Initially IT was perceived as a non-polluting industry with no adverse effect on the environment. However, in the last decade this misconception has changed and the global community is becoming increasingly aware of its impact on climate change and global warming.
One of the causes is generation of heat adding to increase in carbon footprint and global warming. The PCs, Monitors, Data Centres consume huge amount of energy and emit huge amount of heat. As per the International Telecommunication Union report (2010), 3% to 4% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emission is due to IT industry and it is likely to increase to 6% by 2020. Depletion of natural resources is another problem. Actions like unnecessarily printing are the reasons for this.
The above factors give rise to local and global effect; local effects such as health risk caused by E-waste; air/water/land pollution and so on; global effects such as global warming, climate change, glacier melting and level of ocean rising due to temperature increase etc.
Based on the ITU report published in December 2010, Information Technology can also be a key enabler to impact climate change. Through introduction of more efficient equipment and networks, the emissions in ICT sector can be reduced. It can introduce energy efficiency in other sectors through technology E.g. Telecommunication instead of physical communication, moving to green buildings etc. Safe disposal of E-waste can create local jobs other than influencing climate change significantly.
In the last decade the concept of Green Business has emerged. Many enterprises are turning themselves into green business. A green business must have green ideas embedded into its overall business management concepts so that it applies green management methods and technologies to its daily operations (Chuang and Huang, 2014). As per Roberts Issak (2002), there are two kinds of green businesses; one which didnt start as green but ultimately converted to green. The other one is green-green business that was started as green by ecopreneurs.
The global business community has become aware and extremely conscious of the climate change issues and environment sustainability. Corporate social responsibility has been integrated with the core business of most of the big corporates. A survey of 148 manufacturing companies in Taiwan has established that green business has a positive effect on business competitiveness. So the green initiatives and sustainable development are also important strategies by the enterprises to strengthen their market competitiveness (Chuang and Huang, 2014).
Global consortiums like Green Grid has been formed for formulating energy efficiency in data centers and business computing echo system. Multiple corporates (like Dell, Microsoft, IBM, and HP) and government agencies are the members of Green Grid that was formed in 2007. Anderson et al. (2008) introduced the Power Efficiency metrics and Data Centre Productivity metrics to the IT Industry as a benchmark to be followed.
Energy Star, a voluntary labelling program was launched by U.S Environmental protection Agency. It promotes energy efficiency in computer equipment. There are other initiatives like Climate Savers Computing initiative, Green Computing Impact Organization Inc., Green Electronic Council etc.
Green computing has been receiving the attention of the leadership teams of most of the big organizations. Many of them have included green computing in their corporate strategy and defined policies and best practices around it. E.g. HCL Technologies, a leading global IT Service Provider has laid down its sustainability goal of 2020 where under Responsible Business and Renew Ecosystem, clear targets for Innovation, Green IT, Energy Management, Green Procurement, and Green Building have been set out (HCL, 2016).
However it is not enough for only the large enterprises to go green. There are many smaller countries in the world whose economy mostly depends on SMEs. It has been estimated that 70 % of the global pollution is contributed by the Small and Medium Enterprises (Coffey, Tate and Toland, 2013). So it is equally important to measure the extent of green practices adopted by the SMEs as well. SMEs have limited resources, low awareness level and other challenges of their own. So the one size fits all approach of adopting green computing for all businesses will not be appropriate in this case (Coffey, Tate and Toland, 2013).
There are various reasons for the global businesses to pursue green computing. Some are regulatory in nature. Some are for pure business benefits. Projecting an environment friendly image is also another reason (Mann, Grant and Mann, 2009).
Most of the governments worldwide have clear mandates or regulations related to carbon footprint reduction, E-waste disposal and so on. Many times regulations are the most effective ways of implementing any framework. Sometimes they are applicable to the whole state or country; sometimes they are limited to a particular industry. E.g. the government of India, Ministry of IT & Communications has released National IT policy, National electronics policy and National Telecom policy in 2012. The task force formed for the growth of IT/ITES and manufacturing in India have come up with many recommendations in the area of green computing such as standardization, green procurement, tax incentives for developing cleaner technologies, declaration of carbon footprints to TRAI, adoption of renewable energy, carbon credit policy and so on (Chawla, 2012). Some of them are mandatory and some are recommended guidelines.
