From Green-IT to sustainable ICT

ICT plays an important role in the current days, it does not only change the way we work but also the way we live, organisations and individuals request more and more IT driven services, each day new e-applications appear and cloud computing (private or public) is present everywhere. To sustain this never ending demand, new ICT infrastructure comprising servers, storage systems, physical and wireless networks are developed.
This fast evolving change has a dual impact on the sustainability of our world. On one hand, ICT considerably helps to reduce the global environmental footprint of our society; for instance home working and teleconferencing solutions, e-commerce and e-government services clearly help in the diminishing of polluting travels. But, to operate these services, organisations more and more rely on new and powerful ICT infrastructures … that have negative environmental impacts. Huge quantities of energy are needed to feed the cloud and the datacenters; the networks and all the individual devices. Moreover, the conception of ICT equipment emits considerable CO2 equivalent emission, need precious and rare commodities and the end-of-life of these electronics equipment is far from green.
This has brought the issues of a greener and sustainable ICT to the attention of various entities including governments, NGOs, international standardization bodies, companies and individuals. The solution to this concern is commonly named Green-IT. Green-IT refers to environmentally sustainable computing. It is the study and practice of using computing resources with minimal or no impact on the environment. Green-IT strives for economic practicality and improved system performance while satisfying social and ethical responsibilities; it includes the dimensions of energy efficiency, sustainability, economics, and total cost of ownership (which includes the cost of disposals and recycling).
Green-IT is made of two interconnected domains, the greening OF IT and the greening BY IT. The greening OF IT refers to all actions taken by an organisation to make its IT more environmentally friendly by developing ecofriendly products, increasing the datacenter and IT infrastructure efficiency, reducing the paper consumption, introducing green criteria in the IT procurement and preparing for green project lifecycle and green software development. The greening BY IT refers to all IT projects and products allowing an organisation to reduce its global environmental footprint; like home working and smart work center policy, web based videoconferencing, electronic document management, e-services and applications.
It is sure that ICT has become unavoidable; making the role of Green-IT profiles pivotal to the success of green and sustainable initiatives by ensuring that the technology being used is « green » and power efficient, and by providing the IT tools and services needed to support organizations’ overall green investments. These Green-IT profiles must also help organisations in implementing a state of the art Green-IT governance in line with their corporate sustainable business development strategy.
Finally, new greening BY IT or ICT for sustainability profiles are emerging; they actively help to reach the ambitious 2020 European Commission energy target by participating in and promoting the most promising green-IT challenges like smart grids and smart cities projects and innovation 2.0 projects mixing ICT and sustainability.
So, let’s talk now about sustainable ICT profiles who will help organisations in a vital transformation from sustainable ICT to ICT for sustainability, open innovation and sustainable business models.


About the author:
Thierry Holoffe is Sustainable ICT Consultant of Green-ICT. Since 2009, he realizes Green-IT missions, gives public and onsite training and participates to events as speaker, focusing on Green-IT and sustainable business activities. He is a Green-IT Ambassador and endorser of the EU Code of Conduct for Datacenter.