Green IT shows green shoots

Stephen Pritchard

During the last couple of years it was a brave or even foolish CIO who has advocated spending on "green" IT. After all, reducing the energy used by IT usually means spending money on new hardware, and businesses that have been struggling to maintain sales and profits did not want to invest scarce capital in equipment of any sort, least of all IT.

Then again, the business case for green IT has always been about more than more efficient servers, storage or switches, important as these are. The real benefits of technology spending come not from reduced IT bills, but in lower operating costs for the business as a whole. The neat thing about greener business processes is that they are often cheaper business processes too.

Changing the way an organisation does business, though, usually means spending some money up front. Using IT, and particularly software, to drive that change can be one of the cheaper options. So some very large businesses are looking to software to cut both their costs and carbon footprints.

An interesting example comes from ORTEC, a developer of advanced planning and optimisation software, based in the Netherlands. Tesco recently bought ORTEC's transport optimisation software to help it improve its supply chain.

Tesco is the world's third largest grocer, so if the company thinks something is worth investing in, it probably is. The interesting point, though, is the reasoning Tesco gives for its investment.

The grocer plans to use ORTEC's software to improve efficiency and resource utilisation, but also to reduce its carbon emissions.

In fact, Tesco's IT operations have gone further. Executives have stated publicly before now that real challenge for IT, when it comes to environmental footprints, is not so much in reducing energy use or carbon outputs from IT operations, but those of Tesco as a whole.

Other drivers for environmental improvements, such as the Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency Scheme are already forcing energy efficiency back on to the IT agenda.