Green Information Systems for Sustainability

Green Information Systems for Sustainability

Mahesh S. Raisinghani (TWU School of Management, USA) and Efosa Carroll Idemudia (Arkansas Tech University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9723-2.ch011
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Abstract

Green Information Systems (IS) refers to the use of IS to achieve environmental objectives, whereas green Information Technology (IT) refers to the practice and study of using IT and computer resources in a more environmentally responsible and effective manner (Dedrick, 2010). Information Systems, computers and computing in general consume an immense amount of natural resources, the energy used to power them, and the problems that arise in the disposing of obsolete hardware. Mark O'Neill, the author of Green IT for Sustainable Business Practice defines green IT as, “a collection of strategic and tactical initiatives that directly reduces the carbon footprint of an organization's computing operation” (O'Neill, 2010). Issues of sustainability have started to become a significant topic of discussion in the information systems community. IT practitioners are focused more now than ever on reducing the direct impact that IT use has on the environment (Dedrick, 2010).
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Impact Of Green Information Systems

Information Systems (IS) and Information Technology (IT) have changed societal behaviors drastically in the last few decades and, as such, have the conceivable backing to shift to a more sustainable society. “The role and contribution of IS to eco-sustainability has become the concern of many IS researchers” (Ijab & Molla, 2011). IS communities around the globe have begun to look seriously at the role IT can play in both creating and reducing environmental impacts. Much of the dialogue is focused on lessening the direct environmental impacts of Information Technology by making IT equipment more energy efficient (Dedrick, 2010). “These efforts can directly reduce IT costs, so there is a strong incentive for organizations to adopt them. Evidence from surveys confirms that IS organizations are responding to these incentives by adopting green practices” (Dedrick, 2010). Many businesses are focused on implementing green business models. They have learned that implementing green IT solutions not only aid in meeting shareholder expectations but help to improve their organizations’ corporate image, all while offering cost saving benefits.

By adopting initiatives that have a positive effect on the environment, they save money, and at the same time, use technology more efficiently. Great opportunities lie in the IT department, where reducing the environmental footprint of technology is now top of mind for many IT leaders. (“Green IT: Why”)

While cost cutting is the largest impact and factor of implementing green IS practices in an organization, environmental stewardship follows closely behind. Many companies are adopting the mindset of introducing green Information Systems because “it is the right thing to do”. The Vice President of Information Technology at a large international investment firm demonstrated this outlook when he said, “Cost cutting is important to every organization, let’s be real, but [our] philosophy as an organization is that we live in this world and we want to be good neighbors. With our new investments, we are doing both” (“Green IT: Why,”).

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Use Of Green Information Systems

Over the recent decades, there has been a rising concern and various studies in the different ways that information systems have an impact on sustainability through the uses of various energy sources, types of transportation, ways of building and manufacturing for the current society.

  • Advanced wind turbines are being transformed with various forms of sensors and controllers that enable the turbines to operate efficiently and safely in various wind speeds and weather conditions.

  • A type of smart grid technology is being developed to allocate more energy more efficiently and effectively.

  • Smart buildings use various sensors to adjust the surroundings from a distance such as temperature controls.

  • Smart meters allow users to make changes to use of energy at various times.

  • Having a smart car can improve air emissions as well as reducing the time and energy that is wasted in traffic jams.

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Effects Of Green Information Systems

Taking a longer term, more dynamic view, researchers have framed the impacts of technology on the environment as primary, secondary and tertiary order effects.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Business Intelligence: Business intelligence is the foundation for a green information system network that supports an organization’s ability to manage, communicate and develop its intangible assets sustainably. As interactions with other developed countries intensifies, so does the need to share information and knowledge. These intangible assets serve as a new commodity for business intelligence.

Environmental Objectives: Green information technologies and systems refer to initiatives, policies, rules, guidelines, and programs that directly or indirectly address environmental sustainability so as to achieve environmental objectives.

Techniques for Sustainability: Over the recent decades, there has been a rising concern and various studies in the different ways that information systems have an impact on sustainability through various techniques such as the uses of various energy sources, types of transportation, ways of building and manufacturing for the current society. From a sustainability point of view, IS facilitates the companies to use various techniques to capture, monitor, utilize and standardize data that aid power efficiencies. Companies are decreasing energy and improving supply chain efficiency by decreasing printed items and having them available online.

Eco-Sustainability: Evidence supports the need for manufacturers to develop green information system capabilities to improve environmental and operational performance and their results support the proposition that green information systems are necessary to achieve environmental and economic sustainability.

Environmental Issues: Concentrating on sustainability and environmental issues entails various viewpoints that are entwined with the universal financial system and with nature. The theory of sustainability involves a universal agreement with its sustaining natural environment which will produce a healthier atmosphere, one that is dense with information.

Environmental Sustainability: There is also a growing awareness that Green IS is not only a contributor, but perhaps will be a key facilitator for sustainable strategies. As the interest for environmental strategies unfolds, so does the understanding for how Green IS will be part of the solution. Its relevance and ever increasing employment only broadens the context of environmental sustainability.

Green IT: Refers to the practice and study of using IT and computer resources in a more environmentally responsible and effective manner ( Dedrick, 2010 ).

EPA: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finds that enhancing green supply chain management processes will reduce waste, decrease operating costs, lower training needs, increase revenues and lower the use of hazardous waste materials. The EPA’s guidebook on improving environmental performance suggests that by synthesizing best management practices, some leading U.S. companies “have saved millions of dollars while reducing or eliminating significant impacts” (The Lean and Green, 2000 AU75: The in-text citation "The Lean and Green, 2000" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. ).

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