Green IT moves up the corporate agenda

European businesses are placing an increasing emphasis on environmental issues when planning their IT operations

Environmental concerns are rising up the corporate IT agenda with one-third of European organisations now taking "green" factors into account when evaluating and selecting IT suppliers.

Almost half (48 percent) of the European respondents in the report Tapping buyers' growing interest in green IT, by researcher Forrester, also said environmental concerns are "very important" in planning their company's IT operations.

Green action is less obvious in the US, where just 22 percent of organisations look at green factors when choosing suppliers and only 33 percent said environmental concerns are "very important" to the IT department.

At the Forrester IT Forum in Edinburgh this week, Forrester senior analyst Euan Davis admitted there is more talk than action around green IT at the moment, but warned it will become an increasingly important issue that organisations need to plan for.

He said: "It's an issue that is here to stay. I think there will be a carbon tax. If that happens firms will be looking at ways to cut emissions and make their business as carbon neutral as possible."

His advice is for companies to start with "quick wins" such as switching off PCs at night and not printing off emails, before moving to a longer-term plan.

One result is that tech vendors will come under scrutiny over their own green strategy, and Davis said some banks already have a green "wish list" for preferred suppliers, which means not only having to tick the right boxes but being able to provide proof.

Davis said: "Switch your spending to support green behaviour. RFPs [request for proposals] will have a 'green' tinge and more and more firms are going to ask questions of their main suppliers."

But Davis said companies will have to "tread carefully" through the minefield of confusing and often inconsistent energy ratings and certifications used by suppliers.

Another area IT departments will have to tackle is the data centre. Davis said: "Data centres consume so much energy, you need to look at ways to reduce that, such as consolidation, virtualisation and top-notch heating and cooling systems."

Possible legislation and a carbon tax are the main push factors for IT departments taking green action. The pull factors are clients and customers who will increasingly demand action, but Forrester admits that cost savings are still the main driver for many.

Davis said: "Any argument to go green has to have a powerful cost argument."

The Forrester study questioned 124 IT operations and procurement professionals in Europe and North America.