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ICT is Green Technology

The ICT industry faces significant challenges relative to our environmental impact and our contributions to a more sustainable life here on earth.

First is the challenge of getting our own house in order. We have benefited from the acquisition of a relatively benign environmental reputation. We're not seen as a "smokestack" industry and that has bought us some grace. Let's hope our halo holds up until we can fully address the reality of our situation... which is that we are a serious emissions contributor (some servers can pump out carbon like an SUV). Fortunately we prize our green reputation and hold our reputation for non-complacency even higher. So there has already been a major effort across the whole industry to shrink this footprint as quickly as we can. Sustainability and energy efficiency feature prominently in the R&D programs and market engagements of virtually all major and many smaller ICT firms.

A second challenge lies in the proliferation and increasing superannuation and disposability of the tools and devices we use to connect our wired world. The alchemy of computing has involved some pretty nasty ingredients (like lead and cadmium). We can't be dumping that into landfills here or anywhere else. So once again we return to the lab to discover new ways to weave our magic with friendlier (and fewer) materials.

A third challenge lies in firmly establishing our place in the ranks of environmental technologies. With controversy swirling (yes, that was a pun) around the negative impacts of wind farming or around the actual yield from solar technology, it seems to me that ICT is the only environmental technology with a proven track record... producing greater efficiencies in power generation and distribution, conserving energy through sensor networks in smart buildings and by displacing the need for carbon-spewing commuting and business travel. As the OECD's Environmental Technologies Action Plan has observed... "the (ICT) industry can provide the tools to contribute to energy savings both within its own sector and in other areas. Even at a very basic level the energy management, monitoring and awareness-raising potential of ICTs mean they can offer huge savings across almost every industry."

The environmental issues confronting our industry are weighty and complex enough to fill days of discourse. So we thought we'd hold at least one. On April 27 we will hold the first ITAC Executive Forum on Green ICT. To give you a sample of the discussions we will have there, this issue of ITAC Online features three of our speakers. I hope you enjoy meeting them, either here or in person on the 27th.

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Making the Business Case for Green IT

Melissa Alvares, Sustainability Programs Manager, Softchoice Melissa Alvares, Sustainability Programs Manager, Softchoice

For any person or company looking to become more environmentally friendly, there are endless options for where to begin. And people like Melissa Alvares, Sustainability Programs Manager at Softchoice, can help.

Melissa’s work with Softchoice was internally-oriented in the beginning: she lead a “Green Team” of 10 volunteers and created corporate recycling, energy use reduction, and transportation programs. But after researching the ICT industry’s impact on the environment a little further, it quickly became apparent that the company could make its biggest green impact by reaching out to customers.

“We came across the scary stat that the IT industry actually contributes the same amount of carbon emissions as the entire airline industry,” Melissa said. “We then realized that Softchoice, as an IT solutions provider that works with over 15,000 customers across North America – many of them a lot larger than we are – could have a much larger impact if we were able to help them green their IT departments, and use our knowledge and connections in the industry to change the way these customers do things in their IT departments. We also realized that there is a lot of information out there, and for many customers it becomes overwhelming, so our goal is to make it simple and get people started. Putting solar panels on your roof is not going to be the first thing you do; it’ll be turning off your lights. So we want to help people discover their easy wins, then help them to build their entire green IT foundation.”

To do this, Softchoice has divided the realm of green ICT into six categories: Energy Reduction, Paper Reduction, Travel Reduction, EcoMade products (i.e., anything designed from the start to be environmentally friendly), S.A.F.E. (Secure and Friendly to the Environment) Hardware Removal, and Data Centre Efficiency. Based on these categories, the company performs one-hour “EcoTech”
consultations with their customers, free of charge, with the goal of inspiring their clients to become more energy efficient. In the end, Melissa provides these clients with a report, outlining suggestions, tools, white papers, carbon calculators, or any other resource they need to get started.

Melissa said keeping environmental goals as top priorities has done wonders for her company’s relationships with clients.

“With the customers we already have, it’s definitely helping deepen our relationships, because instead of us trying to sell something, we’re both in there together trying to solve a problem. That’s what makes it such a different conversation,” she said. “Anytime I’m on a call with a sales rep, and we’re talking with a customer about their EcoTech Assessment, the sales rep is always so amazed by how engaged the customer is, because we’re not trying to push a product. Instead, we’re saying, “Okay, what problems are you having in your data centre around energy, space, power cooling? And are you having problems measuring that? Do you have a green strategy that you’re trying to measure and report on carbon? Let’s figure out a way to do it.” A lot of what we talk about during these assessments doesn’t give us any product sales. It’s more a way to get them listening.”

