The (free) report - ICT Sustainability: The Global Benchmark 2012 – measures the relative maturity of ICT sustainability practices and technologies in a number of global markets, as well as comparative performance by country and industry sector. It’s based on responses from 1,200 CIOs and senior managers from eight countries - Australia, Canada, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, the UK and the US - and across various industry sectors. Respondents were questioned on a range of sustainability initiatives, including procurement, disposal, power management, virtualisation, data centre efficiency, cloud computing, software design, business process optimisation, and carbon and energy management tools.
The overall global ICT Sustainability Index (ITSx) – a metric that indicates how ‘green’ a company’s ICT operation is – has declined slightly over the last year, falling from 54.3 to 53.1, after a high of 56.4 in 2010. The decline is put down to the fact that, as yet, organisations have only been experimenting with environmental initiatives and these experiments have not resulted in strategic, cultural changes.
More positively, the findings revealed there has been a marked rise in the number of ICT departments that have total responsibility for ICT power bills and consumption. This year, 23.1% of ICT departments now account for ICT energy use, compared with 14.2% in 2011. The research also found that organisations that account for ICT energy costs and consumption in the ICT budget (the 23.1%) have a 40% higher IT Sustainability Index (67.6) than those that had never considered it, where the average ITSx is 34.8.
Other findings of the research include:
- The US is the strongest performing country in 2012, with an ITSx of 57.3.
- The Utilities/Construction/Mining sector is the highest scoring industry with an ITSx of 56.5.
- The US Financial Services industry, with an ITSx of 66.8, is the highest of any sector in any country.
The findings for the UK were disappointing, showing the largest drop in ICT sustainability score of all the countries surveyed. The ITSx fell from 58.3 to 53.1, equal to the average for all countries. It means the UK is now third in the rankings of countries surveyed, down from second place last year. The government sector was the leader, but even that was down to an ITSx of 59.3, from 64.9 last year
This drop is viewed with some concern in the report, given the carbon reduction legislation and policies in the UK. The better news is that the a greater proportion of UK IT departments are budgeting for their ICT power bill and managing consumption, up from 15.75% to 17.7%. But this is still well below the global average of 23.1%.
Review: From a global perspective it’s good news that the proportion of ICT departments responsible for their own power consumption has jumped significantly. But while the jump is high, the total – 23% - is still very low. It means that more than three quarters of ICT departments have no responsibility for the energy their equipment uses. Clearly, under those circumstances sustainability is never going to be a significant factor in ICT operations. This is by far the biggest challenge to green ICT.
The second challenge may be the cause of declining performance of the UK respondents. While there is significant climate change legislation in the UK, over the last year it has become clear that it is not a government priority. The future of the CRC energy efficiency scheme, which had the potential to have most impact, is uncertain and the government has watered down or undermined a number of other initiatives that would have increased awareness, support and action around sustainability initiatives. This lack of commitment is clear from the declining sustainability performance of the government ICT sector, previously seen as the flagship for action in greening government departments. Legislation may not be enough without on-going government action and support.