Need to make a case for Green IT? Find a

It shouldn’t be difficult to make a business case for implementing green IT initiatives, speakers at ITAC’s Executive Forum on Green ICT said Monday. The bigger challenge is in sustaining that momentum, they said.

“I worry we will start to lose the enthusiasm, focus and drive, and that some bad habits will creep back into the system, so it’s important that we lock in permanent business change,” said Neil Sentance, assistant deputy minister in the OPS Green Office, Ministry of Government Services. “The next 10 years are important because people moving into the middle and senior ranks will have to carry that forward.”

Sentance, who outlined the Ontario government’s green initiatives, said the Ontario Public Service (OPS) has made great strides in meeting its 2007 Go Green Action Plan mandate. But it will take “a lot of heavy lifting” over the next four years to meet its main goal: to reduce its internal government operations carbon footprint by 19 per cent by 2014 and by 27 per cent in 2020, he added. The OPS was named one of Canada’s greenest employers for 2010.

One of the key areas it has identified as a huge resource hog is printing, he said. Ontario government employees send about 700 million pages to the printer per year. By the end of this year, the OPS Green Office hopes to slash that number in half.

Other IT-related elements of the greening of government include moving towards an electronic forms inventory, standardizing applications, implementing server virtualization, PC power down strategies and standards for e-waste disposal, and greening the supply chain.

“We’re not going back to the bad old days of buying stuff, deploying it and forgetting about it,” he said. “There has to be a conscious managed lifecycle approach to all the areas we’re consuming in.”

At Gerdau Ameristeel Whitby, a steel recycler, the focus is on getting a grip on production energy costs. George Jorjani, professional engineer at Gerdau Ameristeel, on a panel called Smart Customers are Green Customers, said the Whitby plant is a pilot project site for a computerized system that gives the company a detailed view of the energy consumption of all the production lines spread out across the plant. The project, which was partially funded by Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, will enable the company to benchmark its production processes and, ultimately, reduce its energy use by five per cent – equivalent to 16,000 tonnes of CO2 emission reduction, said Jorjani. “Our plant alone uses as much electricity as a town of 136,000.”

That’s the kind of example that’s music to fellow panelist Hadley Archer’s ears. Archer, vice-president of strategic partnerships at World Wildlife Fund Canada, encouraged the IT industry to take advantage of this “huge, huge opportunity” to reshape the way people live and work.

WWF, he said, recently developed a report with HP Canada that examined how using existing IT, including teleworking, virtual collaboration and e-billing, could lead to the reduction or avoidance of 20 to 40 million tonnes of CO2 – and significant energy costs.

“The business case is there,” he said. “It’s not just on the margins. There are some really easy things you can do.”

WWF, for example, is working with HP to improve its server technology, a move it expects will reduce about 30 per cent of the organization’s emissions.

Organizations should also consider that return on investment calculations, if based on today’s energy prices, could be off, he said. When energy prices skyrocket, as largely predicted, organizations that have already implemented and worked out the kinks in a green IT strategy will have a competitive advantage over those that don’t, he said. As well, he said, “I’m guessing companies don’t look at their safety and HR strategies only on economics.”

But while the business case for green IT may be there, you still have to explain and defend it, the speakers agreed.

“You have to find the lever that works in your company,” said Dave Codack, vice-president of employee technology and network services at TD Bank Financial Group, who also spoke on the panel.

The lever for TD is a cost savings of about $10 million a year. If that weren’t the case, Codack admitted, “it would be a tougher sell.”

TD Bank, said Codack, decreed in 2008 it would be carbon neutral by 2010. To that end, it enforces a green standard on about 1,000 services it procures, shuts down desktops at night and is drastically reducing the number of servers it uses – about 3,200 in one branch alone – to meets its goal of 50 per cent server virtualization. As well, it is building a new green data centre and a North America-wide converged network, and is taking a cradle-to-grave approach to its electronic devices.

“We just disposed of 38,000 devices in a warehouse,” he said. “About 3,700 were resold and 1,000 had to be destroyed, but none went to landfill.”