Why the CIO Should Be Your Sustainability Champion

A recovering economy, rising energy costs and increased energy consumption are driving the need for a more environmentally conscious organization. But who is the best qualified person to lead the charge for a greener, more sustainable business?

While some of the world's largest companies have established the position of Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO), many companies have yet to identify a point person for their sustainability efforts. When these companies look to fill the CSO role, they might want to consider looking in an unlikely place: the office of the CIO.

Across many industries, the Chief Information Officer (CIO) may be a natural choice to lead corporate-wide sustainability initiatives. And for those companies that already have CSOs, CIOs are well positioned to partner with CSOs to ensure their success.

As green IT has expanded from buying more energy-efficient servers and data centers, to finding ways to optimize lighting, monitor green house emissions and even implement new technologies to improve business processes, the CIO's role has expanded to encompass innovative strategies that deliver cost savings and energy efficiencies across the company.

The CIO is ideally positioned to work on corporate sustainability initiatives. The CIO already works with every department within a corporation and understands how to optimize the business processes that make the organization work. IT is tasked with eliminating waste and inefficiency within these everyday processes and, in turn, can work to eliminate waste and inefficiency in energy and resource use.

IT is often equipped to do address enterprise-wide change initiatives, such as launching a sustainability program, having built that experience leading transformational initiatives such as ERP and CRM implementations.

Technology such as online portals, video conferencing and remote, mobile access make telecommuting feasible and reduce the need for business travel, thus minimizing the company's carbon footprint. Efficient use of technology can also dramatically reduce the use of paper, which is both costly and a drain on staff time.

Additionally, application portfolio rationalization reduces the need for servers and associated hardware, further minimizing the organization's carbon emissions. This broader view of green IT goes far beyond data center operations. By leveraging IT capabilities to streamline business processes and reduce waste, it can deliver maximum environmental and cost-reduction benefits.

Next page: How the CIO can make your CSR reports more valuable