Green-eyed CIOs lift business acumen

Sustainability doesn't cost money, it makes money

CIOs and other IT leaders struggling with recognition from the board should consider spearheading an energy reduction strategy which can save money and win hearts at the same time.

Speaking at this year's Green CIO conference in Sydney, a panel of CIOs and industry thought leaders argued the case for having an environmentally sustainable IT strategy.

CIO at ACT-based energy company ActewAGL Carsten Larsen said the green concept is coming to the forefront of people's minds and IT staff want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

"Power prices will double so CEOs will become more aware of [green] economics and CIOs will be asked to drive down costs in data centres," Larsen said.

ActewAGL's green strategy includes virtualization, moving power generation closer to data centres to reduce transmission loss, and adopting CO2 cooling which could reduce electricity consumption by 75 percent.

Other changes involve using technology to reduce the amount of travel field workers must do, reducing the size of company vehicles, and deployment of some 400,000 "smart meters" that relay information back to the data centre.

"Telecommuting is more than just using less petrol but is also about taking more cars off the road and consuming less resources," Larsen said. "There has to be a reason for doing things and one reason the US and UK is ahead of us is because electricity is much cheaper. We don't pay for the damage coal does and we have big landfill sites so we don't have to worry about that. Today it's part of our culture to reduce waste. If we don't fix this climate issue and reduce global warming there will be a lot of costs, like food, that go up in the economy."

Larsen said a sustainability strategy should not be viewed as a cost to the business but an opportunity as there is a hard ROI from reducing power consumption and CIOs, as the custodians of IT, have a unique opportunity improve their relationship with the other business heads by reducing costs.

Investa Property Group CIO David Miller started with "easy wins" to reduce waste in the business, including replacement of CRT terminals with thin clients, reduction in paper use and videoconferencing.

"Then you go into data centre design, blades, virtualization, and measuring the whole lifecycle costs," Miller said. "Until you have the metrics to get information you can't make proper decisions and therefore can't translate that to CEO."

Miller said the trend is "obvious" where electricity prices are heading and ICT should be promoted for the business benefits and sustainability it brings to the organization.

"We've been on the sustainability bandwagon for seven years from a business perspective and there is a lot of hype around this area, but the reality is we can't sustain how we are going, so there is a real opportunity for the CIO to drive change within the organization," he said.

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