Tech Industry Leaves a Big Carbon Footprint

The majority of the information technology industry has been slow to embrace the low carbon economy, missing out on opportunities.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and Gartner invited 24 global IT providers to participate in a study on climate change that examined whether the vendors and solution providers had created environmental offerings for customers.

The study had five sections: Environmental basics, supply chain basics, carbon basics, carbon delivery and carbon champions. The first three looked at how providers run their business internally, their supply chain, and how well they communicate their work and impact on climate change. The remaining two examined the extent to which the providers are focused on climate change as a commercial opportunity.

Of those that did participate, Fujitsu, BT, HP and IBM did well in virtually every category. Gartner said these four companies have well-structured long-term environmental plans to reduce their own impact as well as schemes to innovate new products which could help other businesses.

Companies such as Wipro, Nortel, Verizon, China Mobile, and Lenovo did not score particularly well in any category, and had no plans to innovate greener products.

Google, in particular, was singled out for not having any kind of environmental policy, while Nortel and Cisco had bland and uncommitted policies.

While Nokia excelled at supply chain management, the mobile handset maker has a "myopic response to the needs of a low carbon economy compared with companies like BT, IBM, Cisco and HP" said the study.

The survey also showed that IT leaders lacked an overall greenhouse gas (GHG) target. Nokia and Google, along with Ericsson, Nortel, Cisco, SAP and Wipro were found to lack any GHG reduction targets, which Gartner said is key to driving policy. Lenovo and Cisco have very recently set themselves a target since the study was completed.

"An overall GHG target is one of the most basic requirements of a climate change programme, and without it organisations should be sceptical about a provider's overall climate change programme," said Simon Mingay research vice president at Gartner.

IT service organisations were found to be "immature" in their environmental programmes and "slow to recognise" their changing market circumstances.

Mingay said none of the respondents have crossed the line into greenwashing, but Cisco and Dell "have a tendency toward more talking than action" on their internal climate programme.

The IT industry should see the green agenda as an opportunity, not a tax, said Dennis Pamlin, global policy advisor at WWF.

"The winners in a low carbon economy will be those that realise which products and services have a material and observable effect on carbon emissions and especially those that create low-carbon feedback," he said.

Accenture, Acer, AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, EDS, Microsoft, Oracle, Sun and TCS chose not to participate and were criticised for their lack of transperancy.

Mingay presented the findings of the Gartner and WWF's assessment during Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2008, being held in Cannes this week.

This story, "Tech Industry Leaves a Big Carbon Footprint" was originally published by Computerworld UK.

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