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Are UK IT departments double-counting their carbon footprints?


Research commissioned by Fujitsu Services indicates that 76% of IT managers believe they should still account for the carbon impact of the IT operations they have outsourced

6th August 2008 — Research undertaken among 100 chief information officers of UK companies employing more than 1000 people reveals that an overwhelming majority believe that the carbon footprint of outsourced IT operations should still count towards the overall footprint of their organisation.* However, Fujitsu Services, a major provider of IT outsourcing to public and private sector organisations who commissioned the research, believes that this could lead to an over-statement of total carbon emissions.

Fujitsu believes that many senior decision makers responsible for IT are in the dark as to the extent and responsibility for carbon emissions from IT operations. Whilst approximately three quarters (76%) feel that the emissions from outsourced IT operations should still count as part of their carbon footprint, almost a quarter (24%), believe the opposite and expect the contracting company to become responsible. Current advice on how and what to include in carbon footprint calculations can be confusing and this research suggests that many are erring on the side of caution, preferring to double-count rather than risk understating environmental impact.

“If outsourcers take on the carbon footprint of their customers we are presented with an interesting conundrum as a company,” commented Juliet Silvester, head of environmental programmes at Fujitsu Services. “Our carbon footprint will always grow as we grow. As we take on the IT operations of more customers so we add the carbon contribution of those operations to our own. However, because we run things more efficiently, the rise in our footprint should be less than the fall in theirs and overall emissions therefore reduced.”

With this in mind Fujitsu is keen to open an industry wide debate on this issue in a bid to gain consensus and agreement of a common set of principles governing who owns the carbon footprint of outsourced IT and in what circumstances. It is also working hard to deliver IT services with one of the lowest carbon footprints in the industry and to develop industry leading carbon accounting methodologies for its services and operations. These efforts will benefit the environment irrespective of who owns the carbon footprint.

The research also showed that significant numbers of IT departments are not yet even measuring the contribution of IT to their own organisation’s carbon footprint.

CIOs in the financial services sector were the most diligent with 68% claiming to measure the impact of their department in this way. However, only 36% of those in manufacturing and 32% of those in retail, distribution and transport measured the impact of IT on the organisation’s carbon footprint.

Fujitsu’s approach, based on lean management theories developed in Japan, seeks to drive out waste in all operations. This includes wasted time, resources and materials and extends to energy consumption. Fujitsu includes ‘green measures’ in its calculations of an organisation’s IT effectiveness. It then strives to deliver an enhanced service and to continuously improve all aspects of the operation of IT.

“Our approach leads to immediate and continuous reduction in environmental impact of an organisation’s IT estate,” added Silvester. “Our outsourcing services combine our lean thinking to drive continuous improvement and, with the benefits of scale and the latest technologies, we can make a significant reduction in overall carbon footprint.”

Recent Fujitsu customers have seen dramatic cuts in carbon emissions as a result of moving to more efficient and greener facilities owned and managed by Fujitsu. Projections for one customer, moving from its own data centre to a Fujitsu low-emissions data centre, show a fall in CO2 emissions from 710 to 556 tonnes per year – a notable 22% reduction.

*Research undertaken by Vanson Bourne in July 2008 among 100 CIOs of companies employing 1000 or more people in the UK.


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