Middle East turns from black to Green

Companies in the Middle East need to embrace greener IT says Lionel Reina

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Middle East turns from black to Green Companies in the Middle East need to embrace greener IT says Lionel Reina. (ITP images)
By  Lionel Reina Published  December 19, 2010

Many of the Gulf States have recognized a need to move away from an oil based economy as reserves dwindle and the world looks for energy sources with lower carbon emissions. Tourism, trade, shipping and financial services have been key industries so far: in the future, green technology could also become a key export.

The Masdar project in Abu Dhabi is an example of a coordinated, thoughtful approach to developing green technology expertise. It will put Abu Dhabi on a course to become a global leader in sustainable technologies such as photovoltaics.

What is green IT?

Analyst firm The Gartner Group defines Green IT as ‘optimal use of information & communication technology for managing the environmental sustainability of enterprise operations and the supply chain, as well as that of its products, services and resources, throughout their life cycles.'

IT's carbon footprint - in other words the greenhouse gas emissions generated by the production and use of IT equipment - is considerable: Gartner estimates that in 2007 around 2% of global CO2 emissions (around 830 million tones CO2) came from IT activities. IT's current carbon footprint is similar to that of the airline industry (2%), but considerably less than road transport (18%). The use of PCs and monitors is the largest single contributor to CO2 emissions within IT's carbon footprint, followed by telecom networks (25%) and data centres (23%).

How can we make IT green?

With their increasing technical capacities, computers in use today consume more and more energy. As a result, energy costs can represent up to 40% of a company's total IT budget (power supply to equipment, air conditioning for rooms with computers, etc.). Not only does this carry a significant economic burden, but as energy supply problems increases, power for computing can hit a ceiling in some locations.

The goal of every CIO should be to reduce the carbon footprint of IT's contribution to CO2 emissions, while also leveraging new technology to reduce emissions in other sectors, such as road transport and the airline industry, by facilitating travel avoidance. According to The Climate Group and GESI, savings in CO2 emissions made possible by ICT could be more than 10% of global carbon emissions, representing an economic value of €644 billion in energy, fuel and carbon savings by 2020.

Can green IT survive the economic downturn?

Green IT flourished during the recent economic crisis. The lean times are making the move to sustainable IT more imperative than ever, which is why many enterprises are keeping faith with their commitment to greener computing. Forrester believes that worldwide implementation of green initiatives in enterprises and their suppliers will accelerate, notwithstanding the gloomy economic environment.

According to a recent Forrester Green IT Online Survey, the primary motivation for multinational organizations to pursue green IT is financial, not environmental. Two thirds of the 1,022 IT professionals surveyed indicated the driver for pursuing greener IT operations was to "reduce energy-related operating expenses."

This chimes with the results of a survey of large international businesses by management consultant Deloitte. Two-thirds of respondents estimated that at least 5% of their IT budgets are allocated to green IT projects. One in three claimed to have allocated 15% or more to green IT, and one in eight were spending more than 25% on green projects. Cutting cost is still a significant motivating factor behind green investments, along with reducing regulatory risk and improving public perception, Deloitte said.

Joining the green chain 

Forrester's survey of 1022 companies about their IT practices revealed that in 2008, 59% of companies included environmental criteria in their evaluation of potential IT supplier, up from 50% in 2007. Clearly being green involves buying green.

Orange has already taken great steps to reduce its own energy consumption with the ambitious target of reducing its emissions from travel by 20%, by 2020, by utilizing collaboration and mobility solutions such as Telepresence, Business Everywhere and M2M; reducing data centre energy consumption by 50% by 2020 through consolidation, virtualization and innovative cooling; and reducing energy consumption by 20% in buildings by using centralized building management systems.

In addition to greening its own processes, Orange has helped many of it customers to reduce their own energy bills, for example AXA (M2M telemedicine), Dynamique Hotels Management (IT virtualization), Gefco (optimized fleet management), Metsaliitto (collaborative work) and Legrand (managed video-conferencing).

We have more than 900 suppliers that have been audited and selected based on their compliance with EU regulations, such as the use of hazardous substances and how waste electrical equipment is disposed off. So, ‘green' is rapidly following the corporate supply chain.

Lionel Reina is VP EEMEA of Orange Business Services.

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