Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Results of Green ICT Policy Survey

Last October a Ph.D researcher, Ian St.John from University College Plymouth St. Mark & St. John circulated a survey to UK FHE IT, Environmental and Energy managers. The aim of the survey was to establish which HEI/FEI institutions had a Green ICT/Sustainability policy in place and what their reasons for doing so were. The results of the survey would also aid University College Plymouth St. Mark & St. John in the creation of their own Green ICT Policy.

The questionnaire was quite short but enabled the researcher to discover what the community as a whole perceived as being important factors to consider when formulating their own Green ICT Policy. Even though only 28 people participated in the survey and not all participants completed it, the results proved useful.

Results of the survey indicated that 68% of institutions have a Green ICT/Sustainability Policy while the remaining 32% did not.

Of the institutions that stated they had a Green ICT Policy, they indicated an improvement of green credentials (23.8%) as being the main driver for creating such a policy, followed by carbon reduction (19%) and social reputation as being in joint second place (19%). Cost Savings was in third place (14.3%) but ironically, cost cutting due to the economic down turn was not cited as being a reason for any of the institutions (0%).

Institutions also stated that improvement of efficiency (9.5%), political pressure (9.5%) and legislation (4.8%) as being reasons for implementing such a policy.

However, regardless of institutions having a green ICT policy or not, results of the survey indicated that the use sustainable ICT equipment was prevalent. Results from the survey’s Q.5, regarding the use of green ICT are listed in Table 1.

Table 1. Percentage Use of Sustainable ICT Equipment
 Green ICT Initiative
% Use by UK HEI/FEI institutions
Server Virtualization
Multi Functional Printing Devices
Active Power Management
Server Power Management
Virtual Desktops
Thin Clients
Renewable Power
Green Disposal Policy
Flexible Working Policy

Almost 20% of the institutions stated that they had been recognised for a Green ICT award of sorts, the remainder having not, (so far). 53% of institutions employ staff that are dedicated to environmental impacts and performance, the remaining 46% do not. This is a real concern for institutions wishing to reach their carbon targets and indeed for the overall sector.
How are carbon emissions to be, firstly established and secondly monitored and improved on if almost half of institutions do not have a staff member accounting for environmental performance.    

These results are not unlike the results of a procurement survey for ICT Managers carried out on behalf of the SPCE Green ICT Advisory Committee in February 2011.  Results of that survey indicated that ICT managers showed a strong concern for the environment and a willingness to participate in environmental matters. Results also indicated there was a good overall ICT presence in environmental /sustainable committees with a strong indication that environmental issues are a concern for ICT managers.

However, results also indicated scope for improvement as many ICT managers were unaware of key sustainable ICT issues such as e-Waste, the use of whole life costing tools when procuring for ICT equipment and disposing of ICT equipment packaging.

To summarise, it appears as though institutions are, for the most part, aware of the benefits of utilisation of Green ICT and are demonstrating best practice, even if no corresponding policy is in place. The scope for  improvement will remain and possibly grow larger as not only is technology continually advancing but many institutions unfortunately still lack such a policy, have not assigned staff to take responsibility for sustainable ICT issues and poor cross-departmental collaborative thinking still exists.

Nevertheless, such problems are easily remedied by strong leadership, proactive staff and engagement with other institutions that face similar hurdles. Following the progress of the JISC funded SUSTE-TECH project may offer a remedy to those problems and offer practical solutions to institutions Green ICT dilemmas, regardless of size or status. The same can also be said for each of the 34 Greening of ICT projects. There is an abundance of JISC funded projects currently being run that address the many ICT issues that plague FHE institutions. In fact many have finished and their results have proven very useful. Check them out on http://www.jisc.ac.uk/whatwedo/programmes/greeningict.aspx


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