Information technology has a huge role to play in bringing about a more sustainable world - not only in large-scale technological
solutions, but also in cutting energy use. For most companies keen to
reduce their carbon emissions, electricity output is one of the first
areas that can be pared back.
There are lots of ways to slash usage, including lights-off
strategies, but when companies do an audit, what they normally find is
that IT accounts for 40 per cent of the electricity bill.
One way to cut this is to outsource as much IT as possible, for
instance by using off-site data centres. Although this doesn't
entirely break the relationship between the company and the impact of
its energy-hungry technology, generally it is the owner of operational
control over the process who takes responsibility for the emissions.
In this way, companies essentially outsource their carbon output to
their IT supplier.
Fujitsu has just opened what it says is a state-of-the-art sustainable
data centre at Sydney's Homebush Bay. Its cooling system uses 80 per
cent less water than a conventional model and consumes up to 32 per
cent less energy.
Fujitsu invests in high-tech, low-footprint buildings to give it a
competitive advantage, knowing that its clients are looking for
sustainable strategies. But it also knows it has to pursue these
policies for its own good, to strengthen its position in the supply
chain as more organisations outsource IT.
Fujitsu Australia's head of sustainability, Alison O'Flynn, says
that even though the company is not affected by environmental
reporting legislation, such as the National Greenhouse and Energy
Reporting Act, it may be in the future.
"As thresholds go down and our business grows, we could have an
obligation to comply with the legislation in the next few years,"
The NGER affects only 700 medium and large companies - of which 300
report for the first time this year - that either emit 125 kilotonnes
of carbon dioxide equivalent of greenhouse gases or consume or produce
500 terajoules of energy. Thresholds drop each year to involve more
O'Flynn says the move to five or six-star buildings may boost demand
for outsourced IT. She says one reason those sites get high ratings is
that they allow only a limited amount of infrastructure: companies
that move into them may find they can't take their entire IT system
with them and someone else may have to house it.
"One of the big drivers will be companies moving into more efficient
buildings and not being able to take their assets with them," O'Flynn
says. "That challenges an organisation to reduce its infrastructure or
outsource it. Offering our customers efficient data centres is a very
good outcome for us.
"They're outsourcing their footprint, but we see that as a challenge,
an opportunity to provide a different level of service. You have a
company that wants to shift its environmental burden but it wants to
do it with the right company."
That means Fujitu's footprint is set to grow as it becomes the
repository for different enterprises' IT infrastructure. For that
reason, IT providers will be looking to lessen their footprint, for
example by investing in the latest technology and buildings. In this
way, they'll be able to take responsibility for the emissions of
others, yet reduce their output as much as possible.
It's the theoretically neat result of carbon pricing: the cost and
burden moves to the site where it can best be handled. "The price of
carbon will be felt throughout the market," O'Flynn says.
So although one company may not see the value in sustainably upgrading
its data centre, for the owner of a major centre, it is worthwhile.
On the front foot
Pricing carbon in the supply chain makes IT companies put into place
many of the policies their clients are using. For example, NEC has
reduced air travel, overhauled its company car fleet, instigated a
lights-out campaign and is offsetting its emissions by planting a
forest on Kangaroo Island - at the average rate of 750 acres every
General manager Tony Maddaluno says these initiatives are prompted by
NEC's global drive to be more sustainable, which is also a recognition
of what its clients want.
"It's being driven by our customers as well," he says. "There's a
competitive advantage and by moving early we could create some
momentum ahead of others."
He says the initiatives on their own could be considered small. "But
if you look at them altogether, it's a significant change in how we do
business," he says. "That's down to a cultural change internally but
it's also because of an increased consciousness, outside NEC, of
NEC is also looking into greening its product base; it wants to
develop products with low power consumption, virtualisation and
thin-client technology in order to enable its customers to reduce
Fujitsu Australia has taken similar initiatives, hoping to reduce its
emissions to 1990s levels by the time 2010 comes around - an ambitious
goal as it takes on more of its clients' environmental burdens.
Fujitsu's Alison O'Flynn aims to make the company itself more
sustainable, greening every activity in its supply chain, "from our
factories, how we transport our goods and distribution centres, to how
our employees engage in the workplace and procurement".
CFO, Fairfax Business Media
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