You are viewing ti_sustainit

SustainIT [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

[ userinfo | livejournal userinfo ]
[ archive | journal archive ]

Muddy Waters [Apr. 24th, 2009|11:34 am]

Amidst all the worrying talk of protectionism and “deglobalisation” surrounding this month’s G20 meeting, there were some particularly alarming suggestions for those of us interested in sustainable development. It has been said that “green” regulations and investments could be used as a neat cloak for protectionist policies; and that sustainability considerations could be used as a form of protectionism through, for example, introduction of environmental regulations that foreign suppliers find it difficult to adhere to. Anything from responsible sourcing to reducing food air miles could in theory be seen as a means of reducing imports and sticking with domestic supply. 

If the sustainability agenda is used – or is seen to be used – for the purposes of curbing competition, it will undoubtedly be harmful to the movement in the long run. It will therefore be essential over the coming months to show that green initiatives are not being used as an alibi for protectionism. 

Furthermore, protectionist policies will only harm innovation in the telecommunications and information technology industry, which depends heavily on a global talent pool. To stay competitive, we need to source parts and supplies from around the world, using quality and price, not location, as the buying determinant. If talent and resources are not allowed to flow across geographical borders, then competition and innovation – including around green issues - could be severely stunted.   Governments and businesses must concentrate resources on getting the best out of their workers, so that they are world-beaters at business development and ideas creation. It is to the benefit of all global economies to engage in a “fair fight” of this nature. 

The key will be to invest in developing domestic talent, rather than barring foreign workers and awarding jobs to less skilled domestic workers. One form of environmental “protectionism” should remain: that of “green” workforce training and skills development. Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary-General, has called for “green jobs” as part of any global stimulus plan and, writing in the Financial Times in February, Alistair Darling, UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, suggested that the UK can lead the green recovery by employing millions in “green-collar jobs”. 

linkpost comment

Recession might promote a green agenda [Mar. 9th, 2009|09:01 am]

A friend who helps run an environmental consultancy asked me the other day about ways in which the recession might promote a green agenda, rather than damage it. Thinking about our conversation it struck me that there were at least three ways in which the current recession was likely to have a positive effect - and we will leave aside the obvious one that in the short-term a slow economy cuts energy use and carbon emissions.
1. Low interest rates associated with the downturn make energy-saving investment cheaper. Often the trade-off is between energy costs and finance costs: more investment reduces energy use but  costs more up-front. As funding costs come down - as they will - projects that would not fly suddenly look attractive, particularly as a preparation for higher energy costs in the future.
2. Recession forces innovation even without investment: figuring out how to simplify work-practices as a way of cutting costs. But in cutting costs you often also cut energy use, almost as a sidebar to the main objective.
3. There is great pressure on management structures, with new people being appointed and others moving on. One of the first things any new manager does is to look at the work-flow: who does what and how might this be streamlined. So the very fact that management is changing itself encourages efficiency, which in turn will on balance help environmental objectives.
So though the headlines may be about recession rather than the environment, on the ground it has made the environment a more important issue in many practical ways.
link4 comments|post comment

A low carbon recovery [Mar. 4th, 2009|08:16 am]

This year's grim economic news has shown the scale and depth of challenge that businesses face in 2009. But, as Lord Smith, chair of the Environment Agency, noted in a speech I attended recently, many are seeing sustainability as a significant factor in pulling out of the recession.


Governments are leading the way.  Recent analysis by HSBC, one of BT’s largest customers, shows that 16% of President Obama’s economic recovery plan is earmarked for sustainability-related spending, and 14% of the EU’s.  In China, 34% of economic recovery spending will go towards sustainability, and South Korea has devoted a whopping two thirds of its recovery package to green investment.


Here in the UK, 9% of stimulus spending will be “green”, and political support for sustainability across all parties is strong.  The recent Climate Change Act, for example, passed with just three votes against – an almost unprecedented showing for a major piece of legislation. 


Some argue that some of this is not enough: the Western economies for example fall short of the 20% of the global spend as recommended by Nicholas Stern in a report. Whatever your view though, it is sustainable businesses that will ride out the recession most successfully.


Businesses’ focus on sustainability naturally comes under pressure in a recession. But the focus of the global packages – dubbed a “low carbon recovery” by Gordon Brown when meeting President Obama this week – will offer opportunities that should be grasped by us all.

linkpost comment

Every company in the world is seeking to trim communication costs as the downturn pressures [Feb. 25th, 2009|08:58 am]

Every company in the world is seeking to trim communication costs as the downturn pressures have increased - with the most obvious being substituting face-to-face meetings with electronic ones. But it struck me, looking at plans for an international conference in Johannesburg, that not only do we still need face-to-face contact (I think we all knew that) but also that electronics makes face-to-face meetings much more efficient.
Obviously there is the mechanical side of it all: it is much easier to check availability, locate hotels and flights, deal with presentations and so on. But IT also increases the effectiveness of the conference in more subtle ways. People can meet each other briefly, then do due diligence by checking what is out there on the person and their business on their laptop, before deciding whether to follow up the initial meeting. So face time is used more effectively. Of course this makes it all the more important that company web-sites are well-managed, but then that ought to be the case anyway. It also means that companies need to pay much more attention at what is written about them, especially when it is critical. But again they ought to be doing that anyway.
So face-to-face or electronic communication is not either/or but both/and. Each makes the other more effective - if done properly.
linkpost comment

