ICT often overlooked in carbon reduction initiatives

Ethical Markets Resource Efficiency

For immediate release: Monday, April 21st 2008

A new Economist Intelligence Unit study explores how information and communications technology (ICT) can be used to reduce organisations’ carbon-dioxide emissions

Information and communications technology (ICT) can do much to help companies achieve their carbon reduction targets, particularly by enabling them to connect international operations while reducing the need for executives to travel. Yet a survey* by the Economist Intelligence Unit, sponsored by AT&T and Cisco, found that most corporate carbon reduction strategies ignore the role of ICT in achieving these targets.

Of the 345 C-level executives polled for this survey, 18% say their companies have a carbon reduction strategy, and a further 39% are in the process of developing one. Of those that have a carbon reduction strategy, or are in the process of developing one, nearly half say that no mention is made of ICT. This is surprising given that the majority of those polled believe that senior management is aware of the potential of ICT to help achieve carbon-reduction goals.

It is clear from this survey that IT chiefs are well positioned inside their companies to promote the green benefits of ICT. While most survey panellists agree that the CIO should not lead carbon reduction initiatives, they should at least play an important consultative role in advising on the best use of technology to cut emissions. However, at present, only half the organisations polled by the Economist Intelligence Unit said the CIO is consulted when it comes to developing the company’s carbon reduction strategy.

According to Robin Bew, Editorial Director at the Economist Intelligence Unit, “There is a lot of talk about reducing carbon footprints in today’s organisations, but not much action. Putting technology to work in this endeavour offers a simple, effective way to move from rhetoric to action,” he says.

“It is interesting to discover that many organisations do not fully take advantage of the CIO’s strategic role in tackling carbon emissions,” says Phil Smith, European vice president of marketing at Cisco. “Through this report, we can learn more about the attitudes in these organisations and how businesses can reduce carbon emissions by adopting ICT solutions.”

“While the topic of ‘Green ICT’ has been high on the agenda in the ICT industry for some time, this report shows that the CIO has an important role to play in the development of a company’s carbon reduction initiatives,” says Lloyd Salvage, Vice President, Global Segment Marketing at AT&T. “The report also shows that ICT can make a real difference.”

Other key findings of the report include the following:

• Pressure to change. Most companies say that the pressure to be more green is coming from government and customers. Contrary to what many people believe, very little pressure is coming from shareholders and employees.

• Web and video conferencing are the most popular technology tools for reducing the organisation’s carbon footprint. Part of the attraction of audio, video and web-conferencing is that it is easy to measure the resulting reduction in air or car miles following its adoption. In terms of an internal environmental audit, this makes conferencing an attractive technology compared with other initiatives which may not deliver such direct benefits.

• Home-working is not widely adopted, despite the tools being available to make it possible. However, Braden Allenby, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Arizona State University, has found that a lot of home working goes on under the radar. Indeed, home working is often ad-hoc and given as a perk to select individuals, but most survey respondents believe that many more people will work from home in two years’ time.

Managing the company’s carbon footprint: The emerging role of ICT
is available, free of charge at: www.eiu.com/sponsor/ATT-Cisco/carbonfootprint