Green IT Strategies: A Conceptual Framework for the Alignment of Information Technology and Corporate Sustainability Strategy

Green IT Strategies: A Conceptual Framework for the Alignment of Information Technology and Corporate Sustainability Strategy

F. Loeser (Berlin Institute of Technology and Management, Technical University Berlin, Germany), K. Erek (Berlin Institute of Technology and Management, Technical University Berlin, Germany) and R. Zarnekow (Berlin Institute of Technology and Management, Technical University Berlin, Germany)
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 38
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-1972-2.ch004
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Abstract

This chapter clarifies the linkages of strategy types and levels that relate to Green IT: business, sustainability, and IT strategy. The significance of aligning IT with business and environmental strategies is pointed out. It is emphasized that trade-off decisions are inherent to strategic management and essential for competitive positioning. Following this, a choice-based conceptual framework for the strategic alignment of Green IT is presented. The underlying strategy framework consists of three different strategy levels (corporate, competitive, functional) and domains (business, IT, sustainability). The conceptualized framework facilitates a holistic Green IT alignment with the aid of a five-step process. In the scope of this alignment process, four different Green IT strategies are presented. These strategies are subdivided along two dimensions: competitive advantage and focus. This research is supposed to provide new insights concerning the strategic impact of Green IT and to assist practitioners in identifying the Green IT strategy that corresponds most appropriately to their firm-specific context.
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What Is Green It?

At first it can be stated that Green IT describes the management of IT systems and processes under consideration of environmental factors. Until now, Green IT is neither a well-defined concept nor does Green IT describe a specified set of practices and measures. The term Green IT has become the latest buzzword in IT management although a common understanding of the coverage and scope is still missing in research and practice (Velte, Velte & Elsenpeter, 2008). The concept of greening focused environmental initiatives and differs from the term sustainability due to the fact that corporate sustainability is more far-reaching and refers to business practices that take into account economic, ecological and social aspects. According to this, the corporate greening process can be understood as a first step towards the superior goal of sustainability (Molla, 2009). The concept of Green IT covers the emission reductions related to the IT infrastructure (sometimes denominated as Green in IT) as well as emission reductions induced by IT-based modifications of production and business processes (sometimes labeled as Green through IT or Green Business).

We define Green IT as follows:

Green IT is the systematic application of practices that enable the minimization of the environmental impact of IT and allow for company-wide emission reductions based on technological innovations.

Mingay and Maio (2007) differentiate between three degrees of ecological impact of information technology: the direct impact of IT, the production impact, and the consumption impact. The distribution of IT’s environmental impact with reference to these three degrees heavily depends on the industry, as illustrated in Figure 1, and thus the applicability and effectiveness of Green IT measures must be analyzed in the firm specific context. Investments should be made especially in those areas where Green IT has the greatest leverage to reduce environmental impact.

Figure 1.

Three degrees of environmental impact by industry sector (Mingay and Maio, 2007)

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