From a single employee printing on both sides of a sheet of paper to a multi-million dollar investment in energy efficient data centres, green initiatives take many shapes and forms. George Bevir finds out how organisations from across the region are trying to boost their green credentials.
The extent to which an enterprise decides to adopt a green policy doesn’t just depend on the size of the business or the sector it is involved in, with geographical considerations also coming into play. Anthony Harrison, senior principal solutions specialist, Storage and Server Management, Symantec, says that “going green” means different things in different countries. He says: “In more developed regions, the primary driver is often the corporate social responsibility (CSR) one, which centres around whether or not the organisation is doing its bit to minimise waste, increase recycling and eliminate inefficiencies. Many countries have certification schemes and defined targets that companies can aim to achieve, with well-understood metrics and terminology.”
Abderrahman Boukour, Technology Services consulting manager at HP Middle East, says it is important that the first steps are taken by the businesses’ decision makers, with the backing of all stakeholders. This will likely involve justification of the green benefits with respect to the community, customers and importantly reducing the costs, he says. But in order for a company to justify new measures it will need to be aware of the extent to which its activities impact the environment.
General Manager for Integrated Marketing at Xerox Middle East and Africa
Before a business decides on the extent to which it will adopt a green agenda, it needs to establish its current position with a full and frank assessment of current practices, compiling data that will help the company to establish how green it is at the moment. Harrison also suggests that organisations need to be clear on how important the CSR factor is compared to more tangible benefits associated with greater efficiency and cost avoidance. “If the organisation does not have a solid CSR agenda or strategy, then your primary focus becomes that operational efficiency driver.”
It would be difficult to argue against the case for a drive to switch off lights in unoccupied rooms, a relatively simple measure that will ultimately deliver savings to a company. But more long term initiatives might demand allocation of resources or an outlay of capital. Dan Smith, general manager for Integrated Marketing at Xerox Middle East and Africa, says there doesn’t have to be a dichotomy between achieving sustainability and good business sense. “I think in the current environment it is an in vogue topic to discuss, but green initiatives can be one of the first to go out the window when the issue of costs arise. So there needs to be recognition that it is possible to reduce costs by going green, and this must be effectively communicated to stake holders. The value must be made clear.”
For some businesses it is not only a question of margin; as customers become more aware of the issues surrounding sustainability it is increasingly necessary for businesses to show that they are attempting to minimise the impact they have on the environment.
Territory Manager for Interactive Intelligence in the Middle East and Turkey
Shaheen Haque, Brocade’s territory manage for Interactive Intelligence in the Middle East and Turkey, says that creating a green policy for the company is one of the first stages for a business that wants to go green. By involving employees in the process and making sure they are aware of the aims and objectives of the policy there is a greater chance that it will be adhered to and targets met. Externally, businesses may also find that they need to increase awareness among clients and customers.
Khwaja Saifuddin, sales director Middle East and Africa and South Asia, Western Digital, says much depends on education. “In the Middle East with the green drives we did have an uphill task, because the cost of energy here is not that high. But we had educational campaigns in print and radio, on how to position green drives as part of everyday life, so why not make it an area where you contribute. Once you educate people, they feel that they have been a contributor. In a city like Dubai, we are seeing the amount of recycling boxes increase all the time; people started with newspapers, glass, cans and so on, and people are getting more aware and they want to contribute more.”
Cutting out waste, in all its forms, is one of the simplest and most straightforward ways to reduce energy consumption and boost a company’s green credentials. Simple measures like not leaving monitors and other electrical devices on standby for long periods of time and cutting down on resources such as paper can, if adopted by a sizeable proportion of the workforce, have a significant impact. They are changes that can be implemented right away, like placing recycling bins around office for discarded paper and used printer cartridges. And if successful, such changes can then be used to support bigger projects.
Senior Principal Solutions Specialist, Storage and Server Management, Symantec
“There are usually some quick wins from one or two departments that can serve as ‘headlines’ for promoting the work of the team,” says Harrison. “However the biggest savings can come from encouraging cross-department communication where people get a chance to see how their work affects or interfaces with that of another team. These streamlining processes are much evolved in manufacturing industry, especially those in the Far East, but there are many other industries here in the Middle East that could benefit from this kind of cross-functional analysis”
Working towards a paperless office is one of the more common aims among businesses keen to cut back on the use of natural resources. “You can get out of the habit of using paper,” says Bokour. “Go electronic as much as possible, and reduce the number of printers and print on both sides by default.”
