Simple steps to sustainability

Standards such as the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme, as well as legislation including the recently announced draft energy bill, are putting further pressure on organisations to make their operations as eco-friendly as possible. Indeed, Gartner has predicted that sustainability is set to rise rapidly up the corporate agenda, becoming a top five priority for 60 percent of major Western European and North American CEOs by 2015. Despite this, a report from the European Commission has indicated that only around 60 percent of small businesses are trying to be more energy efficient, with less than 25 percent ‘actively engaged’ in lowering their environmental impact.

A major problem is that many organisations fail to recognise energy efficient strategies that are simple to implement and yield substantial results. Instead, they tend to focus heavily on large, centralised initiatives, such as data centre and server efficiency. While this is undoubtedly a good step, it can also make it easy for organisations to overlook the potential benefits of simpler, day-to-day measures, such as powering down desktops when not in use.

The desktop vs. data centre dilemma
The benefits of powering down idle desktops are often overlooked, yet the advantages are clear when bearing in mind the amount of power they consume. For example, for every data centre there are around 50 to 250 end-user desktops. This translates to approximately one hundred million desktops being used in the United States and Western Europe, each of which draws between 100 – 300 watts, totalling an estimated 10 gigawatts of power. As a result, during their hours of utilisation, desktops can actually consume more power and produce more pollution than data centres. This is certainly worth noting when considering desktops spend a large proportion of their lives doing nothing but generating a screensaver.

To further highlight the growing problem, statistics show that the average desktop uses 30 percent of its energy while idle and 40 percent outside of business hours, which leaves just 30 percent actually utilised productively. When taking into account the rising energy costs and reports that small to medium businesses waste £30.8 million a day by failing to power down their idle desktops, it is becoming increasingly clear that reducing the consumption of IT assets is essential if organisations hope to cut costs in such a challenging economic environment. Indeed, Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Chris Huhne, estimated that government’s plans to keep emissions down will actually increase UK business energy bills by 19 percent in the next eight years.

Corporate carbon concerns
In addition to the financial impact, organisations must also consider today’s mounting environmental sensitivity. Businesses are under growing pressure from activists, consumers, and government at all levels to make their operations as environmentally friendly as possible. This is justified when considering the environmental impact that desktop power consumption can have on the planet. For example, the energy used by 1,000 desktops in one year is equivalent to 1,585 barrels of oil, releases up to 682 tons of CO₂ and creates up to 130 tons of landfill waste.

With this in mind, reducing the corporate carbon footprint has become an extremely important CSR activity, not only to appease existing consumers that are becoming increasingly aware of companies’ environmental activities, but also to attract new customers. It is not uncommon now for companies to be asked about and judged on their environmental policies, with those delivering superior energy and environmental performance having a clear competitive advantage. Sustainability thus has a key role to play in economic progression, not just in response to regulations and rising energy prices, but also to future business contracts and revenue opportunities.

Furthermore, in addition to government legislation such as the draft energy bill, organisations have to contend with standards such as the CRC Scheme, which obliges them to report their energy consumption and monitor their emissions to avoid being hit by a ‘green tax’.

When taking all of these factors into account, there is no doubt that energy efficiency is rising higher on the corporate agenda – and with good reason. By failing to consider all energy efficiency measures, big and small, organisations are effectively throwing their money down the drain. To ensure that they are able to overcome the extra financial and CSR pressures placed upon them; organisations must start to readdress their current green IT strategies and consider the smaller things that are too often overlooked, but can make a significant difference. Large-scale strategies undoubtedly have a place, yet by incorporating a desktop management strategy into existing green IT policies, organisations are able to enjoy rapid and tangible results, not only enhancing its reputation but enabling them to exploit future growth opportunities.