Melissa said she has learned a lot about the structural obstacles within many organizations trying to go green. For instance, IT departments are not often in close contact with those who manage an organization’s facilities, so if an IT manager never sees a power bill, where does the motivation come from to reduce the company’s technology-related energy use?

Melissa said the opportunities in green ICT are infinite, and that she thinks the industry must head in this direction – but it hasn’t always looked this way.

“It’s funny, in 2009, everyone that was focused on green when the hard economy hit thought we were all going to lose our jobs, that green initiatives would be the first things on the chopping block,” she said. “But according to a report called ‘The State of Green Business,’ the focus on green actually remained quite consistent even during the economic downturn. I think that what most people don’t realize about going green is that – while in the 1990s it was all about “hippies” and going organic, and you had to pay a premium if you wanted to go green – now, green is really about saving resources. In a time when the economy is tight, you don’t want to waste things like energy, paper, travel for meetings and training; you want to reduce your impact because that is going to reduce your costs. Green is so aligned right now with efficiency, that it just makes business sense.

“At the same time, people are getting much more educated on these issues, and there is also much more government pressure, as both the Canadian and US governments are putting along of incentives and laws in place. For example, large corporations are going to have to start measuring carbon, probably within the next five to 10 years, so a lot of companies want to get an early start on this and figure it out. IT has got to lead the way when it comes to measuring the data and being able to figure out a carbon footprint. Data centres and PCs are going to make up a huge portion of a lot of businesses’ carbon footprint that are not in manufacturing, so people have to figure out a way to measure and reduce it. It’s becoming top of mind, as the laws, government, and corporate culture moves toward wanting to do things in a more environmentally sustainable way.”

As is often the case with any type of widespread cultural change, Melissa says the biggest challenge right now is getting the right information to those in decision-making positions, and raising public awareness of the issue at large. And this means more than simply developing slogans for a marketing campaign.

“In terms of communication, and getting this information out to customers and having them easily find information about products’ green attributes, that’s really lacking. We find awareness is really low. People will talk about green in a marketing campaign, but green is a word that’s slapped on so many things. People love to call things eco-friendly, but there’s not a lot of regulation, and I think people need real information, calculators, and people that say, “This is what makes this green; this is the energy in kilowatts that’s been reduced; this is the percentage of recycled material.” In order for people to take these green products more seriously, we need to be more transparent in the reporting and benefits.”

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Green 2.0

Peter Corbyn, CEO, GreenNexxus Peter Corbyn, CEO, GreenNexxus with Al Gore

People often find their calling by encountering a problem that needs fixing. That’s what happened to Peter Corbyn, CEO at GreenNexxus.

“Online carbon calculators bothered me,” Peter explained, “because they ask you to input all your information, then they tell you, ‘your carbon footprint is 20.6 tons buddy – you’re a pig!’ The reality is that none of those sites motivate an individual or a company to realize that if they do something, they can reduce that footprint by x or y. So my first idea was to create what was initially called ‘Green Energy Challenge,’ where we focused on little things people could do to go greener, and quantify what those little actions are. So if I change a light bulb, I reduce my carbon footprint by 100kg, for example.”

Peter is in charge of green initiatives, landing him the title of Chief GreenNexxian. And as he took their ‘Green Energy Challenge’ into the public realm, people quickly saw GreenNexxus to be equally innovative with their service design as they are with their vocabulary.

A few months later, Ryan Groom, GreenNexxus CTO, offered up the idea of adding a social networking functionality to the ‘Green Energy Challenge,’ an idea Peter latched onto, and resulted in the current form of the GreenNexxus website and online community.

Among the first clients GreenNexxus presented their product to were Cisco Systems and the CBC; he thought it was a perfect product to handle the back-end of Cisco’s “One Million Acts of Green” campaign. “We showed Willa Black at Cisco, and George Stroumboulopoulos and the CBC team, and they said it was exactly what they needed – next thing you know we’re doing business with them.”

“We now provide Web 2.0 platforms for corporate and non-for-profit clients,” he said. “We power micro-sites, or landing pages, for corporate and non-profit clients, and we maintain a brand. We are in the process of establishing our brand as the property of choice for building green social media campaigns.

“The benefit of working with us versus a “white label” back-end is this: picture a great big ball in the middle which is the entire GreenNexxus community, and then a bunch of portals or doorways into that community from different corporate clients. You get the experience of sharing information and such with people that came into the community from different portals, and we can offer all the functionality for clients that’s already built, but also a branded experience for the user. For example, the GreenNexxus banner can change depending on which the portal from which the user enters.”

