Green and lean
Eco-sustainability presents an opportunity for the communications industry to expand its relationship with enterprise customers. Executives are turning increasingly to the expertise offered by communications service providers to develop strategies that not only leverage alternative energy sources, but also to re-think processes and procedures that maximize the capabilities of new technologies.
Beyond simply deploying networks and provisioning services, we have learned that the key to growth in a new eco-sensitive economy is to help organizations re-architect their businesses to be both green and lean. To meet this demand for network capacity and eco-sustainable business expertise, Orange Business Services has:
- Developed a consultative approach to engage with customers at the strategic planning level
- Drawn from our own experience in internal eco-sustainability initiatives to provide our business customers with practical and proven strategies to help achieve their eco-sustainable objectives
While eco-sustainability today is still seen as a “soft” issue related to public sensitivities about things like climate change and pollution, the fact remains that there is more to a green IT strategy than simply complying with a growing array of regulations. As the cost of energy rises, the business case for more efficient use of energy resources will take on greater importance.
For many categories of industry — including healthcare, financial services, legal and other non-manufacturing or logistics sectors — enterprise networks and computing devices represent the biggest sources of energy consumption and cost. We estimate that, as a whole, the IT and telecom industry can help organizations worldwide reduce global carbon emissions by as much as 20% by simply introducing new, more efficient technologies and enabling more effective and energy-efficient business processes. Eco-conscious partners such as Alcatel-Lucent that introduce alternative energy strategies and innovative technologies are helping to reduce global carbon emissions. In addition, at Orange, we are taking tangible steps to be an organization that brings about savings and operational efficiencies.
Inefficient use of energy is among the most significant contributors to an organization’s carbon footprint. A large carbon footprint has a direct negative impact on profit margins. A reduction in the CO2 footprint can represent significant savings in energy costs for organizations that master the techniques and technologies that enable more efficient business processes.
Practicing what we preach
In 2009, Orange was recognized as Europe’s market leader in the sustainable telecom market by Verdantix, an independent analyst firm that provides commercial analysis of climate change, sustainability and energy issues. Orange specifically was recognized for its commitment to investing in sustainability solutions, proven customer successes and sustainability-focused extensions to existing solutions.
One of the most important findings of the Verdantix study was that Orange’s internal sustainability performance satisfied our customers’ environmental procurement criteria, which is now a standard requirement across the market. This is critical because it shows how telecom providers can leverage their internal efforts to streamline processes and improve energy efficiencies while providing a “living lab.” This not only proves key concepts, but also elevates the credibility of the recommendations that we make to our key institutional customers.
Orange Business Services has demonstrated how a variety of initiatives have reduced our own emissions and electricity costs. For example, in 2006 we launched a project to consolidate our data centers by virtualizing over 8,000 servers and consolidating the hardware infrastructure by approximately 70%. This had a dramatic impact on our energy consumption. To date we have saved 20 gigawatt-hours as a result of this project alone.
Orange has also made great strides in developing technologies and techniques to address the costs associated with cooling data centers. We have determined that a mix of considerations during the strategic planning process about what to do, how to do it, and where to do it can pay significant dividends. For example, our decision to develop a data center cooling strategy that revolved around circulating the fresh air from the outside — rather than creating cool air on the inside — drove decisions about selecting locations for our key data centers. We sought out facilities in places where the temperatures were, on average, lower than in other regions.
The consultative principles of success
While we have realized significant and tangible benefits from these projects, Orange Business Services has also been able to engage with our enterprise customers on eco-sustainable business development from a thought leadership position. Along the way, we have identified some of the critical pre-conditions that must be in place to ensure the practical success of green IT and other eco-sustainable business strategies. These include:
A practical and profit-focused approach to green IT.
Every project attributable to eco-sustainable strategies must contribute to specific and tangible business objectives. These should include things like expanded market share objectives, broader profit margins, and the launch of new lines of business. Without this focus and orientation, eco-sustainability initiatives will fail to create the desired impact.
Disciplined financial justification expectations.
Each specific green IT project should be held to the same return-on-investment (ROI) standards that any other technology initiative must meet. The most successful eco-sustainable projects pay for themselves as they go along. They are not seen as a diversion of resources from other more pertinent projects.
A direct line to CO2 reduction.
Most of the emerging regulations in Europe, North America and beyond are using CO2 emissions as the key metric that must be managed. Since this is also an accurate indication of energy consumption, a reduction in CO2 translates into savings in energy costs, while addressing regulatory requirements. Each green IT project should therefore map to this metric.
Strategic executive sponsorship.
This is, of course, a critical success factor. Many organizations place responsibility for green practices with executives in the general services department or in the human resources department. However, our experience proved that once we moved the responsibility to the CxO level, we were able to integrate eco-sustainable considerations into our technology and process planning stages, and achieve the hard and practical benefits from green IT that we were seeking. We have seen this to be the case in other organizations as well.
Delivering eco-sustainable strategies
We have developed a strategic approach to eco-sustainability that is rooted in our own experience as well as the growing number of successful engagements with organizations in many different industry sectors. We have learned that the key to success with green IT is to look beyond technology. Orange uses technology as the starting point for re-structuring business processes to achieve lower costs and greater operational efficiencies. Here are some examples of how we are helping organizations today:
- Harness the power of machine-to-machine solutions to help logistics companies develop new, more efficient ways to direct and route trucks, ships and trains through more effective fleet management
- Tap mobility technologies to enable flexible workforce practices that reduce the need for people to come into specific offices every day, without losing the ability to effectively manage staff or jeopardize productivity
- Leverage high-bandwidth networking technology to enable tele-health practices in hospitals and clinics. This expands the number of patients that can be served with high-quality care while reducing the amount of travel for both healthcare providers and patients.
- Collaboration solutions, including video conferencing and audio conferencing
At Orange we believe the bonding of cutting edge communication technologies to the best eco-sustainable business process methodologies will produce results that elevate green IT initiatives to a new level of importance with the enterprise community. Working together with companies like Alcatel-Lucent allows us to leverage leading eco-sustainable solutions and deepen the relationships that we, as a communication service provider, have with our customers.
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