To go green, focus on breaking habits

Enterprises need to work at changing employee mindsets and routine processes to succeed in their green IT strategy, say industry players.

SINGAPORE--The biggest stumbling block to enterprise green IT efforts may very well be the ones needed most in the equation--corporate employees.

According to Richard Hodges, CEO and principal of GreenIT, every organization's sustainability charge "is going to run into all kinds of barriers, whether it's people, capital, [or] processes".

Speaking on the second day of the Global Green IT 2008 conference, Hodges pointed out that habits "were the hardest to change".

For instance, noted Hodges, the concept of a paperless office had been around for two decades but the paperless office has not actually been realized. Paper today constitutes about 60 percent of solid waste in offices, he said, adding that e-mail usage has not stemmed paper consumption.

In GreenIT's list of factors that contribute to a successful green IT strategy, three of the four elements were related to employees and human behavior. They include having visible executive support, implementing the right incentives to adopt green initiatives and having in place a change management plan. The last ingredient in the implementation of an enterprise green strategy, said Hodges, is performing the baseline measurements and putting in place metrics.

Thyag Venkatesan, advisory manager at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Singapore, also pointed out that measures were needed to specifically target a change in rote behavior.

Recounting an example where staff in an organization did not practise locking up confidential documents before leaving the office despite being repeatedly told to do so, Venkatesan said a different approach eventually changed the situation. The employees were given stickers to support an initiative to lock away confidential documents and out of peer pressure and the need to set an example, began to do just that.

Organizations more proactive in green practices, are also beginning to link performance packages with green initiatives, said Venkatesan.

Tapping 'abundant' opportunities
A report from PwC earlier this year found that about 40 percent of respondents would have a "green-branded" set of products or services within the next two years, said Venkatesan.

The study which looks at businesses' attitudes toward climate change and being green, surveyed 150 respondents from technology businesses worldwide. Twenty-eight percent of those interviewed were based in Asia.

The PwC report, said Venkatesan, also noted that there was a growing demand for green technology and abundant opportunities in this area.

For software and service providers, market opportunity presents the biggest motivation for going green. Hardware manufacturers surveyed pointed to market opportunity as the biggest motivating force, after customer expectations and regulatory pressure.

According to Gareth Johnston, director of corporate risk at Climate Risk, more than 30 percent of growth in energy demand comes from the Asia-Pacific region. That presents "massive opportunities" in, for example, clean energy development, he said.

Australia-based Johnston added that energy management software represented another area of growth.

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