Green IT

Movies such as “An inconvenient truth” have planted the seeds of the ‘green’ concept. More than merely making the threat of global warming real, it has created a new service industry and a new benchmark by which business ethics are judged. The faces of the 21st century business villains are the executives in charge of companies who have ruined the rain forests of the Amazon and the ones responsible for the lone polar bear who can’t find his way home amid melted ice caps. Not only has big business very quickly realised that they are becoming the environment killers, they also realised that being green was a new way to appeal to both the hearts and minds of potential and current customers.

Organic, green, reduction in carbon emissions and saving electricity have all become synonyms for saving the world. These labels are proudly displayed on everything from peas to sports cars. Green has become the next big thing, but is it just a fad or is the world about to melt? Al Gore and Leonardo DiCaprio will have you believe that your home is soon to be flooded and that if you’re reading this article instead of blowing up your inflatable boat, you are as good as dead. But are we really close to imminent destruction, or is everyone feeding off a panic frenzy sparked by destruction that is occurring in slow motion rather than fast forward? Science would have us believe the latter, rather than the former.

This hasn’t distracted business, however. More and more Fortune 500 companies are telling their employees to switch their computers off at night and imploring them to make sure they really want to print emails before they send them to the “mean forest-eating machine”. The bosses are actually chuckling away to themselves in their corner offices. Not only does this push their whole company into a new angelic light, but it’s also a cost-cutting exercise camouflaged as a carbon reduction program. Finally the social and environmental program that actually works for business and higher profits has arrived! The environmentally-friendly and profit margin agendas have converged at a single point: being green.

Maybe there is another side though. What’s the point of making profits if we won’t even be around to enjoy them? Building a data centre? Better build it inland or preferably on top of a mountain. Green programs are now directing the strategic departments where they originated. Suddenly the thought that resources are not quite as expendable as they once were has filtered through to the CEOs, CIOs and the other decision makers. And, over time, this will all be filtered down to the consumer. The facts are that being green not only makes social sense, but economic sense as well.

So finally, once the hype has worn down, one has to ask the question: “What does being green mean?” This question is not as easy to answer as it once appeared. Suddenly doing everything means that you are green, from taking a shorter route to work to saving electricity. How can it be measured, and how can such measurements be accurate? Is a company’s carbon footprint stomping on the almost extinct sea otter or does it hardly make marks in the sands of the Kalahari? Producing an exact carbon footprint is almost impossible as so many factors come into account, from delivery vehicles to the varied use of workers’ laptops. Certain figures, however, can be accurately measured such as the carbon emitted from electricity usage, the number of flights taken by directors and the electricity used by an organisation.

Grey Matter Thinking has recently released a sustainability re-engineering power calculator which allows companies to monitor their electricity consumption in data centres and buildings and ascertain where electricity usage can be decreased. The calculator also calculates the costs of the building and the data centre, and indicates the carbon emitted by the company. This is the starting point towards achieving a green strategy, whereby Grey Matter baselines the current infrastructure and electricity usage.

The problem so far is that companies have been lost when it comes to being green. Don’t have a data centre? Perhaps you leave your lights on at night. Don’t print reams of paper? Maybe you can use low emission cars to make your deliveries. Don’t consume excess amounts of petrol and electricity? How about planting some trees or investing in a forest to offset carbon emissions. All of the above can contribute to being green, but these are ideas that are difficult to measure and will probably have little economic benefit. However, when one sees it from this high level, being green isn’t only about techies setting up computers to shut down at night or janitors switching the lights off at the end of the day, but rather being green is also an holistic approach which filters through an organisation from the directors through to the cleaners. Being green isn’t just about going through the actions; being green is literally that, a way of life. For this reason, Grey Matter has included a “mindset” element to their green methodology – to enable companies to help change the mindset of staff into acting in a sustainable and responsible manner.

Our green methodology starts by focussing on the essentials such as data centres and then moves through the organisation to analyse other areas such as heating, air conditioning and lighting. Our three level (generating a green mindset, software such as that used for automatically switching off computers at night and infrastructure from servers to air conditioners) and three phase (procurement of energy consuming assets, use of these assets and disposal of these assets in an environmentally- friendly way) approach ensures that the entire spectrum is accounted for. Any opportunity to save costs and become green is taken into account. We have teamed up with leading industry partners (both local and international) to ensure that companies are given the opportunity to become market leaders in acting sustainably and current trends are taken into account. As part of our sustainability re-engineering process, companies are given green strategies to take advantage of carbon emissions taxes and carbon trading. Our solution focuses on the entire organisation, as opposed to the narrow view of only IT equipment.

Our solution includes the use of carbon specialists in order to quantify the amount of carbon that has been saved by the client and then enables the client to sell this as carbon credits. This is an additional source of revenue for clients, which is over and above the direct savings from reduced energy consumption.

The areas that are targetted by the sustainable strategies summarise being green: cutting costs now, looking at using resources sustainably over the medium to long term, and finally planning to reduce costs and act in a responsible manner in the future. Grey Matter provides companies with the tools to act sustainably, thereby taking full advantage of economic, environmental and social benefits. So the answer to whether big business has finally found a heart − yes, as long as the bottom line feels a little bit of the love.

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