IT industry failing to meet low carbon challenge

Few companies embracing the environmental agenda internally or developing innovative products

The IT industry has been surprisingly slow to embrace the low carbon economy, despite the great opportunities it offers businesses.

Gartner and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) invited 24 global ICT providers to participate in a study of the environmental practices in their businesses. These included reducing energy use, improving recycling practices and educating employees.

Of those that did participate, Fujitsu, BT, HP and IBM did well in virtually every category. All 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.

The IT industry is itself responsible for two per cent of global carbon emissions, according to Gartner. But companies that look beyond getting their own house in order will really benefit, said Simon Mingay, research vice president at Gartner.

"Those that look at tackling the wider 98 per cent will drive real innovation," he said.

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.

Nokia, Ericsson, Nortel, Cisco, SAP, Wipro and Google lacked any greenhouse gas reduction targets at all, which are seen as key to driving policy.

The study particularly found that Google has some room for improvement on basic environmental practices and lacked any kind of environmental policy, while Nortel and Cisco had bland and uncommitted policies.

While no companies were accused directly of greenwashing, the report noted that Cisco and Dell have a tendency toward more talking than action on their respective internal climate programmes.

The Gartner/WWF study is an attempt to provide some reliable green metrics for the IT industry and will be repeated again next year.

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 transparency.

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