For the past ten years, when CEOs and CIOs have needed to bring sustainability initiatives into their enterprise, they've turned to IT.
This tendency is indicative of a broader trend in the relationship between sustainability and tech. For example, companies like Google and Microsoft are constructing new data centers that run on higher percentages of renewable energy to reduce their carbon footprints, and long term trends like virtualization and cloud computing have eliminated countless rows of servers and storage cabinets to also contribute to data center footprint and energy consumption reductions.
There are myriad reasons why organizations want to go green. Last year, a major logistics company president shared with me that the company was very focused on the types of sustainability ratings it was receiving from industry regulators, and also from would-be customers that were interested in how it was progressing in its sustainability initiatives.
"We have improved driver practices and also our utilization of inter-modal transportation, like using rail instead of trucks," he noted, "But we still rely heavily on IT to help us achieve the green initiatives that we set for ourselves each year, because what goes on in IT in terms of data center savings has a major impact on how we are doing overall in our corporate sustainability scorecard."
The question for CIOs, however, is how long can IT deliver green results in the most obvious sources of data center savings, before strategies like moving to renewable energy or shrinking data center footprints, are no longer enough?
An area that CIOs and other business executives should strongly consider is an active asset management discipline.
IT Asset Management software can manage assets throughout their life cycles, including the details of contracts and warranties. There is also the ability to extend the purview of asset management into tracking how often assets are used, how much they are used, and where they are located.
A fully developed asset management practice has the added benefit of addressing security concerns as well the active tracking of assets. For green computing, asset management software can identify underused, or even unused assets that are sitting in remote corners and closets of the enterprise that should really be disposed of.
That's not all that an asset management practice can do, either.
There is also asset management software that can be run to evaluate the use and optimization of corporate facilities, like buildings and office space.
The U.S. Department of Energy attributes one-fifth of the total energy consumption in the United States to commercial office buildings. If IT can perfect a practice of monitoring the effective practice of asset management in the data center, and then spin this practice out to other corners of the enterprise to where companies can begin to assess whether all of their office facilities and manufacturing space is being effectively used, how many more green opportunities might surface?
At first glance, this appears to be a task for a facilities executive, but because of the emergence of asset management in IT and the data center first, many organizations are looking for CIOs to start the roundtable discussions that extend active asset management into facilities.
IBM cites research that worldwide, buildings consume 42 percent of all electricity—more than any other asset. And, by 2025, buildings will be the largest emitters of greenhouse gases on our planet.
It's time to get going on asset management for data centers and for corporate facilities as a new phase of green.
Mary E. Shacklett is president of Transworld Data, a technology research and market development firm. Prior to founding the company, Mary was Senior Vice President of Marketing and Technology at TCCU, Inc., a financial services firm; Vice President of Product Research and Software Development for Summit Information Systems, a computer software company; and Vice President of Strategic Planning and Technology at FSI International, a multinational manufacturing company in the semiconductor industry. Mary is a keynote speaker and has more than 1,000 articles, research studies, and technology publications in print.