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Digital public sector news, research & engagement

Think global, act local to impact sustainability

Jim Craig, Public Policy and Corporate Social Responsibility Manager, Sun Microsystems Ltd

I'd like to thank all the participants who took the time to respond. Overall we were encouraged by the responses to the ‘Green Revolution’ survey. The importance of local initiatives combining to create a wider benefit cannot be underestimated.
It is positive to see that over 90% of councils who responded feel that green issues are central or of some importance to the wider organisational strategy. The importance of thinking globally and acting locally is something that a combination of local authorities and global organisations can achieve.
Green issues are seen as aiding the transformation agenda and in order for us to mitigate the impact of climate change we can increase our focus on transformation.
The Eco-nomic and Eco-logical aspects are well balanced in the survey demonstrating both commercial and environmental awareness. More benefits can be achieved with cross functional teams.
IT provides a service used by all the authorities and is both part of the carbon emission problem and reassuringly is also seen as part of the carbon reduction solution.
The Global eSustainability Initiative (GeSI) in its Smart2020 report recommends technology for mobile and flexible working and video-conferencing; this view was also echoed by the authorities questioned. At Sun we encourage flexible working. This saves time, money and GHG emissions avoided or reduced by eliminating employee commutes. In 2008 a US study revealed that employees saved on average 107 hours in travel time, 151 gallons of fuel and avoided 52000 metric tons of carbon dioxide!
Technology can provide dramatic reductions in electrical consumption and associated carbon emissions. Sun's thin client desktop model uses approximately 5% of the electricity consumed by a traditional PC, providing significant environmental and cost benefits.
Expansion of green/sustainable procurement policies will encourage technology vendors to take this aspect of their business even more seriously. Standards for measurement and comparison within the industry will help authorities to compare ‘apples with apples’.
Measuring whole life costs would help to identify products that were more ‘sustainable’, especially combined with green accountability of suppliers. A greater weighting towards sustainable technology is favoured. Measuring and accounting of emissions will become standard practice. You can't manage what you can't (or don't) measure. With figures of €30 per tonne of carbon being muted currently, involving the finance team in this process will be a key enabler to success.
An on-going partnership is important between vendors and authorities to create ‘exemplars’ of successful implementations while simultaneously understanding and removing barriers to adoption; this will help in the overall implementation and promotion of sustainable ICT.
The key to 'Green IT' is that it should not (and does not) cost more. Many efforts are underway to reduce the environmental impacts of ICT within authorities, including server virtualisation and PC replacements with thin clients. These help reduce power, space, heat and cooling costs. More positive use of ICT to help the broader organisation reduce emissions is also considered, such as video conferencing and remote working.
Overall the signs are encouraging. Understanding the benefits of sustainable technologies, sharing lessons learned and looking at the eco-nomic as well as eco-logical benefits provides a balanced view to organisations for long term sustainability.
UKA Live: view recorded interviews
Download green report
Download executive summary