It’s finally happened! Those old PC’s are sputtering and it’s painfully clear that a hardware upgrade is in order. Luckily, ratings like EPEAT and ENERGY STAR make it easy to acquire sustainable IT products. IT purchasing departments everywhere can sleep soundly knowing they’ve done all they can do for the planet….or have they?
IT organizations often limit their focus to purchasing “green” technology, yet miss the significance Green IT can have in transforming their entire business. By keeping a few things in mind throughout the purchasing and implementation process, companies can go beyond the acquisition and influence dramatic company-wide change.
Domino Effects in the User’s Experience
In an office setting there are few things more visible and impactful to employees than the hardware and software they use every day. Any change within the user’s IT environment is quickly experienced and recognized (and probably commented on) throughout the entire organization. It is this wide-spread exposure that gives IT departments the unique ability to influence employees en masse. If staff see the differences being made through the IT they use, it may inspire them to apply these concepts to other areas of the business. The purchase of green hardware and software is pretty easy, and it allows companies to reduce their environmental impact and improve efficiency, but messaging it effectively can also be a great example to other parts of the organization.
Once the green technology has been installed, a more difficult challenge is in directly altering user perceptions and behavior, but the purchase can be used to build further change. Printing serves as a great example. Energy efficient duplexing printers are an easy way to reduce resource consumption and reinforce the right message. However, more substantial change requires changing user print behavior so that employees simply send less to the printer. This is where IT can use the initial purchase to bring awareness to the environmental issues surrounding IT and then leverage that to encourage employees to be creative and design projects and processes that will contribute even more to the larger solution. A little marketing and communication may be in order, but it can be well worth it. A rallying message of everyone doing their part once IT has taken the first step can be very powerful.
With the majority of green IT initiatives being generated from within the IT department, it is easy to isolate projects from the rest of the company. This is where a valuable opportunity can be lost. In order to successfully inspire company-wide change it is imperative to have interdisciplinary and even organic involvement from other groups. Even though IT departments play a crucial role in executing projects, ownership should be given to the department responsible for the area of business where the change will occur to ensure that the project is maximized now and in the future. For example, if electronic paystubs are going to be implemented, the project should be owned by HR even though it is a collaborative effort between IT and HR.
Using this approach keeps environmental initiatives from being confined to the IT department and allows a multitude of employees to contribute to the solution. The other inherent truth is that the people involved in bringing a project to fruition are more likely to alter their attitudes and behavior towards sustainability and participate in sustainable initiatives. The long term goal should always be to build an environmental consciousness that pervades throughout every department and function of the business, and this is a culture that IT can help to drive through its interdisciplinary influence. Like the user example, if IT inspires another department then further initiatives can be enabled.
In moving from IT-led to IT-supported, more and more employees and departments will take ownership of green initiatives, and the company culture will progressively shift towards incorporating sustainability into all key facets of the organization. The opportunity to get involved and own initiatives may empower and inspire employees to contribute other ideas and suggestions within their department, allowing for further improvements and efficiency gains. It is at this point that IT has successfully gone beyond their purchases and used it them to inspire change that will impact the organization on a much wider spectrum.