Xerox’s Smith, unsurprisingly, says eradicating paper entirely is an unrealistic aim. “As the world does more business, paper usage will increase,” he says. “But people can people make smarter decisions about what they print. They can print double-sided or scan copies. But certain industries, such as banking, need paper and it is very difficult to ask industry like that to stop printing.
Instead, he says people need to make sure they use the appropriate format, with the right document at the right place at the right time. For those sectors that are unable to eradicate paper from their offices, they can choose copying devices that are ‘Energy Star’ compliant and recognised by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as using less energy on each iteration of their device. Smith says the EPA recently made its programme more stringent, and Xerox is working to meet that challenge. According to Smith, each Xerox machine is 30% more efficient than each previous model.
Changing old, inefficient equipment for new is the kind of capex-intensive project that some firms might be reluctant to take on, but there are operational savings that can be made with lower consumption of power, particularly where the storage of data is concerned. With the amount of data that is stored around the world increasing all the time, there has been pressure on the manufacturers of drives and data centres to make them more efficient.
Saifuddin claims that Western Digital’s drives are 40% more efficient than they were three years ago. “We made the drives intelligent, and it only performs when asked to by the user. While consumers generally use individual drives one at a time, from a data centre perspective, there can be hundreds and thousands of drives running at the same time. When we launched ‘Green Power’, the largest drive was 500GB. Today, we have a GP drive using same power but capable of storing 2TB. We have increased the amount of space on the drive by four times.”
Data centre redesign is usually only prompted during life-cycle rollover or a required move, says Bokour, but he suggests that companies look to invest in ways to reduce energy consumption and heat output before the end of the ten year average lifecycle of a data centre. “The biggest green opportunity is reducing energy consumption and heat output in the data centre,” says Bokour. “[Businesses] should seek LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification for buildings that require the accumulation of points for various components. For instance, implementing solar panels in the building roofs as another source of energy, sustainable sites selection and water efficiency.”
Product Manager, Fujitsu Technology Solutions
For Chandan Mehta, product manager, Fujitsu Technology Solutions, environmental load reduction by IT can far exceed environmental load of IT. “Energy saving measures for clients, servers, data centres and networking equipment are essential for reducing overall carbon emissions,” he says. “Equally important are new technologies such as virtualisation, de-duplication, and so on. At the same time, services that use IT can improve the efficiency of operations in business and social systems, thereby contributing indirectly to a reduction in carbon emissions.”
Mehta says that in order to evaluate the environmental contribution effect of a solution, we should consider resource consumption, human movement, goods transportation, office space, warehouse space, power consumption of IT equipment, and network data communication. So that when we look at the implementation of an on-line form submission by a government agency it not only saves on paper and office space, it also eradicates the need for hundreds or thousands of local trips to the government office to complete the paperwork.
“This solution would contribute more to the environment than the power consumed by a couple of servers, and storage system required to offer such a service. This is something one can easily deduce logically, without using any calculations.”
Measuring the efforts and the outcome through metrics and reports, the monitoring of electricity bills and power consumption and carbon emissions reporting is an important part of the process that will help to justify effort and spur on new initiatives, as well as provide material for businesses to use to publicise the work they have done. And if it is not already a legal requirement, it may well be soon.
“Increasingly, organisations are asked by governments and other stakeholders to disclose the amount of energy that they use – and therefore the associated CO2 emissions,” says Bokour. “IT systems can play a role in enabling organisations to measure and report those emissions. IT systems also enable a greater exchange of environmental information up and down the supply chain.”
The low cost of energy in the Middle East is often cited as a barrier to reducing consumption, but with the UAE last month announcing a reduction in subsidies of fuel, the era of cheap energy could be coming to an end.
“There is a great desire to do what is required, led by governments in the Gulf,” says Smith. “Government are looking at the requirements and legislative conditions, and I think the region has made great strides. The Middle East is an aspirational region and the inward investment far outstrips pace of growth around the world. In some areas it needs to update to be a global citizen, but I believe the desire is there.”
Cutting down on the amount of travelling that employees do in the line of duty is one way for a business to help reduce the amount of carbon that is pumped into the atmosphere.
Shaheen Haque of Brocade says that with smarter communications unnecessary travel can be cut out, increasing productivity and saving on travel time as well as pollution.
“Flexible work environments incorporating technologies such as VoIP, unified communications, virtualisation, hosted communication services and such like are driving the way organisations in today’s world are attempting to go green.”
For longer trips, video conferencing and telepresence solutions provide the chance for business travellers the option to cut flights to another country or continent. Although the cost of telepresence systems can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, manufacturers such as Polycom and Cisco say that for regular users a return on investment can be made in 12 months.