The question of how much carbon dioxide a Google search produces hit the public’s radar in 2009. That’s when The Telegraph, a major U.K newspaper, reported that two Google searches generate 14g of CO2, about as much as boiling a tea kettle. Google, who I know firsthand does a tremendous job of driving efficiency in their datacenters, disputed the tea kettle analogy, insisting instead that a single search generates about 0.2g of carbon, and that a typical Google search user would produce about the same amount of CO2 as doing one extra load of laundry per year. Regardless of whose numbers you believe, today Google is processing 1.7 trillion queries per year and that’s a lot of CO2. Now multiply that by every IT organization on the planet, and you can get a sense of the scope of the problem.
That gets to the heart of an issue that’s important to CA Technologies: sustainability. And it’s important for more than just social or political reasons. That’s because sustainability drives innovation. As CA Technologies Chief Sustainability Officer, I’ve seen first-hand how finding greener ways to do things drives business efficiency in surprising new ways.
One lesson I’ve learned: you must be prepared to collaborate with everyone, from customers to competitors to employees, and structure the green innovation process to reward results. In fact, we started our sustainability efforts here at CA as a direct result of a customer request. Our Energy and Sustainability solutions resulted from listening to customers – not only in terms of what they expected from us (commitment to sustainability), but also in understanding their issues, and figuring out how we could help them deal with those requirements.
Another example: We’ve committed to making CA World 2013 100% carbon neutral, an industry first. As the largest global gathering of CA Technologies customers and partners, the event has a significant carbon footprint-as any large conference or trade show does. We want to demonstrate our commitment and lead by example, so we’ve partnered with CarbonFund to do this in a sustainable, visible way. We’ve sponsored two CarbonFund projects that will offset emissions associated with CA World 2013. One is a landfill methane gas-to-energy project in New York State and the other is a rainforest project in the Brazilian Amazon. This commitment means everyone at the conference will be exchanging ideas and sharing strategies in a sustainably responsible way.
Our effort at CA World is just one part of a much larger commitment to “greenovation.” For example, at our offices in Hyderabad, India, we serve meals in the cafeteria buffet-style, and compost the waste in a worm farm that we own. One day an employee suggested we minimize the waste that went into the compost pile to begin with. On their own initiative, employees started regularly weighing the food and publically posting how much food was wasted. Food waste was slashed 75 percent in just two weeks and now we leverage the same technique to reduce paper and water consumption.
It’s one thing to promote sustainability for public relations benefits. It’s another thing entirely to see sustainability as one of the catalysts for business model innovation. Every day we see sound business benefits as the return on our sustainability investment. We’re not alone. A recent study by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy found that ICT (Information Communications Technology applications) could reduce energy use from 12 to 22 percent, while reaping billions in savings and productivity gains.
As the demand for computing power increases so too will IT’s adverse impact on the environment-unless responsible IT leaders step in and innovate new and better ways to deliver these services in more sustainable ways. IT has always been a change agent. And a growing number of organizations are seizing the opportunity to be change agents for efficiency gains and energy utilization.
For more details on this, listen to my Innovation Today podcast.