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Green Business

Dan Swinhoe (Asia) - Green IT in Asia

Though the rumour that every Google search is the equivalent to boiling a kettle turned out to be false very quickly, it's still alarming that the internet emits 830 million tonnes of CO2 annually, making global computing as polluting as the aviation sector.

Last week we looked at the world of Green IT on either side of the Atlantic. This week's post casts its gaze east, into Asia.
According to Greenpeace, Indian electronics company Wipro is the greenest electronics company in the world. Its placing ahead of US and European giants such as HP, Nokia, Dell, and Apple should be seen as a real coup, while Taiwan's Acer comes in 4th, and Samsung in 7th but with a low score.

However, in the recent ‘Global 100 most sustainable corps in the world' list, Europe & the US fare better. Japan was the best of the Asian countries with two companies featured, coming in at 23rd (the highest of any Asian country) and 95th. Singapore also featured two but at a lower 66th and 77th, while Hong Kong & South Korea featured one each in 65th & 86th respectively. These numbers pale in comparison to Europe and the US- who feature a combined 65 companies (10 from the US), 17 of which are in the top 20. Japan and South Korea are also the only two countries mentioned in EIRIS's April report which rates the Global 50 A to E on their Sustainability score; both gained a C grade. A fair mark compared to the US but below a large portion of Euro companies. 

Fujitsu's Global ICT Sustainability Index, which measures efforts to improve the sustainability of ICT, found the US & UK were leading the way. However, Japan came in just behind the UK and was labelled as a leader in management of ICT power bills. The report explained that "Some 35% of Japanese ICT departments budget for their ICT power bills and actively manage their power consumption- well above the global average of 23.1%." China was last of the eight countries measured, but showed the most improvement. The report labelled the country's rise in IT bill measurement and consumption management- from 6% of departments to 26%- "an outstanding achievement."

India
India has a large number of IT users, but relatively few in proportion to the total population. The Smarter2020 report has called India ‘the world leader in innovative, low-cost ICT Offerings', and predicts the number of users of computers and phones to soar in the future. But also estimates the country's IT emissions will double by 2020. Much like Europe, the Indian government has started to highlight Green issues, and mandated an increase of hybrid power in communication towers as well as improving the Green rating of telecom products, equipment and services.

Gartner predicts Indian Green IT & Sustainability spending will reach $70 Billion by 2015, up from a $35 Billion in 2010. Ganesh Ramamoorthy, research director at Gartner, has said that while awareness of Green IT and Sustainability issues is very low in Indian organizations, a few leading organizations in the country are beginning to implement Green IT and Sustainability solutions.

China
China is an interesting case. The government has identified Sustainability and Green as important issues, with outgoing President Hu Jintao using his key note speech to highlight the need to cut China's energy use, emissions, and release of major pollutants. The People's Republic is the largest clean energy investor in the world, but at the same time is also a large polluter. It's been pushing the Green concept hard, but the economic slowdown is putting progress under threat.

A recent Gartner report, Hype Cycle for Green IT and Sustainability in China, explains that "Vendors have a difficult time positioning and selling Green and Sustainability solutions into a fast-growing market," and highlights problems with a disparity of policy at local and national levels. Perhaps to help remedy some of these problems, in September the government announced a 14bn Yuan (£1.4bn) subsidy to encourage the purchase of Green PCs along with a discounted import duty on Green tech.


At the business level, a survey of Chinese IT professionals found that the vast majority know the importance of Green IT, but aren't up to speed on actual implementation.

After the US, China is also the bigger producer of eWaste, though large amounts are also imported into the country. The various nasty chemicals, materials and rare metals that computers are made up of make life quite nasty for those living nearby to dumping grounds, but also low-tech recycling practices are exposing serious health threats to workers as well as creating environmental hazards.

Japan
The Land of the Rising Sun traditionally scores well on Green issues & Sustainability. Aside from an on-going love of Faxes its mature IT sector is generally considered on a par with that of Europe or the US, so much so that in 2011 Japan topped IDC's ICT sustainability index. However, recently-elected Prime Minister Shinzo Abe may be looking to water down the country's Green goals which could have a knock on effect for Green efforts by businesses.

People Power
Since Asia contains a significant portion of the world's population, their feelings towards Sustainability matter immensely. How a few billion people buy, use and recycle their IT equipment obviously has a massive knock on effect for the environment. Last week's post found that the US had a cavalier attitude when it came to Sustainability but believed companies were trying, while Europe was a little (but not massively) more concerned but had little faith in the Sustainability efforts of its businesses. According to National Geographic's Greendex, all the Asian countries have a strong faith that businesses are trying hard of Sustainability issues, but otherwise two distinct patterns emerged. South Korea, China and India were all very concerned, felt the most guilt about their individual impact and most pessimistic about the impact an individual can have, yet believed their governments were trying to counter climate change. Japan on the other hand was not so concerned (and becoming less bothered as the years go on), the least guilty about their individual impact (yet most optimistic that individuals can make the difference) and most pessimistic about the efforts of their government. Not surprisingly, India, China and South Korea score highly- well above the US & Europe, while Japan rates just above the US.

Each country is unique in its approach to Green IT and Sustainability in general. The overall theme seems to be that although the pessimism among the people varies wildly and governments vary in their efforts, businesses across the world are all starting to understand the importance of their impact on the world.

 

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Dan Swinhoe

Dan is a journalist at CSO Online. Previously he was Senior Staff Writer at IDG Connect.

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