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Green IT for a Healthier Environment
V.C Gopalratnam
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Going green is top priority for most organizations today. Having realized that green technology brings with it, improved business productivity and a significant reduction in energy costs, companies are coming up with innovative measures to reduce their carbon footprint.

Growing consensus from the scientific community that global warming is largely man-made has increased pressure on governments, corporations and consumers to go the green way. There has been a shift from implementing ‘green’ technologies primarily for cost reduction, to a more balanced awareness of improving an organization’s environmental standing.

Adoption challenges:
Corporations that wish to follow a green business model tend to have apprehensions regarding the contribution of green policies to their business profitability. They wish to know the revenue opportunities and cost savings that can be realized by ‘going green’. The answers often depend on how broadly one is willing to define green practices.

Going green presents many challenges. Extensive alterations to existing infrastructure such as datacenters, computer systems, building power systems and air conditioning are capital intensive. Government policies that support use of green products, services and processes along with a provision for tax rebates on energy efficient buildings, products, and carbon trading can bring about large-scale adoption of green IT.

Green strategies:
Leveraging on technologies like telecommuting and telepresence, server & storage virtualization, procurement of environmentally friendly PCs and servers, PC power management, optimization of energy consumption in data centers and responsible management of e-waste, businesses have been able to reduce carbon footprint. Global positioning systems, radio frequency identification, Web services, unified communications, next-generation broadband, wireless, smart urban infrastructures, and other new integration technologies make it possible for organizations to become eco-friendly.

ICT is increasingly being viewed as a tool by organizations to address business challenges and play a significant role in working towards a sustainable ecology. Towards that end, Cisco has utilized collaboration technologies like Cisco Telepresence, Unified Communications, Webex and Cisco Shared Workspace to decouple revenue and headcount growth from carbon emission growth, and reduced its carbon emissions by 10 percent per employee, over the past two years (emissions of 98 Telepresence meetings equals one international flight from North America to Europe).

Energy consumption is an important consideration for businesses when it comes to adopting green technology. Thinking beyond simple power consumption and considering how effectively and efficiently all energy and business resources are being used, can broaden the range of benefits. Investing in green IT products that offer new delivery approaches such as data center virtualization furthers the advantage.

Adopting a broader network-based approach helps to deliver bigger gains in power efficiency and cost reduction. New innovations in green IT, leverage a corporate network to manage power consumption of both IT and non-IT systems. Developing products that have a longer life helps to maximize energy-efficiency, enables upgradability and modularity of products and balances the ecological footprint. Initiatives such as recycling help reduce levels of both hazardous and non-hazardous waste, resulting in a healthier environment. From a business perspective, recycling helps to effectively manage costs and reduce carbon footprint.

Advantage green:
Corporate have logical reasons to go green. In addition to substantial reduction in the overall cost of operations and savings on energy and water resources, LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification by the US Green Building Council (USGBC) helps them acquire a better corporate image. A green building concept is the demonstration of the company’s commitment to environment protection.

Increase in office space utilization and reduction in building operating expenses, electrical and network cabling, construction materials and land are some of the advantages of green buildings. A case in point is building number 14 at the Cisco Globalization Centre in Bangalore. Low height cubicles with natural light flow are the key features here. Power usage is controlled in meeting rooms and the lights and air conditioning automatically switch off when the room is unoccupied for more than 15 minutes. Dustbins are located at the centre of every floor and are segregated as food waste, paper waste, plastic and metal waste. This ensures better garbage disposal and recycling. All furniture in the building is made of recycled material.

In order to encourage more corporate to go ‘Green’, the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) is trying to advance the green building concept and has received registrations from about 640 projects in India for its rating program. About 100 of these are already certified and functional green building projects.

The green theme allows business leaders to embrace purpose as well as performance. Organizations are compelled to take the green route in order to keep up with society’s rapidly changing expectations, besides taking care of a corporation’s reputation, managing its risks and gaining a competitive edge. This is what good business leaders ought to do anyway. Paying attention to green technologies can amount to enlightened self-interest because truly responsible corporations never lose sight of the commercial imperative.

Introducing a degree of accountability for carbon emission reductions makes it easier for corporations to trade carbon credits and generate additional income. The equation is simple: The more a corporation can record, audit, and verify its energy savings, the more carbon credits it can sell. The network in this context plays a pivotal role as it allows corporations to measure, track, and manage the use or savings of greenhouse gases, down to the very last emission.

At the end of the day, going green is about transforming the business ecosystem for the future, creating a new mindset, and using technology to its fullest. After all, we are on this journey together and need to exercise and demonstrate best practices in running our business operations. True success lies not just in adopting these practices internally, but in being able to influence our customers, suppliers and partners. If we achieve this, we can change the way people work, live, play, and learn.
The author is VP, Information Technology and CIO Globalisation, Cisco

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