"Sustainability is about long-term survival, environmentally, socially and economically" (Doane, D & MacGillivray, A. 2001). Sustainability is an important option for many organisations to survive. It may not be the most important short-term strategy however; it is the key to long term staying power. According to Doane & MacGillivray (2001) organisations that are opting for the sustainability route are best positioned to survive. This essay will focus on economic and environmental sustainability of organisations in the context of how ICTs can help organisations become more sustainable. In addition it will examine the different examples of economic and environmental sustainability.
Economics sustainability is an important aspect to consider as it is about the efficient use of resources. The key objectives of sustainable development are to maintain high and stable levels of economic growth. In addition, sustainable development affects the quality of growth and the quantity (Fennel, S. 2001). Recently N. Clegg, Liberal Democrat, 4 Feb 2011 argues that "Growth was the slowest since any decade since the 1960's and over the past decade, business investment was grown by just one per cent in a year, a quarter of what it was in the 1990's" This is because labour economy was weak and this weakness was exposed when the economy went into recession. Previous government schemes were ineffective. Therefore, a new model of sustainable economic development has been created by Nick Clegg to help eliminate paying off the deficit as it will be the vital part of the plan for the growth of the economy. This will restore the confidence in Britain In order to create this stable macroeconomic environment. The private sector needs to plan and invest to "Get the basic right" for a growth strategy that will help the new model of economic growth and a new economy to build on enterprise and investment and not on unsustainable dept.
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Environmental sustainability is the long-term maintenance of ecosystem components and functions for future generations. According to IPTS the government has developed a strategy to help organisations become more environmentally sustainable by setting a target for the in-use of energy consumption. "ICTs to be carbon neutral by 2012 and its whole-life consumption by 2020", the key strategies to help organisations become more sustainable are by extending the lifetimes of all ICT purchases to their natural demise as opposed to frequent automatic replacement programmes. In addition, organisations should reduce the number of PC's and laptop that are being used. One laptop per person is more appropriate and organisations should implement active power management software to reduce the power consumption of the business. Lastly organisations should increase their average use of server utilisation to a minimum of 50% as part of a commitment to comply with the EU code of conduct for data centres. By 2020, the government has aimed to comply with global best practise for sustainability across the whole life cycle by adopting green standards and sharing best practice across public sector organisations, the impact on carbon emissions can be considered and negated before new ICT purchases are made for example green ICT products use less energy and subsequently cost less to run such examples like electric cars.
ICTs research has led to Electric Vehicles to be a future choice of buying cars. Electric vehicles have been on the roads for more than 150 years. In the 1830's Robert Anderson developed an early electrically powered cart. In 1899 Belgian Camille Jenatzy set a land speed record of more than 100kph in an electric car. Electric vehicles hold the promise, If these electric vehicles are adopted, it will drastically reduce the carbon emissions from surface transport and potentially it could therefore aid the UK in forming major planks for meeting the binding emission reduction target that was created in the 2008 Climate Change Act. It is likely that in the future the UK's energy system will almost certainly involve the electrification of a significant proportion of the transport system. The development of electric vehicles is likely to be a mixture of Plug in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV's) and Pure Electric Vehicles (EV's) on the road. (The Royal Academy of Engineering: Electric Vehicles, 2010)
Although EV's are environmentally sustainable as they hold a CO2 emissions advantage over internal combustion engine vehicles, their limited range and relatively long recharging times will mean that the convenience of refuelling at petrol station will favour Plug in Hybrid Electric Vehicles over the EV. In addition, the government needs to map out intentions for the funding of road networks in the medium term as tax revenues from conventional road fuels reduces. (The Royal Academy of Engineering: Electric Vehicles, 2010)
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In order for organisation to become environmentally friendly, the government recently is piloting a 'Green ICT scorecard' to benchmark organisational behaviour, policy, governance, procurements, energy efficiency, labelling and disposals. Several reports have pointed out that the use of ICT in larger organisations has effectively reduced the cost by far more than the ICTs contribution. The trade association for the UK technology industry has broken this down into three important key points. First one has been the enhancement of technologies that has made existing processes more efficient for example intelligent transport. Secondly the enabling of technologies that allow us to do things differently for example paperless offices which reduces expense costs for businesses and thirdly transforming technologies that lead to lower cost business models for example broadband. (JRC, DG. 2004).
