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The role of IT in sustainability: Doing less (wasting) with more (IT)

by Dave Hannon

August 30, 2010

Most often when you think about sustainability, you think “less” not “more.” Use less energy. Have less of a carbon footprint. Reduce your resources. And that’s good—doing more with less is really what sustainability is about. But for the IT organization, sustainability could well mean “doing less with more.”

A couple recent items have put this thought into my head. First, there was a blog post on GreenBiz.com from Forrester Research’s Chris Mines where he points out — based on some data from Intel — that there will be more computing power and IT required to manage things like a “smart” energy grid and alternative energy sources. Specifically, he points to the future need for “Information systems for building managers and consumers to help them see, plan, and manage their electricity consumption.” So more IT equals less energy consumption.

Secondly, I was watching some of the sustainability presentations from this year’s SAPPHIRE NOW conference where at least one speaker, Jeff Rice of the Sustainability Consortium, referred to the “80/80 rule” to exemplify how broad a company’s sustainability plan needs to be. “The 80/80 rule says for 80% of the companies in this economy, 80% of their emissions come from their supply chains.” And effectively tracking and managing the carbon footprints of your suppliers is going to require deeper connectivity with suppliers and we all know "connectivity" means "more IT."

All of which, I would think, is good news for the IT organization. You’re in demand and will be in demand as long as sustainability remains a business priority.

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