Working with this current iteration of the service, Peter’s reference list became only more impressive: GreenNexxus’ first client to sign on to use the service was Al Gore and his non-profit organization, the Climate Project (TCP). After establishing this relationship, Peter and GreenNexxus built the back-end for TCP for Canada and India so that presenters of “The Inconvenient Truth” could communicate with one another, and so that people around the world could download the accompanying Power-Point presentation.

The bulk of the company’s work, meanwhile, remains focused on helping their clients measure the impact they have on the environment, or better yet, the improvements they are making toward lightening their carbon footprint.

“We have customers who are doing similar project to the Million Acts of Green, but are doing it in-house. The general public would not know that these portals exist – they do it because pretty much every organization today wants to have a credible green story. So what we’re capable of providing is an in-house, grassroots campaign to rally the employees and the troops. So to look at this in two phases: part A is to make sure we’re on board in-house – and not just from your typical management systems, but employees are really getting it – and once you’re confident your environmental commitment is in order, to take the story externally. Part B is the merging of social media and social networking. Since social media has really taken off, timing has served us well; we can offer a client something far beyond sticking something on Facebook. Plus they’ve got the ability to control their brand within our community as opposed to, say, a Facebook group.”

A second area for environmental gains is in improving how the ICT industry disposes of its dying hardware, he said.

As for what keeps Peter motivated to keep fighting the green fight, it’s simple:

“My daughter – she’s eight. That’s the personal motivator. The professional motivator is that I do not like waste, and we waste so much stuff it’s scary. I’ve been involved in the environmental field for 20 years, and it was a job; it became personal in 2001 when Paige was born. So I’m motivated because I’m a father, and from the IT perspective, I’m excited by the fact that a team located in Fredericton, New Brunswick, can make an impact globally through the use of IT. For us to be able to extend our work globally is a pretty neat thing to do, and to do it in line with our passion for doing the right thing for the planet, what’s more fun than that?”

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Greening the Desktop

Mauro Lollo, co-founder, Unis Lumin Inc., Genuit Corp., NCS Corp. Mauro Lollo, co-founder, Unis Lumin Inc., Genuit Corp., NCS Corp.

The worlds of virtualization - that is, the abstraction of computing resources – and remote collaboration are nothing new to the ICT industry. The full extent of the potential impact these operational models can have on the environment, however, is.

Mauro Lollo is a co-founder at Unis Lumin Inc., Genuit Corp., and NCS Corp., and much of his work revolves around delivering desktop platforms which significantly reduce a company’s carbon footprint and operational overhead.

We’re heavily promoting and integrating unified collaboration systems for our clients –in essence, a platform that allows people to collaborate to enhance both the productivity and value of work teams,” Mauro said. “By doing so, that productivity can be achieved pretty much without a fixed location. So mobility and telecommuting are very important things coming up, which quite probably have the biggest potential impact in the world of green. By switching people’s work habits and enabling them to collaborate no matter where they might be – in particular, staying at home more often instead of running into an office every day – we can have a positive impact.”

While remote collaboration represents one particularly rich area for potential steps toward a greener industry, Mauro’s products also pay other environmental dividends.

Look at information and technology infrastructure in and of itself, and the life cycle of products and technologies that are used in IT. Many organizations are obviously using full-blown desktop PCs today, which tend to be power-hungry devices, and as I see it, an old model of delivering applications and information out to workers. While that model has been around since about 1980 or so in its current iteration, it’s ripe for change for a lot of reasons. Not only is it crazy overhead to maintain full desktops and everything around them, which has been well-demonstrated many times in the past, but from the green perspective we’re talking about an energy footprint that’s problematic. There are a whole bunch of other facets to that, but we’re ideally driving toward a lighter, cleaner, greener desktop.”

He says the ICT industry is taking steps in this direction, but not at the pace – or necessarily for the reasons – he would like.

I don’t believe the industry has been self-policing well enough. Most of it has been mandated from other sectors. So IT really has to start doing this, and I believe we’re starting, at this point, simply because it’s important to people’s brands to be green. So in the world of IT, vendors especially need to recognize that they have to do more than just being forced to be ‘Energy Star compliant’ – because if they weren’t necessarily forced to do that, they probably wouldn’t, because there are costs involved in doing those sorts of things. But every change results in some amount of cost to be born by the people making the change.”

