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IT rapped over carbon footprint

IT rapped over carbon footprint

The information technology industry has earned a rebuke for failing to meet the needs of businesses as they fight to reduce their impact on the environment in response to shareholder and consumer concerns.

The industry has also been urged to identify opportunities to work with private and public sectors to build systems for monitoring, reporting and pricing carbon as the country gears up for the launch of a federal emissions trading scheme in 2010. The comments, made at an Australian Information Industry Association sustainability forum in Melbourne, came as providers of computer equipment and services grapple with their growing influence over corporate carbon footprints.

"For a lot of industries, IT has a surprisingly large footprint. If you are an office-oriented company . . . you might be surprised to discover that in aggregate your IT and associated office equipment might be responsible for as much as half of you total carbon emissions," KPMG IT advisory director Bob Hayward said.

"The other quite scary statistic is that various research companies have shown that the footprint of IT globally is rising faster than most other industries."

In response, many government departments and businesses have established sustainable procurement practices to help reduce carbon emissions.

But Australia and New Zealand Banking Group shared services sourcing manager Peter Sharpe said some technology suppliers still weren't doing enough to meet their customers' needs.

"When we're putting out our requests for proposals and making statements about sustainability as being important to us, I think the IT industry has a way to go to latch onto that and think, 'what do they actually mean and what can I present back to them that they will see value in?' " Mr Sharpe said.

But Foster's Group sustainability and risk global procurement manager Tony Hawthorne also noted that businesses needed to exert more uniform pressure on computer equipment makers, among other suppliers, to ensure they were providing sustainable products and services.

"I'm not sure that organisations have really been active enough in driving sustainability criteria in terms of vendor selection," he said.

ANZ and Foster's have both implemented sustainable procurement schemes, and Mr Hawthorne and Mr Sharpe said their respective employers were working to build systems that would better enable them to track the performance of suppliers.

AIIA chief executive Ian Birks said IT companies needed to respond to these changes and also become more involved in developing platforms to enable emissions reporting and carbon trading.

"The ICT [information and communications technology] industry itself probably produces something in the order of 2 per cent of carbon emissions globally, but the other 98 per cent is an area where our industry has the ability to have a tremendous impact," Mr Birks said.

KEY POINTS

* Information technology footprint is surprisingly large.

* It is rising faster globally than in most other industries.

* Pressure on computer vendors may influence this trend.

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Tags carbon emissionGreen technology

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