment to replace old, less environmentally-friendly gear.
“Many PC companies now offer comprehensive take-back and recycling programs, not only for business customers but also for individuals, and these programs are available virtually worldwide,” says Greenpeace’s Kruszewska.
One example: KOM Networks’ Junk-A-Juke program which aims to enable businesses to upgrade their older storage systems for free and feed over one million starving kids.
“Businesses of any size can take advantage of the program and get rid of any older computer equipment currently taking up space in closets, server rooms, data centers, etc,” says KOM Networks’ CTO, Kamel Shaath.
“KOM arranges the pickup, recycling, and installation of a brand new Dell powered storage/archive solution,” explains Shaath.
KOM Networks, and its recycling partner Technology Conservation Group (TCG), will remove your old system free-of-charge. The companies then dismantle and recycle the obsolete storage systems; they sell off the parts for other uses or sell the raw materials. There is a cost to participating corporations in the form of a new KOM archiving solution and a three year maintenance commitment, but this can be financed through Dell (OAC), according to KOM Networks’ website program description.
Corporations can also write off the recycled costs as charitable giving, says Shaath, since KOM Networks donates the money collected from the sale of the system components and raw materials to Feed The Children. KOM also matches the funds generated by the recycled hardware and donates it to Feed the Children, an international, nonprofit relief organization that works to save the 15 million children that otherwise starve to death each year.
There are other programs available that help with e-waste and can even generate cash either for your corporation or for a charity. You can identify many of these programs through e-Stewards, the organization that sets international standards for the disposal of e-waste.
Reused components find new and interesting uses through e-Steward recyclers. One example: “Best Buys’ new NYC billboard in Times Square is made from Electronic Recycling International’s recycled electronics,” says John Shegarianm, founder of Electronic Recycling International (ERI). ERI has a long-standing partnership with Best Buy. As an interesting aside, Shegarianm says the Olympic medals this year were also made from recycled e-waste.
The Cloud is Green and Raining Cash Benefits
Cloud adoption has gained momentum and it’s picking up speed, primarily because the new architecture promises huge savings over traditional data center systems and software licensing. However, cloud computing is also a major green initiative.
“Those companies which were unaware, or semi-aware of the cloud can no longer ignore the strong green IT value proposition of access to previously inaccessible productivity tools; the ability to collaborate with teams, partners and customers; shifting focus from IT to business; and improving speed to market through instantly set up solutions,” says Servoy’s CEO, Jan Aleman, who also serves as secretary of EuroCloud compendium and is on the steering committee of the ICT Office SaaS/Cloud Group.
New operating systems and software frequently comes along with a hardware refresh cycle. Windows 7, for example, contains many advantages but among those are features designed to aid cloud efforts, primarily via virtualization. Chief among them:
- Microsoft Application Virtualization (called APP-V), which lets IT managers stream applications to PCs from a server so they can be run without local installations.
- Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (MED-V), a desktop virtualization tool that allows policy-based broadcasting of virtualized applications on demand.
Cloud trends are shifting quickly to hybrid models, which means some computing will be in the cloud and some on-premise in systems ultimately designed to deliver the best features of both models. The green effects of hybrids evolve naturally, effortlessly, and almost as an afterthought.
“Users no longer have to decide between the cloud or on-premise — not with green hybrid applications,” says Aleman. “The new green hybrid platform gives users the option of running their applications hosted online — on dedicated servers, virtual servers, or any form of cloud computing – or on-premises for anywhere access. These hybrid applications can be deployed as Software as a Service (SaaS) or on-premises through a browser and a native client.”
“By redesigning applications to fit these modern architectures, total carbon footprints can be reduced by 90 percent, ” he says.
It is important to consciously go back and account for these “accidental” green benefits in your company’s regulatory compliance filings. Otherwise, these advantages can be lost to further, more costly efforts in your organization’s labors to comply. That isn’t to say that any effort is fruitless, but it is wise to get all credits anywhere credit is due.
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