"It's about doing the right thing". This statement is how Alison Ewings started her talk on Westpac's Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program, presented at the Australian Institute of Management (AIM) on 20th May. Ewings went on to talk about how CSR programs based solely on financial benefits are likely to fail when 'times get tough', usually making them one of the first areas to be cut from budgets, and how it is the 'intangible' value of corporate social responsibility that most benefits business, aligning it back to her initial statement - "It's about doing the right thing".
There were a number of best practices such as developing business principals, internal and external CSR engagement programs and redefining purchasing policies presented, which could be easily converted to Green IT scenarios:
Setting up business principals that define the way you operate
For IT outsourcers and vendors, this could mean the difference between being on the top of the pile or the bottom. Last year HP stated that in the first six months of FY07 they responded to tenders valued at $1.8 billion with CSR as a core component of the decision criteria. Westpac themselves screen their suppliers, using their IT Purchasing Policy to determine energy efficient hardware manufacturers.
Review your IT purchasing policy
If you have an existing purchasing policy, dust it off and look for areas where you can incorporate defining standards for IT energy efficiency. Two key resources in this space include Climate Savers Computing and EPEAT, which both define energy efficiency and product lifecycle metrics for computing hardware. As both sites lack elements the other has, combine your research on these two sites together to get an end to end product lifecycle view:
Setup reporting metrics
Westpac has setup a number of metrics against which they measure and report to the community and stakeholders each year. The key environmental metrics include:
Metric Measured Value Greenhouse Gas Emissions equivalent tonnes of CO2 emissions Paper consumption sheets per person
Interestingly Ewings noted the 'sheets per person' enabled them to provide a visual to staff members by showing them how high a paper stack of 8,900 sheets stands (8,900 being the current value in their latest report).
For IT, there needs to be careful consideration of measuring and reporting on greenhouse gas emissions. One government employee recently told me they have been given the metric of reducing IT carbon emissions for the next financial year and they were concerned about how exactly this was to be measured and reported. A colleague of mine pointed out that IT actually takes on more carbon in order to reduce emissions from other parts of the business. For example, to reduce overall business travel IT implements video conferencing solutions which increases the number of servers, which increases the amount of energy used by IT, which subsequently increases the amount of carbon emissions created by IT. But at the same time, IT has enabled other parts of the business to reduce their carbon emissions.
I think what would be interesting to see trialled is a internal carbon emissions trading scheme. For example, IT implements technology to reduce carbon emissions, increasing their own in the process, but receives 'credits' back in the yearly reporting, offsetting overall emissions metrics per department.
Setup a stakeholder framework
The Westpac stakeholder framework outlined two core areas of focus: 'Agenda setting and governance' and 'Building a responsible business', then pictorially presented which stakeholders were involved in each area(s). For example, the Board was listed under agenda setting.
The framework incorporated almost all the same stakeholders outlined in "Green to Gold: How smart companies use environmental strategy to Innovate, Create Value and Build Competitive Advantage":
In this book, Esty & Winston (2006) note some of the typical stakeholders in each area include:
- Rulemakers & watchdogs - media and not for profit organisations
- Idea generators and opinion leaders - think tanks and academics
- Business partners and competitors - suppliers and B2B customers
- Consumers and community - local officials
- Investors and risk assessors - stock market analysts and bankers
- Climate Savers Computing, What are the Tech Specs for the initiative
- EPEAT 2008, EPEAT Criteria
- Esty, D.C & Winston, A.S 2006, Green to Gold: How smart companies use environmental strategy to Innovate, Create Value and Build Competitive Advantage, Yale University Press, New Haven and London.
- Ewing, A. 2008, Westpac Corporate Social Responsibility, The Australian Institute of Management (AIM), North Sydney (20th May 2008).
- Westpac 2008, Westpac Corporate Responsibility
- Westpac 2008, Westpac ESG Report: Full Year Performance Update - Strategy, Stakeholder issues, and leading performance indicators