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However, some initially positive moves might have negative consequences. Permitting home working may be encouraging employees to live further from the office, increasing commute time and costs and carbon emissions when they do travel. Some decisions could initially appear green, but damaging from a longer-term business view: for example, a company goes bust, so employees, local suppliers and customers have to move or travel further. This means taking all aspects into consideration.

Identifying and measuring business propositions based on a broader perspective is not new, and at Quocirca we're often advising companies to look beyond the simpler economics of Return On Investment (ROI) or total cost of ownership (TCO) which are often narrowly focused on cost savings. To Quocirca this means understanding the broader, Total Value Proposition (TVP) which takes into account the situation both inside and outside the company to identify and quantify two further areas - increasing value, and managing risk.

A similar approach can be taken to build a wider picture that combines environmental, personal, and corporate responsibility with commercial pragmatism in a sustainable way, identifying the impact on external resources and internal corporate resources - an Environmental Sustainable Proposition - for IT investment.

This type of sustainable proposition is not simply an eco-friendly hair shirt of making reductions like asking the IT department to run the server room on half power. It is about how to exploit technology in a commercially productive way for the benefit of the entire business, and in a sustainable way for the benefit of the environment. There are three areas of focus - reduce, replace, and re-use.

  • Reduce energy consumption and resources used by taking a holistic view across the organisation. As well as focusing on the savings that can be made in power efficient technologies, look to virtualise resources that can be shared across an organisation rather than working more narrowly on a department by department basis where the positive moves in one area may negatively affect another. The goal is to reduce total space, energy consumption and waste of both raw material and energy, and as a result reduce complexity, risk and ultimately, costs.
  • Replace inefficient business and IT processes with efficient ones. Instead of moving people and physical goods, wherever possible move information. Invest in communications infrastructure, rather than transport and travel. Digitised assets and communication not only reduces costs, but increases flexibility and lowers the carbon footprint. Centralising and virtualising IT resources increases utilisation, reduces costs and allows smaller incremental future investments.
  • Re-use and realise the full potential of existing investments in both IT and the communications infrastructure. Extending the lifetime beyond initial deployment plans delays replacement costs and reduces waste. Services and products that can be partitioned and modularised can be more easily disassembled for re-use.

There are many further areas to investigate, but the key to a truly sustainable environmental proposition is how it combines the commercial needs of the business with the broader environmental imperatives. In the coming months, we will be taking a closer look at how the sustainable issues fit with the commercial realities of IT investments, and the environmental aspirations of companies and individuals, and see what vendors are proposing. In short, looking at how to be green without going into the red or feeling blue!

Copyright © 2007, Quocirca

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