Green IT: Productivity improvements go green for Australian Paper

Business process automation have unforeseen environmental benefits

The automation of key business processes by Australian Paper unknowingly became a key part of the company's sustainability initiative, according to CIO, Shaun Scallan.

Speaking at the Green IT virtual conference this week, Scallan said automation of inbound accounts payable and purchase order approval processes weren't "initiated for Green IT reasons initially".

"Having said this, these projects still have positive impacts on the sustainability of our business operations," Scallan said, adding that they also assist the company "in justifying future projects which seek to minimise the impacts of our operations."

Scallan told Computerworld Australia that these processes' sustainability benefits were largely derived from a reduction in the amount of paper being printed; a knowingly ironic improvement for the CIO.

The paper company's IT sustainability initiatives began in 2008, with the virtualisation of its two outsourced data centres and the balancing of its workstation fleet in order to reduce unnecessary energy wastage. In an effort to "put our money where our mouth is", Scallan said Australian Paper set a target last year to reduce its energy consumption of 1979 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year by 20 per cent, or 396 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.

The sustainability improvements were rolled out across the company's four manufacturing sites, three head office locations, two outsourced data centres and 22 logistics, sales and warehouse offices.

Despite former parent company PaperLinX selling off Australian Paper and the IT department itself in June of last year, Scallan said it was still focussed on implementing further green initiatives across both its office and its supply chain.

Key focus was being paid to the amount of energy consumed by end-user devices during their "run" or actual use phase. According to Scallan's figures, Australian Paper's end-user devices each consume an average of 0.98 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year.

Other sustainability improvements include a managed print service (MPS) contract signed with HP in 2007, which saw the size of the printer fleet reduce by almost half across the company's roughly 2,000 employees.

Australian Paper is yet to publicly report its sustainability initiatives, but Scallan pushed the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) as a necessity in ensuring companies are "held accountable for our performance, both individually and collectively along the supply chain".

"For those who think the GRI is a cynical form of Greenwashing, I would say that transparency leads to improvement," he said. "It will get better in time, and we must give it a chance and support those vendors that support those open and transparent forums for reporting their sustainability performance."

The company is currently completing and auditing a GRI report on sustainability through Ernst & Young, with an expectation to publish it later this year. Scallan said he was hoping for a B grade. Other Australian companies like ANZ have self-reported A+ sustainability grades under GRI, while local biopharmaceutical company CSL reports a B grade.

"I'd like to be at A, but I don't think we'll be there for a while," Scallan said.

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