In addition, the reason behind why businesses are opting to become more environmentally friendly is because of 3 key benefits. Direct cost savings is a major advantage for businesses because going green saves money for the organisation as less energy is likely to be used. According to a 2008 study 3M saved $82 million between 2001 and 2005 though energy reduction. Although there are cost reduction benefits for the organisation in becoming environmentally friendly, the cost that is incurred for applying and sticking to all these environmental standards are often ignored and is likely to be expensive for the business in the long run. Moreover, becoming green is attracting many customers and increasing customer loyalty. This is because customers are becoming more aware of how important the issue on environmental sustainability is becoming and therefore, they prefer to purchase products and services from green companies in order to reduce their carbon footprints. Moreover, there is an increase chance of profits and shareholder value, which comes from the continuous improvement of the reduction and reuse of materials and operating costs (Wills, 2009).
Green ICTs projects have stood up relatively well during the downturn because many of them promised and delivered short-term, low risk return on investment and made unpopular cost-cutting exercises. The environmental sustainability and green IT will not only outlast recession, they will take on more strategic importance. By 2014, enterprises at the top of the business food chain such as Ikea, Marks & Spencer and Tesco are making significant specific and targeted commitments to improve environmental performance and more they are putting pressure down the supply chain to do the same. In the IT industry such as BT, Cisco, HP and IBM are making public proclamations about the strategic importance of sustainability and the low-carbon economy to their business growth. The IT organisation need to start building carbon management processes and supporting system although prioritise will vary among industries for most. The common focus beyond carbon will be energy, water and waste. IT needs to start providing information systems and processes that monitor and manage those resources. The IT organisation needs to participate for the purposes of better demand management. However in many cases, they will need to contribute insight into how it's ability to dematerialize a process of product could improve its environmental performance (Mingay, S. 2009)
ICT is essential for the transition to sustainable development. The internet for example is ever-growing and giving consumers infinitely more option to find technological solutions. Many of the skills and expertise needed for managing dynamic network changes in telecoms, dealing with large amounts of data in real time and managing customer experience, are directly transferable to other sectors for example, applying the technologies and expertise developed in the telecommunication sector will make power grids more intelligent and efficient, reducing the total energy demands.
Over the past few years growing numbers of organisations have come to appreciate that the benefits of ICTs and economic sustainability have extended beyond environmental performance alone. The increasingly efficient use of energy boosts the bottom lines, minimizes strains on limited energy infrastructures and resources bases, and anticipates increasingly stringent environmental regulations. By focusing in a holistic way on organizational priorities that integrate the network, people, processes and knowledge, green initiatives can marry eco-sustainability with core operational and strategic objectives. Application such as tele-working and video conferencing where meetings take place but the need to travel is eliminated which is turn reduces the companies carbon emission and therefore decrease the companies cost on fuel. This potentially reduces the organisations energy requirements helping enterprises meet their environmental targets and contribute to improved efficiency and effectiveness. (D. Banister et al, 2007)
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Parliament Office of Science and Technology, 2008 argues that ICTs has a lot of potential for helping organisations in addition to other industry sectors in becoming more energy efficient and environmentally friendly, impacting on climate changes in addition to a wide range of interconnected issues that affect the environment, from biodiversity to unemployment. Although the energy use of ICT is increasing upon the corporate agenda, in certain areas, there is still much scope for improvement such as advertising as many companies have become concerned that manufacturers are using greenness as a sales tactic without the provision and evidence on how they are being green and what the benefits are from using their equipment. This has become known as 'Green Wash' (Parliament Office of Science and Technology, 2008). In addition, according to an economist's survey, 42% of executives said that their organisations do not monitor its ICT related energy spending. Therefore, to conclude, organisation should disclose on how and why they are green and be able to know the amount of ICT related energy consumption that is used within the organisation (Parliament Office of Science and Technology, 2008).
To conclude, Sustainable organisations are resilient, and they create economic values, healthy ecosystems and stronger communities. Overall, environmental sustainability is important to all organisations because it cuts down on costs and carbon emissions. Many organisations today are advertising themselves as being environmentally friendly to gain the benefits of customer loyalty and attraction, however, this is not the case as practices known as 'green-wash' is increasingly used by organisations where disclosure on how and why they are green is not evident.