Mauro said marketing-related benefits are not the only reasons why an ICT firm should want to position its brand as a leader in environmental sustainability. Other benefits from taking this approach to business, and implementing products and services like those Mauro’s companies provide, also include reducing total costs of ownership of IT infrastructure, and enhancing data security.

We can dramatically help reduce the cost of operational support of the standard desktop by slimming the desktop down, through thin client technology; and also, increasing the level of security – so basically managing information, and keeping information safe within a data centre as opposed to leaking it all over the place, on every desktop. It’s just a by-product of keeping the data within the data centre, as opposed to having it stored on thousands of hard drives, laptops, and desktop machines.

If you go back to the 60s and 70s with green screen terminals and such, apart from taking a photograph of the screen and writing it down yourself, you really couldn’t extract data out of a mainframe – you had to have IT to do that for you. So that was a very secure environment, but obviously not necessarily user-friendly entirely productive. Now we’ve come full circle on that; it’s now gone too far. We find ourselves looking for solutions to prevent data loss, so data loss prevention is an up and coming area, and that’s a beneficial by-product of what we’re talking about in this case.”

For Mauro, greening the ICT industry is not something a few companies can take on alone – it must be a widely shared mission across the whole industry.

We all have to live on the planet, so we all need to do our part. We have a responsibility, not only to customers and to ourselves, but to the world, to try and reduce the impact we have on the environment; and the best way we can do that is by minimizing our carbon footprint with energy reduction programs. Those types of programs would manifest themselves through certain types of ICT technologies – thin client and virtualization on the desktop, and of course virtualization in the data centre, being very important – which pretty much leads to private and public cloud computing. A lot of it is happening today – not necessarily because people want to be green, but because it makes so much economic sense to virtualize, lighten up, and get better usage out of the resources they have. So let’s do our part to try and make that happen.”

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Other News and Events

Celebrate Earth Day – April 22

ITAC encourages all its members to celebrate Earth Day in whichever capacity they can – whether by planting trees; recycling; cleaning up litter; making a special effort to learn (or teach someone else) something new about the environment; ride your bike, walk, carpool; or simply by reflecting on what you can do to help the environment - all the while remembering that every day is Earth Day.


ITAC Presents an Executive Forum on Green ICT

Join us in Toronto on April 27 (8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.) for a celebration of this unheralded but vital aspect of information and communication technology. Benchmark your firm's environmental strategies and practices with some of the industry's leading experts on sustainability and green ICT. Hear from policymakers and policy influencers on what Canada must do to leverage our know-how to bequeath a greener planet to future generations.

Keynote presentations will explore the role of smart grids and smart networks in achieving sustainability targets, and simple changes that even smaller firms can make to green their operations. Panel discussions will address topics such as design for the environment and product stewardship, and the use of sensor technologies to achieve environmental efficiencies.

Speakers include:
- Mark Aboud, President and Managing Director, SAP Canada
- Melissa Alvares, Sustainability Program Manager, Softchoice Corporation
- Paul Cooper, Vice-President, Public Business Group, Dell Canada
- Peter Corbyn, CEO, GreenNexxus
- Frances Edmonds, Director of Environmental Programs, Hewlett-Packard
- Pat Horgan, VP Manufacturing, Development, and Operations, IBM Canada Ltd.
- Jay Illingworth, Director, Harmonization (ACES, ESABC & SWEEP)
- Wayne Karpoff, President, Willowglen Systems
- Shelagh Kerr, President and CEO, Electronics Product Stewardship Canada (moderator)
- Mauro Lollo, Co-Founder and CEO, Genuit Corp.
- Ashok Mathur , VP Solutions, Cisco Systems
- Neil Sentance, Assistant Deputy Minister, OPS Green Office, Ministry of Government Services, Ontario
- Keith Taylor, Regional Sales Manager, Texas Instruments
- Tom Turchet, ITAC Chair & VP Software, General Business, IBC Americas
- And more!

For further information on how your company can participate in this forum, visit www.itac.ca/index.php?/events/green_ict, or contact Bill Munson (munson@itac.ca) or Lynda Leonard (leonard@itac.ca).


Tremblant Venture Forum 2010 – May 5 and 6, 2010

Calling all up-and-coming companies and venture capitalists!

If you are looking to invest, or be invested in, the ultimate venue for your next business move is coming in May, to Mont Tremblant, Québec.

On May 5 and 6, ITAC is organizing the Tremblant Venture Forum. This forum enables Eastern Canada’s ICT and cleantech companies to present their business plan to 40-50 leading Canadian and American Venture Capitalists. This event takes place at the Fairmont Tremblant, in Québec.

