Under Pressure: 10 Sources Pushing CIOs to Go Green

8. Generation Y

Pressure gauge reading: 3 

Teens and 20-somethings are fired up about environmentalism, and that is increasingly putting pressure on companies to green their operations.

Many CIOs are parents, too, and their kids are learning about global climate change at school. Kids are pushing recycling, switching out light bulbs, and unplugging computers and other electronic devices at night.

CIOs not only feel the pressure from their own kids but from the college graduates they are trying to recruit and the Millennials on their staff.

"College grads who can be selective are selecting their employers by the reputation of the company and how committed it is to environmental practices," Skinner says. "Demographics are on the side of this issue, and IT managers who are on the front lines of hiring out of college will be seeing that."

This is a pressure that CIOs can expect to rise over the next few years.

"When I do recruiting at local universities, I'm usually the most popular guy," Teetzel says. "There's a huge amount of interest in solving the [climate-change] problem. There's a kind of buzz in the next generation."

9. Employees

Pressure gauge reading: 2 

C-suite executives are just beginning to see bottom-up efforts from employees to make their companies more environmentally friendly.

Whether they are launching recycling programs or turning off lights at night, employees can exert peer pressure on each other to change wasteful behavior at work.

"What we're observing is a lot of grassroots efforts by employees to create green teams or green IT communities and adopt green practices," Skinner says. "Increasingly, eco-minded employees are taking on initiatives and putting pressure up the leadership chain…Increasingly, the C-suite is being pressured from below."

Teetzel says this phenomenon has occurred at Google, where employees have organized into green teams.

There's more to employee efforts than "just putting stickers on desktop computers left on all night that say, 'Thanks for wasting electricity,'" Teetzel says. "Employees have a lot of debate and discussion…related to climate change."

One way that employees are driving action is through carbon-reduction competitions such as Carbon Rally. 

Employees have "the potential to have the largest impact," Smith says. "Like all corporate processes, it's when you push them as far down into the field as possible that you get all these incredible results."

Smith says Digital Realty's employees are driving the company's efforts to have its data center buildings certified as green through the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) process.

"Once I explained LEED to our operations and construction teams, they took it from there. They are finding LEED points from other parts of the business," Smith says. "It's the same thing with consumption, performance and metering. We're trying to push that as far out into the field as possible."

10. The Community

Pressure gauge reading: 2 

Community leaders are starting to apply pressure to local corporations to improve their sustainability. Although that's not a big pressure on CIOs today, these efforts are likely to increase.

"Cities, churches, nonprofits -- I do think that is a growing source of pressure with respect to people thinking a bit more about this topic," Teetzel says.

For example, the Climate Savers computing initiative has signed up the states of Oregon, Colorado and Minnesota for energy efficiency collaborations. Under the terms of these agreements, the states will improve the energy efficiency of their own IT operations but they also will promote such concepts as buying Energy Star equipment and turning it off at night to the companies doing business in their states.

In fact, the National Governors' Association partnered with Climate Savers last November to encourage the deployment of energy efficient computers and IT practices in state government offices. 

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