While growing numbers of IT chiefs are taking the issue of global warming increasingly seriously, the majority of firms do not have a clearly defined energy strategy according to a major new study from global communications firm Hill & Knowlton.
The survey of 420 IT purchasers from large enterprises in the US, UK, Canada and China, found that 82 percent are now monitoring the issue of climate change closely, but almost two thirds have no defined energy strategy to help limit their carbon emissions and enhance their energy efficiency.
The report came days after a similar survey of over 120 IT professionals from analyst firm Forrester Research found that 75 percent had not yet written environmental criteria into their companies' IT procurement criteria.
Faced with this lack of leadership on environmental issues over three quarters of those surveyed by Hill & Knowlton believed there was the need for a board level Chief Energy Officer (CNO) with company-wide responsibility for managing, implementing and measuring the performance of environmental friendly and energy efficient technologies.
"We haven't seen a company appoint a CNO yet," admitted Joe Paluska, head of Hill & Knowlton's worldwide technology practice. "But currently there is a split between CSR [corporate and social responsibility], IT and facilities about who should be managing these initiatives and as a result all the responsibility is falling onto the desk of the CEO who has plenty of other things to worry about."
Paluska said that the lack of a board level exec with direct responsibility for energy was hampering firms' efforts to implement green technology initiatives. "We see firms where the CSR officer is in charge of the [green] projects, but the IT guys are responsible for IT and most of the energy efficiency measures, and yet the IT guys don't get to see the power bill because it goes to the facilities department," he observed.
He added that IT professionals with their understanding of technology and ability to manage both cost cutting and innovation-based projects could be well suited for the new CNO role. "The COO's focus is on efficiency and cost cutting, but green initiatives go beyond reducing costs and have a brand and innovation element," he observed. "In Silicon Valley we are already seeing this transition play out with a lot of IT execs turning to green technology start ups."
However, Gary Barnett of analysts Ovum argued that a separate CNO position would add an extra layer of corporate bureaucracy that would hamper IT chiefs' attempts to limit the environmental impact of their departments.
"There is no doubt environmental and energy issues are going to become more important for all executives," he said. "But the idea you need to create a whole new position to manage energy is ridiculous – it is reflective of faddism."
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