Sustainability

Prior to covid-19 I attended a CIO event, where presenter after presenter talked about how their organisation was now looking at sustainability and how to be more environmentally concious.   Up until this point, when I considered sustainability in relation to IT my thinking was focussed on the financial and resources implications of IT.    If we purchase a particular service or equipment, will we be able to continue to support it in terms of ongoing replacement, licensing, and also other support costs into the future?   If the answer is yes, then it is a sustainable solution and therefore one we can move forward with.

Having attended the CIO event, I am now thinking a little bit differently.   I am now thinking about the environmental implications of procurement, of continued use and of disposal or recycling.

Procurement

When purchasing IT equipment or services we need to start thinking more about the implications of our decisions on the environment.    If it is hardware, we are looking at we need to consider how the product is created, whether recyclable materials are used, how the product is delivered and the resultant fuel requirements, plus also the packaging which may be used.    We need to start asking our suppliers to prove they are environmentally concious.

In relation to online services, we need to start considering the power implications of running servers and the associated cooling of such servers.   Are online service companies acting responsibly and carbon offsetting for example?

Continued use

The environmental implications of how a service or company operates have recently been highlighted to me in two companies which choose to send me significant piles of invoice documentation in the post.   I found myself wondering about the cost to the environment of the paper used, the ink, the process of printing and then of transporting the documents to me via conventional post.    It struck me that both companies clearly were not very concious of the environmental impact of their decision to post me stacks of invoices rather than providing these documents online.

I have since challenged both companies to re-think their processes, which I hope is something they have taken on board.   I think we all need to do more to challenge where processes have not been designed with minimising their environmental impact in mind.

Disposal

Disposal is a relatively obvious part of the product lifecycle and one we should generally already have in mind.   We need to ensure that equipment which reaches the end of its useful life with us, either can be moved on to be reused or can be, as much as is possible, recycled.

Conclusion

I will admit to not previously giving the environmental impact of my decisions enough consideration.   It may have been that my assumption was that each company should be doing this however now I have come to realise that it is for each of use to challenge the companies we work with, the third party suppliers and services, to ensure that together we are environmentally concious.   Going forward I am therefore going to develop a framework for challenging my third parties in relation to environmental consciousness plus will also be conducting a review of our own practices.

It is for all of us to develop our environmental consciousness with a view to ensuring the sustainability of the planet which supports our lives.

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Author: garyhenderson2014

Gary Henderson is currently the Director of IT in an Independent school in the UK. Prior to this he worked as the Head of Learning Technologies working with public and private schools across the Middle East. This includes leading the planning and development of IT within a number of new schools opening in the UAE. As a trained teacher with over 15 years working in education his experience includes UK state secondary schools, further education and higher education, as well as experience of various international schools teaching various curricula. This has led him to present at a number of educational conferences in the UK and Middle East.

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