Carbon emissions from ICT are set to zoom past that of the aviation industry, claims a report launched by UK environmental charity Global Action Plan at the House of Commons this week.
Despite a high awareness of green issues, IT vendors, their customers and the government all came under fire for failing to combat the environmental damage caused by IT in the report An Inefficient Truth.
The survey shows ICT departments have been incredibly slow off the mark in making a connection between carbon footprint and the way they operate, said Trewin Restorick, director of Global Action Plan.
ICT ate up 10% of the UK’s electricity supply, yet the survey found that 80% of IT departments did not have a power budget and 56% of IT chiefs did not see the electricity bill.
If you’re not paying for the energy, why would you care what you are paying for it? If we had that situation in the house, we’d all use lots more energy, said Restorick.
Some 86% of the ICT professionals surveyed did not know their carbon footprint and only a quarter were involved in their companies’ sustainability strategy.
Vendors are muddying the waters rather than helping customers. Some 60% of the ICT respondents thought information from vendors was poor and confusing and they were concerned that vendors were cashing on the environmental bandwagon to sell products.
There’s a real danger that this is seen as a new marketing tool for vendors, a kind of green froth or greenwash. I’ve seen a lot of green froth and hype which is pretty hard to substantiate, said Restorick.
The British government also came under criticism for failing to offer tax incentives to encourage green behavior and for not leading by example. I don’t think Gordon Brown gets the issue. If you look at what’s happened to Defra [Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs], it’s been massively cut but it’s supposed to be the agency that covers environmental issues, said Restorick.
Government compliance legislation has also taken its toll, forcing companies to keep data for longer, and in 37% of the survey participants’ cases indefinitely. This is pushing up storage requirements even further.
Restorick pointed out that there was a 48% increase in storage capacity sold in 2006 compared to the previous year. In comparison, numbers of UK air travel passengers grew just 3% in the same time. Some 61% of the departments said they have only have capacity left in their data centers for two years.
Internally, the government also needed to be seen to be addressing environmental IT issues. The message for government is to actually lead by example and join up its thinking, said Peter Ainsworth, shadow environment minister.
Global Action Plan, backed by Logicalis, surveyed CIOs and senior decision makers at 120 companies, representing 500,000 employees and a combined ICT spend of GBP475m ($978m).