Tap on green tools, firms urged

Using proper tools to manage carbon and energy will become imperative to businesses in an increasingly low-carbon economy, say industry watchers.
Written by Vivian Yeo, Contributor

As the green movement gains momentum, businesses need to tap on carbon and energy management tools or risk damaging both their bottom lines and the environment, say industry players.

Over the past several months, vendors such as SAS Institute and Autodesk have introduced tools to help businesses gain some insight into the environmental impact of their operations. Consulting firm Accenture also recently unveiled its Green Technology Suite to help clients assess their environmental footprint and develop green IT strategies.

Simon Mingay, research vice president at Gartner, told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail interview that "a lot more" carbon and energy management tools will be available in the market, to help companies' deal with resources that are growing scarce and expensive.

There is also the desire to observe corporate social responsibility (CSR), said U.K.-based Mingay, where a company's reputation as a business partner will become increasingly dependent on its ability to demonstrate--to its stakeholders including customers, regulators and employees--that it is a worthy steward of the environment and worldwide resources.

Even in developing nations where national legislation may not necessarily be a driver for action, enterprises need to consider how they will be affected by such global pressures, and if there is significant pressure, to start acting on a climate change and CSR program, he said.

"[Taking proactive action] will become an increasing point of differentiation in the global economy," Mingay pointed out. "The ability to provide data points around carbon, energy and waste will be important. Enterprise executive teams must ask themselves how [their businesses] will thrive in a low-carbon economy."

According to Bill Lee, SAS Institute's managing director of Singapore and emerging markets, there are opportunity costs from not tapping on available software tools that can help manage sustainability.

For example, organizations could end up spending more effort and time to manually collect environmental data, Lee said in an e-mail interview. They could also encounter inaccuracies in estimating greenhouse emissions, or lack insight into cause-and-effect relationships between sustainability indicators.

Rockwell Bonecutter, Accenture's North American green IT lead, also noted that such opportunity costs can also be "measured in both real dollars and environmental impact".

"Organizations that don't run efficiently from a technology and power perspective, risk both the bottom line and impact to the environment," Bonecutter told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail interview. "By implementing the right green IT initiatives, organizations can cut costs while also achieving measurable environmental improvements."

However, he said IT organizations face "a core challenge" in choosing the appropriate tools to help them get ahead in the green curve. "There are so many tools available in the marketplace, it's difficult to ascertain what projects, programs and initiatives will achieve the right balance for both the environment and the business."

Organizations, he added, need to pick and choose the right third-party toolsets and capabilities to fit their specific business landscape. To achieve this, they should consider tools that will provide vendor-agnostic recommendations, Bonecutter recommended.

These tools, however, do not come free.

According to Lee, customers new to the business intelligence vendor can purchase its software as a standalone tool, while existing clients can add it to the company's BI platform. Pricing, he added, is "tiered and dependent" on the number of employees and revenue of the organization.

The cost of tapping Accenture's Green Technology Suite, said Bonecutter, is dependent on the size and scope of the client's engagement. However, one of the three tools under the suite--the Green Maturity Model--is available free online as an assessment tool.

Gartner's Mingay added that there are some useful carbon-related tools and resources for small and large enterprises at the Carbon Trust, a U.K. entity dedicated to helping organizations lower carbon emissions and developing commercial low-power carbon technologies.

"Most enterprises--large and small--start off with spreadsheets and a lot of manual efforts," he said. "That's not sustainable for larger organizations or those trying to really drive improvement, but is good enough to get started with."

Raju Chellam, vice president for Asia-Pacific at Access Markets International (AMI) Partners, noted that unlike bigger enterprises that need to manage energy consumption in their data centers, SMBs do not have the same concerns.

However, Chellam said in an e-mail interview, smaller enterprises can still be environmentally conscious by opting for green solutions such as Energy Star rated appliances, low power consuming electronics, blade servers and virtualization technologies, among others".

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