ICT sustainability maturing in APAC

Momentum hasn't lost steam as firms prioritize green IT with more strategic focus on cost savings and less on short-term publicity.
Written by Jamie Yap, Contributor

Organizations in the Asia-Pacific region haven't in the slightest lost interest or focus on ICT sustainability, approaching it with more holistic, coherent and broad strategies to lower costs. Instead, where green fatigue has set in is being eco-friendly for publicity's sake, said one analyst.

Pranabesh Nath, Frost & Sullivan's industry manager for Asia-Pacific ICT practice, said ICT sustainability is still strong among organizations in the region, though more so in larger ones than small and midsize businesses (SMBs).

There are two main reasons why companies need to be sustainable: to save costs and for branding and marketing purposes, he told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail interview. Larger organizations, he added, would have more reason--and resources--to stick to their green priorities than smaller ones.

Nath was responding to results from a global study released last month by Fujitsu, which found that overall sustainability interest and initiatives in firms worldwide had slumped, mainly due to the lack of visibility of power bills--of which ICT is a major contributor.

The Japanese IT vendor's second "ICT Sustainability: The Global Benchmark Report" surveyed 1,000 CIOs and ICT managers from large IT-using companies in seven countries--Australia, New Zealand, China, India, Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom--to assess the maturity of sustainability practices and technologies among businesses worldwide.

Like Nath, Wong Heng Chew, president of Fujitsu Asia, argued that Asia-Pacific firms have not at all lost interest in ICT sustainability. "Based on our conversations with our customers, it's clear we're seeing a more holistic, coordinated and coherent approach toward sustainability," he told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail, adding that the report did not cover Singapore or other Southeast Asian countries.

One example of CIOs in this region taking on a holistic and more broad-minded sustainability strategy is the adoption of cloud computing, Singapore-based Wong pointed out. Cloud adoption may still be primarily driven by cost savings and business agility, but CIOs are also "well aware of the environmental benefits cloud brings", he added.

Benedict Soh, IT business vice president of Schneider Electric Singapore, concurred. According to him, sustainability "definitely still has a lot of buzz" in the region.

Referring to figures from the company's independent survey released earlier in August, he said 76 percent of Asian governments recognized the importance of having an ICT sustainability strategy and 72 percent indicated they included sustainability criteria in evaluating and selecting ICT purchases. The study polled 118 government CIOs and IT managers in the region.

The Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) in Singapore, for example, has the Green Data Centre Standard that helps organizations establish proper systems and processes to improve energy efficiencies of data centers, Soh pointed out in his e-mail.

And with governments emphasizing green, ICT sustainability also becomes an interest and key priority for businesses in Asia, he said. "It is here to stay in the long run."

Sustainability as publicity passé
According to Nath, where the sustainability momentum has been losing steam is the use of green IT solely as a publicity or public relations tool. "Most end-users or consumers don't really believe the message [companies are sending] or don't really believe that what companies are doing has any significant impact."

It is actually even more important now for businesses to be eco-friendly to cut energy wastage and hence costs, given today's headlines revolving around environmental disasters and economic anxieties, he added.

Rather than publicity, industry players highlighted that with the rising price of electricity, the cost savings brought about ICT sustainability is the single biggest incentive to help push businesses to be more fervent about green IT initiatives.

Schneider Electric's Soh said educating companies about the substantial monetary savings achievable through ICT sustainability is critical to drive a "new upsurge" in adoption and practice.

Companies need to recognize that the cost of electricity is on the rise globally, and this will have considerable financial implications where power consumption is concerned, for instance, the total bill of running data centers, he explained.

Fujitsu's Wong added that economic anxieties might divert business attention from directly pursuing ICT sustainability to focus on cost-cutting, so sustainability needs to be viewed as "business opportunity rather than a burden".

It is important for CIOs to make a strong case to their organization that ICT sustainability is "part of the solution and not the problem", he concluded.

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