Going “green,” as a concept, continues to gain traction in both popular and corporate cultures. The savings from green initiatives, both to companies, the Earth and employees’ peace of mind, can be significant. To this end, Redemtech, a provider of technology change management and IT asset disposition services (ITAD), released the initial results of its “Sustainable Computing Assessment.” According to the study, companies haven’t made much headway making corporate IT programs more sustainable.

Redemtech's "Sustainable Computing Assessment" benchmarks organizations from a range of industries, including insurance, against sustainable best practices in five key areas: productivity, reuse, accountability, energy and environmental social responsibility. A score of 75% or better in each category indicates a mature green IT program. However, the assessment’s scores averaged from 32% to 37%, with the highest scores coming in the area of energy efficiency.

The study reveals that most companies lack holistic policies for promoting all four cornerstones of sustainable computing: extended lifecycles, energy efficiency, utilization and reuse and responsible recycling. Even companies with coherent policies lack the governance needed to ensure that operations are aligned with the sustainability priorities of the business, the assessment finds.

"In this climate, green IT has to be about more than presenting a nice picture to the market or senior management," says Robert Houghton, president of Redemtech. “It has to be sustainable both environmentally and financially. That requires applying the same processes and discipline to these programs as are used in other areas of the business."

An average score of 34% on reuse shows that many companies can save money and protect the environment by extending equipment lifecycles. According to the assessment, the average lifecycle for desktop computers is 37.2 months. However, Redemtech analysis reveals that moving from a three-year to a four-year lifecycle generates savings of approximately $325 for every $1,000 in original cost. When lifecycles are extended to 4.5 years, the savings increase to nearly $500.

Compounding the cost savings benefits of reuse are the environmental benefits. Reusing 1,000 unused computers creates a carbon offset equivalent to the energy required to power 681 homes for a year, according to the U.S. EPA's Environmental Benefits Calculator.

Other key findings of the Redemtech study include:

• Companies with more than 100,000 employees tended to score the highest, with average results in the 40% range for the five categories. Companies with less than 500 employees scored lowest.

• Larger companies were more likely to have policies on environmentally responsible disposition that prohibit practices such as incineration and exporting e-waste. However, overall few organizations have written policies on this issue.

• Equally important, few companies have audit systems in place to prevent continued overseas dumping of e-waste. A 2008 report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) discovered 43 recyclers in direct violation of the limited regulations that prohibit export of computer monitors.

• Financial services, insurance and banking companies scored the highest, ahead of firms in the education, retail/wholesale and business services/consulting sectors.

• Low accountability scores indicate that few organizations have established metrics that enable sustainable computing initiatives to be measured and optimized. Scores were especially low among companies with fewer than 10,000 employees.

Based on the survey results, Redemtech has outlined the five steps organizations can take to make green IT programs more sustainable:

1. Establish a baseline, then set quantitative sustainability targets: Redemtech's “Sustainable Computing Assessment” is a free online tool that enables organizations of all sizes to measure their programs against industry best practices. In addition to providing a score in each area, the “Sustainable Computing Assessment” provides specific recommendations for increasing sustainability.

2. Review and revise policies to produce desired outcomes: Sound policies create the foundation for sustainable computing, and communicate executive-level support. Policies are the basis for standardized operational procedures and consistent execution.

3. Extend desktop and laptop lifecycles: While it may be an economic necessity today, creating the systems and relationships required to support longer lifecycles will deliver long-term improvements in IT financial and environmental performance.

4. Optimize utilization: Organizational dynamics often lead to idle technology, which is not easily visible or available for reuse. Maintaining a proper inventory of surplus systems can reduce procurement costs and increase agility, but maintaining too large of an inventory means assets are sitting idle for extended periods losing value. Finding the right inventory levels is essential to increasing utilization.

5. Create accountability through good governance: Without metrics there is no way to measure performance and thus no way to optimize programs, quantify benefits or recognize personnel for their performance in this area.

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