This morning I was reading an email sent by my colleague Richard Harris with a couple of press highlights about Green IT in the Australian Government, and at the same time I was listening to the news highlighting that the Democratic presidential candidate believes millions of jobs can be created in the environmental industry.
This made me think about whether and how the current economic woes will impact the environmental sustainability objectives that many governments have set for their jurisdictions and their own organizations. When people fight for their jobs and enterprises fight for survival, government priorities unavoidably shift toward welfare and relief to companies in distress. Indeed the “green industry” has a potential, but that potential is connected to the willingness of enterprises and individuals to invest in environmental sustainability. Alternative energy sources, hybrid vehicles, lifecycle energy considerations in procurement, green buildings: none of these come for free and, while their longer term benefits are clear, what is less clear is whether companies and government can afford them in these difficult times.
It is very likely that governments will focus their green initiatives on those aspects that grant immediate savings in terms of energy cost, but may be less willing to impose stricter “green” requirements (e.g. in terms of energy lifecycle cost, waste reduction as well as environmental sustainability of their suppliers) in their procurement processes, since this would put additional pressures on suppliers that are already struggling. Also funds available for investments in green technology research, development and deployment could be partially diverted toward measures needed to sustain industry sectors at risk.
A few months ago, a CIO in large municipal organization told me that “there is nothing greener than the dollar” to stress that their green IT commitment was tightly connected to energy cost savings, but there was little interest for investing in green IT for purely environmental purposes. What she said is going to be true for many organizations.
At our upcoming symposium in Orlando we will run a panel with this very title: I hope some of you will be able to join us.