It’s fascinating to see the green computing revolution take shape [Feb. 18th, 2009|05:09 pm]
[mood |busy]

It’s fascinating to see the green computing revolution take shape, and watch how the fizzing inventiveness of Silicon Valley whizkids, which once was deployed on making their machines perform faster, better and more remarkably, is now also being used to make them perform in a much more environmentally friendly way.  A good example is the Californian company D-Link, which specialises in the manufacture of networking hardware, and has been something of a pioneer in introducing green technology into its own area. One of its specialities is the desktop switch that enables susbstantial power savings to be made, and this week – on February 17, to be precise – it rolled out a second-generation, multi-port switch for which it is making remarkable claims: the company says it can reduce power consumption by a whopping 73 per cent.
D-Link points out that even when a computer is shut down, switches often remain on and continue to consume considerable amounts of power, but says that the new switches can detect when a computer is turned off and will respond accordingly by powering down into standby mode and reducing power used for that port. Another “smart” feature of the switch, says the company, is to be able to detect the length of cables being used and adjust the power accordingly.
Not having tested the switch myself, I can’t vouch for the company’s claims, but what is clear is the effort that is now being put in, by some of the best brains in the electronics world, to make IT more and more sustainable. The new message from Silicon Valley is unmistakable. Steven Joe, the D-Link president and CEO said in announcing new switch: “Our goal is to maintain industry leadership as a pioneer of green networking technology by building in even more energy-saving features into our products without sacrificing performance.”
You can’t argue with that, can you?
linkpost comment

Channelling our nerdish energies [Feb. 3rd, 2009|02:13 pm]

Advances in technology offer us amazing opportunities to work in a more sustainable way. Increasing numbers are taking advantage of high-speed networks and high-performance computers to eliminate their daily journey to work and the CO2 emissions that go with it.


With the right technology in place, employees can work as effectively in their spare bedroom or study as they can in the office. Often, in fact, they find they are more productive when they work at home.


Others use technology to improve their flexibility, while those in the office are questioning, especially in these economic times, is there really a need of all those meetings? Increasingly, the answer is no – with conferencing services providing a more than acceptable alternative – cutting out the need for travel and the CO2 emissions that go with it.



Read more...Collapse )
linkpost comment

The quiet efficiencies of Davos [Jan. 27th, 2009|03:24 pm]

One of the charges that the participants at the Davos forum always face is one of hypocrisy - they are wasting natural and financial resources on a junket. Well, some may be doing just that but my impression is that most business leaders going there do so because it is efficient.

They can set up a string of meetings that would normally involve a lot of travel because so many of the people they need to meet are there too. They can also have the quiet informal meetings, on neutral ground, that would be very hard to do anywhere else, and these may or may not lead to business tie-ups. So while it might seem hard to defend Davos on the grounds that it is a more sustainable solution than having meetings in the office, it does make sense for the business community.

Whether it makes sense for politicians to go there, though, is another matter ...
linkpost comment

Energetic success [Jan. 14th, 2009|12:20 pm]

Recent research from a Harvard physicist has concluded that two Google searches generates the equivalent amount of CO2 as boiling the kettle for a cup of tea.

Although the figures are disputed by Google, this does raise some interesting issues about the impact of employee behaviour, an area that is often only touched upon by companies looking to lower their carbon emissions.

While it is important to understand the contribution of IT and buildings to carbon emissions, it is equally important to understand what your people are doing and how they could alter their work and travel patterns to become more carbon-efficient.

As this research suggests, understanding people’s travel and work patterns is a multi-faceted challenge. Among other things, businesses must understand how:

- IT managers, through their work patterns, may contribute to greater carbon emissions than necessary (e.g. by running software updates at night, thereby requiring computers to be left on 24/7)

- Responsibility for paying energy bills can create a “moral hazard” – e.g. if IT managers are not responsible for their energy consumption bills, they will not take energy consumption into account when deciding IT policies and purchasing new equipment

- Staff unwittingly use computers in a high-carbon emitting way – e.g. by performing more internet searches than necessary!

As the UK Carbon Reduction Commitment and EU 20-20-20 legislation come into effect, these details will become more and more of an issue to companies.

Quite simply in the current debate, there is far too much emphasis placed on equipment, and not enough on people’s behaviour and travel patterns.

This is an issue that businesses need to focus more upon, and is where we're channelling our efforts at BT. We aim to have 20 per cent of our employees, (22,000 people) engaged in doing something positive for the environment by 2012.  Not only will this lower our impact on the environment, but it will help increase productivity in the long run too.

linkpost comment

The 'weightless economy' offers our best hope for the future [Jan. 13th, 2009|01:11 pm]

There are said to be three phases of economic development: hunter gathering, agriculture and manufacturing. Yet beyond the manufacturing stage, it is now widely accepted, lies another, post-industrial phase of “weightless” or “knowledge-based” economic development.

Certain aspects of this economy have long been with us – trade, finance, services, media communications and culture – but it is only comparatively recently, with important breakthroughs in information technology, that the weightless bits have become, at least for advanced western economies, not only the largest constituents of GDP but also far and away the biggest source of growth. Apparently healthier, cleaner, more efficient and less cyclical, development of the weightless economy seemed to offer a bright new future to developed economies as well as a potential way of leapfrogging them for the populous emerging markets of the developing world.


Read more...Collapse )
linkpost comment

[ viewing | most recent entries ]