ITAC is organizing the event in cooperation with its partners: Communitech, Ottawa Centre for Research and Innovation (OCRI), Research Centre in the Information Technologies (CRIM), Québec Technology Association (AQT), Réseau Capital, and Canada’s Venture Capital & Private Equity Association (CVCA).

If you are a company seeking between $2-million and $10-million in financing, please send your business plans as indicated on the website.

If you are an investor, an early-stage or growth-stage company, or a participant in the conference, please register online at: www.tremblantventureforum.com.

Places are limited.


Call for Nominations: 2010 SCC Awards

The Standards Council of Canada (SCC) is pleased to announce that it is now accepting nominations for its 2010 Awards. Nominations are being sought for individuals, committees, and/or organizations who have demonstrated remarkable leadership and commitment through their invaluable contributions to standards-related activities.

Nominations of individuals involved in international and/or national standardization activities are being considered in the following categories:

  • Jean P. Carrière Award for distinguished service to Canadian standardization

  • Roy A. Philips Award for distinguished service to international standardization

  • Corporate Commitment Award for contributions by a group in support of standardization

  • SCC Leadership Award for notable contributions made by a chair, co-chair, vice-chair and/or convener

  • SCC Award of Excellence for notable contributions made by a member of a standards-related committee

  • SCC Distinguished Service Award for notable contributions made by a Committee Officer

  • SCC Special Achievement Award for notable contributions made by a committee in support of Canada’s National Standards System

  • McMahon Dedicated Service Award recognizes notable contributions made by SCC personnel

Further information detailing these awards, the nomination process, eligibility criteria, and past recipients is available in the "Participate" section of the SCC website.

Nominations are due by May 14, 2010.

The Standards Council of Canada (SCC) is a Crown Corporation with the mandate to promote the efficient and effective use of standardization. Located in Ottawa, the SCC is a portfolio of Industry Canada with a 15 member governing Council and approximately 90 staff. The SCC coordinates the work of the National Standards System, and offers a range of standardization-related programs and services that are intended to enhance the social and economic well-being of Canadians. For additional information on the work of the SCC visit www.scc.ca or email info@scc.ca.


10th Annual IT Hero Awards - Call for Nominations

ITAC is seeking nominations for its 10th Annual IT Hero Awards which celebrate and recognize creative applications of information technology that significantly improve the lives of Canadians. For more information or to submit a nomination (before May 19), visit: www.itheroawards.com.


Join the Canadian delegation at WCIT 2010 in Amsterdam

On May 18, 2008, the World Information Technology Services Alliance (www.witsa.org) awarded Canada and ITAC the responsibility to host WCIT 2012, the most important ICT conference in the world. The conference will take place in Montréal, Canada, May 21-24, 2012.

In less than four months, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, will host WCIT 2010 from May 25 to 27, (www.wcit2010.org). Canada and ITAC will be present with a large delegation of Ministers, ITAC board members, and representatives from Canadian ICT companies interested in exchanging ideas with the most senior leaders of the ICT industry. They will have the opportunity to meet potential partners from more than 80 countries and listen to CEOs from all over the world debate the top issues related to the use of ICT under the theme of “Challenges of Change.”

If you are interested in joining the Canadian delegation in Amsterdam, please express your interest on the WCIT 2012 website at: www.wcit2012.org.


CWC Awards Gala Recap

On Monday, March 29, Canadian Women in Communications (CWC) hosted their Annual Awards Gala in Ottawa, ON. Award winners included:

  • Valerie Creighton, President and CEO, Canadian Television Fund

  • Martha Fusca, President and CEO, Stornoway Communications

  • Lina Lawrence, Director, IT Business Services, MTS Allstream Inc.

  • Karen Lawson, Associate Director, Business Development, Bell Business Markets, Bell Canada

  • Jodi Orr, Taylor the Midday Host on 102.3 BOBFM, CTVglobemedia

  • Donna Whitney, Director, Commercial Advanced Property Solutions, Rogers Communications Inc.

  • Madeline Ziniak, National Vice-President, Rogers OMNI Television, and

  • Kirstine Stewart, General Manager, CBC Television, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, as the CWC 2010 Woman of the Year

CWC is a national, bilingual organization dedicated to the advancement of women in the communications industry (radio, television, telecommunications, cable, print media, new media and the information technology sector) through strategic networking, targeted professional development and meaningful recognition. There are currently over 1,200 CWC members in nine Regions across Canada. For more information on CWC, visit: www.cwc-afc.com.