The 'Green' movement continues to polarize individuals, businesses and policy makers across the globe. The lack of clear direction across this spectrum correlates with the view that significant portions of Green projects do not deliver tangible returns. And when the economy takes a turn for the worse, those 'discretionary projects' get cancelled or put on hold due to increasing budget constraints – which is exactly what has happened over the past 12 months.
However despite these economic pressures, climate change as a global issue is not going away – with the Copenhagen meetings looming in December and new emission reduction targets likely to become more of a reality – increased pressure will be placed on organizations to reduce impact of their operations on the environment. Running in parallel to this, more progressive organizations in the Asia/Pacific region are beginning to realize that objectives around environmental and economic sustainability can coexist, and in fact compliment each other in many instances. The role that ICT can play in terms of fulfilling these objectives is becoming a lot clearer – as part of a better understanding of how the market is transitioning from the Green IT (mainly focusing on reducing the electricity consumption associated with the powering and cooling the existing IT infrastructure) to IT for Green (a more intelligent use of technology to reduce carbon emissions within the business process itself).
The diagram below highlights how the adoption of Green technologies and associated services has evolved over time – thereby tracking the progress of this market transition. The starting point focused on the platform, and specifically energy efficiency within the data center – mainly in terms of virtualization and consolidation projects as part of an infrastructure optimization strategy. Building on this, organizations realized how better data, voice and video connectivity could enhance collaboration – as part of the unified communications trend to help employee productivity, creating a smarter work environment, while at the same time reducing carbon emissions associated with work travel (mainly by air and road).
The next phase focused on the distributed environment in what IDC called the creation of the Green Office – better management of devices in the distributed environment. This contributed lower electricity consumption associated with PCs and printers – but also included a higher level of focus on responsible IT asset management (from procurement to end-of-life). This phase also placed greater emphasis on changing the corporate culture as it related to the usage of devices in the office environment. For example introducing paper management policies, changing from print to online where possible and launching device switch-off campaigns. IDC expects the final and most important step of this market evolution to focus on what we call a 'Sustainable Society', which integrates all the underlying components, but takes the advantage of 'smart' technologies – particularly focused on buildings, transport systems and electricity grids to reduce the carbon footprint of the associated processes. We are seeing this being played out most prominently in the context of the wave of investments at the local government level as part of a drive to build 'Intelligent Cities' – a subsection of Intelligent Green and ultimately, the intersection between economic and environmental sustainability.