In Sustainability, Britannia Rules

Three Reasons Why the UK is Leading the Charge of IT for Green

I was in London last week, delivering the opening keynote at the Green IT Expo conference. I had previously spoken at this event back in 2008, and it was nice to see a bigger crowd of perhaps 400-500 delegates, a lively hall full of vendor exhibitors, and a larger and plusher venue (the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in the shadow of Big Ben). In my estimation, the U.K. continues to be the country at the leading edge of innovation and implementation of IT for Sustainability. Why there? At least three factors:

1. Public awareness of climate change. Unlike here at home, there is little debate in the U.K. about the reality of climate change and the need for urgent action to monitor and reduce carbon emissions to slow its effects.

2. Government mandates for carbon reporting and reduction (the Carbon Reduction Commitment or CRC). The public awareness is reflected in governmental policy. Despite the reporting and reduction requirements of the CRC being pushed out in time, the U.K. still has the most teeth of any country or region in its mandate for companies to monitor, report, and reduce (or pay taxes on) their carbon emissions.

3. Leading companies' efforts to improve their sustainability posture. Whether it's Astra-Zeneca in pharma, Tesco and Marks & Spencer in retailing, BA in transportation, or the U.K. Ministry of Defence in the public sector, leading U.K. institutions are making the commitments and investments to transform their business processes in a more sustainable direction.

One of the interesting outcomes of British business and government's leadership on climate change policies has been to make the U.K. the center of gravity for IT industry innovation in sustainability.

Global IT suppliers and consultants have initiated and continue to headquarter their sustainability practices in the U.K., including Deloitte, IBM, Atos Origin, and Pricewaterhouse Coopers. Siemens IT Solutions and Services (SIS) and CA chose the Green IT Expo as the venue to announce their new U.K.-centered joint venture, bringing together CA's ecoSoftware suite with SIS's sustainability consulting and integration practice.

CA + SIS is the latest vendor combination of software and services in the enterprise carbon and energy management (ECEM) market, a trend Forrester expects to continue gathering steam through 2011.

My keynote address at the Expo was focused on a topic I have written about in this column before: the important role that IT leaders can and should play in not only greening their own infrastructure and processes, but in enabling corporate-wide sustainability policies and initiatives. You can access the presentation and other content from the conference at the Green IT Expo's online hub.

As always, I welcome your comments and feedback; what regions do you see leading the innovation charge in greener computing? Let me know in the comments below.