Will Government Have to Step In to Make IT Green?

Will Government Have to Step In to Make IT Green?

Sometimes it feels like I'm sitting in a bubble here, one where leading companies are taking audacious steps -- and earning big rewards -- in making their IT departments more energy efficient, and applying those technologies to the rest of their operations to boot.

While that is certainly true of leading and forward-thinking companies, as with all the green business practices we cover here and on GreenBiz.com, they're common but far from mainstream. And therein lies the challenge: How do you get traditional, run-of-the-mill, and/or mom and pop shops to adopt green practices?

One idea that's currently being floated, at least for the United Kingdom and Europe, is to bring government into the game. According to a recent online chat hosted by eWeek Europe, regulations are the only thing that will drive the majority of companies to adopt green IT.

As part of the webinar "Green Backs or Green Wash," eWeek editors polled the attendees, and found that 67 percent believed regulations will be the incentive for greening corporate IT. The remaining answers were split between cost savings (22 percent) or "other" (11 percent).
Given the less-than-stellar adoption of initiatives like the European Union's Data Center Code of Conduct -- only 53 companies have signed on as endorsers and there are only 18 participating data centers listed to date -- several observers have noted that the stick of legislating green IT performance may be the only way to get companies to enjoy the carrot of reduced energy bills and more efficient performance.

Writing also in eWeek Europe, Rob Coupland writes that, in essence, companies better get on board or they'll bring legislation down on themselves:

Organisations seemingly fail to understand that by ignoring the Code of Conduct they are potentially causing a risk to the current autonomy of industry. The Code provides businesses with a sensible, practical and applicable set of measurements to improve efficiencies, minimising the environmental impact of data centre operations as well as having beneficial effect on the bottom line.

There is an increasing focus on energy efficiency in business as a whole, and by failing to apply the Code organisations risk being unable to demonstrate their environmental efficiency to customers who in turn are having to meet their own targets. Whereas previously it had been difficult for customers to differentiate between what represents real action and what is clever marketing, the best practices defined within the Code of Conduct document represent not only the expected minimum standards but also many other identified and standardised energy management practices -- it allows organisations to help demonstrate where improvements are being made.

And in a rundown of the different legislative schemes to make businesses greener in the U.K., John Skelton writes on Computing:

The code aims to achieve [energy efficiency] by "improving understanding of energy demand within the datacentre, raising awareness, and recommending energy-efficient best practice and targets".

At the moment, organisations and service providers are not obliged to abide by the code and some industry analysts believe this lack of statutory commitment may lead to tougher legislation in the future, laying out minimum standards for mandatory compliance. However, it is worth reading the code for tips to reduce datacentre energy consumption, and signing up might improve your corporate image and give businesses -– particularly IT service providers -­ an edge on the competition.

Other legislation in his roundup include the U.K.'s Carbon Reduction Commitment and the Eco-Design Directive for Energy-Using Products.

In the U.S., we're obviously more legislation-averse (or at least some factions are) -- see the ongoing healthcare and climate/energy debates for examples. So what will it take to drive wider adoption of green IT practices domestically? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments (up at the top of this article).