Thursday, September 22, 2011

Green IT down a little globally, Fujitsu study finds

Fujitsu has released its annual Global ICT Sustainability Report. With rankings sliding, it could be subtitled "The Sustainability of Sustainability." Although no respondents got a perfect score of 100, many got an A+ or A, with one US wholesaler scoring 97. The average, regrettably, was closer to a D-.

You can read Leslie Guevarra's take on the report here. I't's actually a good summary, so rather than re-do that, I've just noted below some things that jumped out at me.

Right off the bat, the report’s overview positions ICT (that's what the rest of the world calls IT) as a critical leader in sustainability:  “ICT Sustainability is a vast cross functional subject and has a critical leadership role in enabling sustainable business practices across all sectors.” Although I wholeheartedly agree with this opinion, I would have preferred to see support for it in the survey results.

The key to best practice in ICT Sustainability? “High scorers have control of their ICT power consumption, they measure their performance consistently, and they get all parts of the business involved.” I don’t know about your family, but my mother, bless her, would have howled if we wasted electricity the way many organizations do. The major obstacle to significant cuts in ICT energy consumption is that most ICT managers, still, don’t ever see their own energy bill. Energy management systems, clearly an ICT/IT function, can have a huge impact on everybody's energy consumption,  not just IT's.

Some other key observations:
  • ICT consumes enough energy to be responsible for 3% of humanity’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, up from 2% in past years.
  • ICT can account for up to 75% of all GHG emissions in organizations that rely heavily on ICT, such as banks, government, and other administrative industries. In the West, these tend to be large organizations with sophisticated ICT infrastructures. These fared better than average in the survey.
  • The survey used the industry-standard Capability Maturity Model (CMM) methodology to quantify responses. CMM rankings range from 0 (no action or awareness) to 5 (optimized, or best practice).
Green IT works both ways. Not surprisingly, an organization that get everybody committed also applies IT to help its whole ecosystem become greener, from suppliers, partners, and industries to customers.This is represented in the "ICT as a Low-Carbon Enabler" portion of the survey. While this category covers a wide range of ICT-enabled activities, and therefore addresses much of ICT's value to its stakeholders, it had limited impact on the outcomes of this survey.

The survey demonstrated how tightly the visibility of the ICT power bill correlates to ICT sustainability (ITSx). Although this is shown in the figures, some puzzling contrasts appear. For example, US respondents were at the top of the power awareness spectrum, and Australian firms at the bottom.  But in overall ranking, the two are just one position apart, with the US in 3rd and Australia in 4th.  

"Green Fatigue" was speculated as contributing to a significant drop in Australia’s End User Engagement category, from 62.3 to 51.8. The survey gave no context for this supposition. It could also be tied to the abysmal visibility of the country’s ICT power bills, the report said. This decline may be reversed by a stringent e-waste bill passed recently in the legislature, and moves toward implementing carbon pricing. The US, by contrast, has neither at a federal level. 

Inclusion of a nation in the survey was based on level of response. On that basis, the countries included were Australia, Canada, China, India, New Zealand, UK and the USA. Responses from all others were aggregated as "Rest of the World."