SUSTAINABILITY has become one of those buzzwords companies
quite liberally throw about in their value statements and on their websites,
but what will a truly sustainable company, in a sustainable economy, look like?
Sustainability is not merely about being green. If a company
is eco-friendly but unprofitable, it is not sustainable. If a company is
profitable, but its people are overworked and underutilised, it is not
True sustainability occurs only when there is complete
balance between an organisation's people, profits and the planet.
Often, the three go hand in hand. By simplifying one
process, your people are freed up to do more, your carbon emissions go down and
your profit soars because you're cutting out unnecessary expenditure and your
staff can work more effectively and produce more of what you do.
I helps companies to do this, particularly with regards to
their IT department, because computers are the nerve system of any organisation
– and wherever there is a PC, there is usually waste.
In IT intensive organisations, optimising your IT
infrastructure is one of the easiest ways to create a platform that allows
sustainable growth and development in your company, as well as reducing
At one of the big four South African banks I recently
visited, staff were leaving their PCs turned on 24/7. This probably happens in
most offices, where the IT department conducts security patching overnight.
It's something we rarely think twice about when we're
leaving the office, but the thousands of PCs being left on not only had the
effect of releasing a whopping 7 500 tonnes of CO2 emissions into the
atmosphere unnecessarily, but also incurred a R4m electricity bill.
That business is not operating in a sustainable way,
particularly if one considers the looming carbon tax and Eskom electricity
hikes. Yet a simple tech solution can enable wake-up LAN technology that
reduces energy without interfering with nocturnal security patching and shuts
machines down when not required.
Software distribution points are another big source of IT
waste. Large, geographically dispersed organisations (particularly banks and
retailers) often invest in huge server infrastructures that are extremely hard
Software solutions exist that can replace these servers
(typically one at every branch) with a few centrally located servers. This not
only reduces your hardware spend but your maintenance and staff costs too,
freeing your IT team up to do more within your network.
Once again, your profit goes up, your staff's time is freed
up and your carbon emissions go down.
Even if your company is not leaving PCs on overnight or if
it doesn't have dozens of servers, I can guarantee you there are still hidden
costs that mean you are wasting resources in your business.
Most organisations have either unused software (installed on
PCs, but not needed or used) or shelfware (software that is purchased by never
deployed) in their organisation.
What they don't realise is that the maintenance costs for
this software can run between 15-20% of the licence fee. Add to that the fact
that we typically see between 20-40% of software being installed remaining
entirely unused at any given company, and you're paying a hefty price tag for
no reason whatsoever.
In the United States alone, they believe that this accounts
for $12.3bn in preventable and ongoing costs. Are you auditing your software
Eco-friendliness is simply a byproduct of efficiency and
sustainability. As Lester Brown, puts it, "In nature, one-way linear flows
do not long survive.
extension, can they long survive in the human economy that is a part of the
earth's ecosystem. The challenge is to redesign the materials economy so that
it is compatible with the ecosystem."
If the planned carbon tax initiative is passed in the next
two years, many organisations are going to be scrambling to reduce their
emissions – and they will probably waste more time and effort than they need
If we hope to create a more sustainable, efficient economy,
we need to start putting systems in place that are sustainable in terms of
people, profit and the planet – we can do this by addressing some of the
technology problems that are affecting all three elements.
*Tim James is the owner of sustainableIT and the distributor
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