Corporates are also keen on maintaining a positive brand image of an environmentally responsible business house. Increasing global focus on green IT, environment sustainability issues, energy efficiency etc. are forcing the management to take a note and include such initiatives in their CSR strategy (Chawla, 2012).
However, the most important driver is the business benefits that are derived from this. Corporates adhering to Green IT enjoy competitive edge in winning business deals since many customers worldwide have become environment conscious and their business decisions are greatly influenced by the Green IT score of the vendor (Saha, 2014).
Cost saving is the other most important internal factor. Adhering to energy efficient equipment in offices and data centers, reducing waste, and getting financial incentives from the government etc. save huge amount of revenue for the corporates. It helps to influence the business owners attitude towards Green IT greatly (Phillip. C, Mary. T, 2013).
By embracing Green IT principles, doors for other business opportunities will be opened for the IT organizations. IT companies can design products to offer green solutions to their clients across industries. Some of the areas that have business potentials are setting up of green buildings, smart grids , generation of renewable energy sources, software for monitoring and measuring GHG emission, development of power management software, development of technology for Tele-commuting and so on.
Many of the todays customers are embracing green business principles and giving preferences to vendors that comply with their green vision. So enterprises with technology and vision to produce products and services in this direction will have a competitive edge over others (Saha, 2014). These will also lead to creating a green economy by creating several new jobs in this new field. Some of the global giants have already taken up a leaders role in this direction. E.g. the Sun Microsystems has come up with Sun Ray, a thin desktop client that consumes far less electricity compared to the conventional desktops. Google has also come up with the Blackle search engine site that consumes considerably less power than a white computer screen.
One of the immediate benefits of Green IT is cost saving. Adopting energy efficient measures saves huge amount of money for the organizations and is one of the main drivers for adopting green principles.
While IT has brought about a complete transformation of modern world and influenced every sphere of our lives, it has also been a cause for the rapid downgrade of the environment we live in. green computing concept has emerged from the need for preserving our environment. Government, Industries and individuals all have realized the criticality of adopting the green computing principles.
Multiple forums and consortiums have been set up by industry leaders and government bodies towards it. Many Green IT initiatives have been rolled out. Different organizations have different reasons or motivating factors for adopting Green IT. From this the concept of Green Business has emerged. It has been seen that Green businesses also lead to higher market competitiveness and other economic benefits like cost savings and job creation. Firms can implement a Green IT framework by considering some of the key components of Green IT and including them in their policy and action plans. Investment in human resources will also lead to generation of better innovative ideas. However, once the implementation framework is in place, there should be measurable results to assess the greenness of the organizations.
India is at a very vulnerable state as far as sustainability is concerned. A detailed action plan has been drawn by government of India which explains its green charter for 2020. However, the green maturity index of India is still at a value of 52 and Indian industries have a long journey ahead. If the Indian companies want to maintain the competitive advantage, reap the benefits of going green and use it as an opportunity to expand their business, the only way is to go green.
- Chawla, R. (2012). Green IT Initiatives in India.
- Chuang, S. and Huang, S. (2014). Effects of Business Greening and Green IT Capital on Business Competitiveness. J Bus Ethics, 128(1), pp.221-231.
- Coffey, P., Tate, M. and Toland, J. (2013). Small business in a small country: Attitudes to Green IT. Information Systems Frontiers, 15(5), pp.761-778.
- HCL Technologies, (2016). Rebalance for 2014 and beyond [online] Available at: http://microsite.hcltech.com/rebalance-book/SR-Booklet.pdf [Accessed 13 Mar. 2016].
- International Telecommunication Union, (2010). World Telecommunication – ICT Development Report 2010. ITU Publication.
- Isaak, R. (2002) The making of the ecopreneur, Greener Management International 38, 81.
- Mann, H., Grant, G. and Mann, I. (2009). Green IT – An Implementation Framework. AMCIS 2009 Proceedings. Paper 121 Available at: http://www.aisel.aisnet.org/amcis2009/121 [Accessed 5 Jun. 2016].
- Saha, B. (2014). Green Computing. International Journal of Computer Tends and Technology, 14(2), pp.46-50.