In recent years, an emerging trend in corporate culture has executives and other decision-makers seeing green — in more ways than one.

So-called Green Information Technology (IT) initiatives have been sprouting up at corporations, organizations and governing entities in a variety of sectors. Green IT, by definition, includes such practices as reducing energy consumption, recycling or disposing of old equipment in an environmentally responsible manner and taking steps to manage a company’s carbon footprint.

While companies’ adoption of Green IT strategies is healthy for the overall environment, the practice also is healthy for their bottom line, making it a win-win for all concerned.

Examples of Green IT initiatives

Green IT efforts can be found at a variety of venues — from for-profit companies to nonprofit organizations to governing entities. The University of Pittsburgh is one such organization that is taking part in the movement, and leaders proudly trumpet their overtures.

Some of the policy decisions implemented at the University of Pittsburgh include:

  • Pitt Printing: Students are able to send a command to print a document from anywhere on campus. The effort reduces the likelihood of multiple print jobs, according to the university, and also stems the tide of students printing a document and not picking it up. By the university’s estimation, this change in technique has saved upward of 100,000 sheets of paper that would have wound up discarded, making it 20 times less wasteful than full-service printing.
  • Web Conferencing: A method that allows university employees to schedule and attend meetings without leaving the office. It eliminates unnecessary travel and, thus, reduces the university’s carbon footprint. Sharing documents electronically, rather than the traditional hardcopy method, also saves paper.
  • Consolidating Servers: With the help of virtual servers, the university has been less reliant on bulky, energy-consuming infrastructure than in the past. Because of this, less energy has been consumed to provide the same level of IT service.
  • Read Green: This initiative has curtailed the practice of printing newsletters, memos and other communiqué that previously were shared with university staffers. As an alternative, this information is delivered to employees’ email inboxes. University officials quickly point to a rapid reduction in paper and ink usage because of the Read Green program. During the 2009-10 school year, for instance, more than 1.2 million pieces of printed bulk mail were produced; that number declined to just under 675,000 pieces in 2012-13.

How Green IT initiatives stack up in the corporate sector

As this article in Green Biz points out, a growing number of corporate entities are looking to add Green IT initiatives to their operations plans. A 2011 report on corporations’ views on IT insights and opportunities, relevant to changing policies and procedures for IT usage, revealed the issue was high on executives’ radar screens. More than 650 corporations in the United States, United Kingdom and Germany were surveyed for the report.

“Green IT is moving up the corporate agenda,” Green Biz’s Leslie Guevarra writes. “While Green IT initiatives typically are viewed as middle-range priorities for businesses, 37 percent of firms currently rate Green IT as ‘upper-half organizational priority.’ Only 9 percent ranked Green IT as highly in 2009. Looking ahead, 54 percent are expected to view Green IT as an upper-tier priority in 2013.”

Guevarra’s synthesis of the report findings is interesting. In a 4-year span of time, the number of companies that sought adding Green IT initiatives into their operations plans grew by 45 percent.

Other interesting tidbits, gleaned from the report and shared in the Green Biz article, include:

  • A growing number of companies are budgeting, outright, for Green IT initiatives. According to the report, one in five companies (as of 2011) had a dedicated budget devoted specifically to exploring and implementing these types of efforts. An additional 44 percent of respondents said they were interested in doing so.
  • An increasingly large number of companies are adopting campaigns that specifically address some form of Green IT. The most common form is energy conservation, and respondents frequently reported on efforts to engage employees in the practice.
  • Software is commonly being used as a mechanism toward monitoring and controlling energy within corporate buildings. As app-based Smartphone technology continues to evolve, a growing number of companies are instituting software that makes it possible to conserve energy from a remote location.

What the savings really mean

As I noted above, the Green IT movement is undeniably energy conscious, but it has sparkle to corporate executives because it yields financial savings, in the long run. The Green IT movement seemed to pick up steam during the cost-conscious Great Recession period in 2009 and in intervening years.

The number of options available to save money and be gentler on the planet really is staggering. “Smaller, more efficient computers and servers, cloud computing and even advancements in software can bring about significant budgetary and carbon footprint savings for businesses,” the authors of the website IT Business Edge write.

As with any policy, determining when and how to execute a Green IT initiative is an important part of realizing long-term savings. As the IT Business Edge folks note, there are a number of considerations that must be taken into account within a workspace. That list includes:

  • A consideration of what cooling systems exist
  • How much power usage is available for different devices
  • How much floor space is available
  • Power provisioning — in other words, a top-down analysis of how much computing equipment can be safely hosted at one site

Of course, it is important to note Green IT initiatives should not be done haphazardly. As technology continues to evolve, the data stored through computing devices has grown increasingly prevalent. Recent reports have revealed even cloud-based computing is not immune to hacks and other serious malfunctioning consequences that can lead to more than disruption. Careful research and insight from IT professionals has been viewed as the perfect antidote to such concerns.

The statistics do not lie: Corporations, organizations and governing entities are relying increasingly on Green IT strategies, and it truly is a win-win for all parties involved.