Green Shoots for Green IT

August, 2009

The adoption of green IT initiatives is on a sharp upward curve. Our study, involving more than 200 IT organizations, shows that nearly one-quarter are in the process this year of implementing green IT initiatives for the first time, which represents a steep rise from the 18% of organizations that report having green IT initiatives in place.

This Research Byte is a summary of our full report, Green IT Taking Root Despite Uncertain Payback.

But first, we need to define what we mean by green IT. The term most frequently refers to initiatives to reduce the amount of energy consumed by data centers and computing devices, but can also entail recycling, proper disposal of toxic materials, and even telecommuting. IT organizations initiate green IT programs to reduce costs, improve corporate image, and avoid risk associated with environmental regulations. Green IT initiatives can also entail purchasing energy-efficient equipment, optimizing data centers, and hiring environmental coordinators to ensure compliance with regulations and policies.

In this study, simply purchasing energy efficient equipment or virtualizing servers does not constitute having a green IT initiative, however. Organizations need to have a formal program and polices in place to drive energy conservation and other environmental objectives. IT organizations should have someone responsible for monitoring these programs and, ideally, metrics for measuring compliance and outcomes.

Green IT is still in its infancy and adoption rates are low. Figure 1 shows that only 18% of organizations have green IT initiatives “in place.” This includes the 12% of organizations that are increasing their investments in green IT and the 6% that have no plans to improve upon their in-place policies and practices. Compared to other technology initiatives covered by our current research, this represents a low adoption level. Most organizations have yet to fully engage with green IT practices.

Green IT Fig1 - Green Shoots for Green IT

The full version of this report first looks at adoption trends, which provide insight into how many organizations have green IT initiatives, how many are in the process of implementing green IT, and how quickly green IT initiatives are likely to grow over the next year. To give IT managers additional insight into deciding whether to launch such initiatives, the report also looks at the economic experience of those that have adopted green IT. It examines return on investment (ROI) experience in terms of the percentage of organizations that report achieving positive and break-even ROI within a two-year period. It balances the potential ROI against the risks, measured in terms of the percentage of organizations that exceed budgets for total cost of ownership (TCO).

Selective implementation of green IT practices can offer financial benefits while improving the environment. While immediate payback is not always evident, the risk and ultimate cost of green IT is low. As such, the number of IT organizations adopting green IT initiatives is rising.

This Research Byte is a brief overview of our report on this subject, Green IT Taking Root Despite Uncertain Payback. The full report is available at no charge for Computer Economics clients, or it may be purchased by non-clients directly from our website (click for pricing).