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Wednesday, 06 April 2011 10:04

Black mark for banks' green IT


Australia's banks have scored a black mark for their progress on green IT initiatives from an international survey of financial sector sustainability measure potentially placing them at a competitive disadvantage compared to their greener international peers.

Australian banks have gone for the quick wins - turning PCs off at night for example - but they are well behind their peers in the UK and US in terms of a comprehensive approach to green IT.

Fujitsu today released the findings of its Green IT Financial Services Industry Benchmark which found that while Australia's financial services organisations were now on a par with other Australian industry sectors in terms of their move to sustainable computing practices, they were lagging the progress made in the US and UK. In the four country survey only India fared worse.

According to the report which was conducted in association with Connection Research although the big banks have performed better than smaller financial sector players; 'The results indicate that in many cases Australian financial institutions have undertaken 'quick wins' at the end user level, such as turning PCs off at night,' which, while important, represented only a sliver of the total savings available.

It noted that; 'Whilst Australia has an advanced financial services industry that is a sophisticated user of IT, this does not extend to green IT. Australian financial institutions are generally below organisations in other industries when it comes to implementing green IT techniques and technologies.'

Banks have lifted their game somewhat however. Analysis of the sector by Connection Research 18 months ago had the banks at the bottom of the green IT ladder, and well behind other Australian industry sectors.

Alison Rowe, global sustainability executive director for Fujitsu said that banks weren't yet 'moving to the harder challenges' and so were 'leaving a lot of cost savings and emissions savings on the table.'

How much do the banks pay for power? read on

She estimated that as much as 80 percent of a bank's electricity bill could be attributed to the costs of running IT, and that there were substantial savings to be had. Ms Rowe said that in the UK there was tighter regulation and a price on carbon which was forcing banks to act, while in the US the impact of the GFC forced financial sector operators to seek savings wherever they could.

Ms Rowe said that the advent of a carbon tax in Australia could act as a spur to the financial sector to improve its green IT credentials, although she added that it was essential that the carbon tax amount was known and clearly telegraphed in order to organisations to create workable business plans.

The research methodology developed by Connection Research in association with RMIT measures green IT performance by tracking five variables. These are: how companies manage their IT lifecycle (procurement and disposal; end user efficiencies; enterprise and data centre efficiencies; use of IT to reduce carbon emissions more broadly across the organisation; and measurement and monitoring of environmental issues.

Using this approach the four countries' financial services sectors were ranked UK first with a score of 63.8, US at 60.3, Australia at 53.9 and India at 51.1. Compared to other sectors the four countries' combined financial services sector performed just above the average, scoring 57.3 against the top rated ICT sector at 62.6.

According to Fujitsu companies should be striving to achieve ratings of 70-80.

The report warns that banks which fail to make progress on green IT will place themselves at a disadvantage given that; 'Green IT, in all its forms, is becoming more important for all organisations. It is not a luxury but a key cost saving activity. Strategically adopting green IT results in energy-efficient IT, at a time when the cost of electricity is rising; as is its visibility as a significant component of the IT operational budget.'

How is Bankwest saving money? read on

The report contains a case study featuring Commonwealth Bank subsidiary Bankwest, which late last year signed up as the anchor tenant for Fujitsu's new data centre in Western Australia. That case study suggests Bankwest will save about 20 per cent of operational data centre costs by outsourcing its data centre given the sustainable design of the Fujitsu data centre which features a hybrid cooling system to save energy although it is as yet not using power co-generation.

Organisations using the Fujitsu centre will be provided with a detailed report of their power and cooling consumption in the data centre to allow them to comply with the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting (NGERs) Act 2007.

Fujitsu has stated that it aims to save its customers over a 250,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions by 2012 via its outsourced data centre operations.

Ms Rowe said that Fujitsu planned to conduct another cross sector green IT survey in September when it would also add Canada and New Zealand into the mix.

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