Rivers of Thought

Life, Leadership, Business & Technology

Mention Green IT to most CIO’s and they will talk about reducing the energy consumed by their data centers through strategies like virtualization, data de-duplication or cooling alternatives. Some may talk about energy settings on the desktop, LCD monitors vs. CRTs or maybe even desktop virtualization. Fewer still will go beyond the traditional role of IT and talk about things like building lighting systems, HVAC systems or building plug loads. In fact, very few CIOs get involved in facilities management or building operations. 

 As a former CIO, I think it is time we ventured beyond the accounting systems, order management applications, and website software, roll up our sleeves and learn about the buildings we work in every day. Technology can have a significant impact on the amount of energy consumed in the operations of a building. Let me rephrase that…Technology can have significant impact on the reduction of the amount of energy consumed in the operations of a building.

The popular quote, “If you can measure it, you can manage it,” certainly holds true in the area of energy consumption. This is where IT comes in! Building Management Systems (BMS) have been around for many years now. Typically, they are a single PC connected to the HVAC system that lets the technicians control the operation of the equipment. Some systems take it a step further and connect the building systems back to a central server that gathers the data, sends out alerts, and provides some reporting on the information. This has given birth to middleware applications that warehouse the data and provide analytics and additional insight into the information. Many of these systems have roots from the equipment manufacturer themselves. This has led to multiple standards, multiple formats and disparate systems that don’t communicate well with each other. As more devices become IP-enabled (lights, window shades, water systems, and yes, even paper towel dispensers) this issue will continue to grow.

This provides an incredible opportunity for IT help the business harness all of these systems and their data and drive costs out of the business. Every dollar saved through energy reductions has a direct impact on the bottom line results of the business. Whether you are a tenant in a building, the building manager or the building owner energy reductions can generate substantial savings, and, in the case of the building owner, increase the value of your asset.

CIOs and IT departments everywhere recently received a huge assist from networking giant, Cisco. They recently announced the launch of a new application, EnergyWise. EnergyWise will reside on Cisco switches and provide the capability to capture energy data from devices connected to the switch and, more importantly, they will be able to control the energy used by the devices connected to the switch. Initially, the management and control will be for devices that are powered by the switch using Power Over Ethernet (POE) technology. Subsequent phases will extend to Non-POE devices and building management systems.

This puts the CIO on center stage and gives him or her the ability to remove thousands of dollars of cost from the company. Remember the IBM commercial about green IT? How much did we spend on energy last year? The opportunity is enormous!

I was watching a local news segment the other day about the announced closing of the Macy’s store at a shopping center here in Indianapolis. The reporter was interviewing a woman, who had not realized the store was closed and had obviously attempted to shop there that day. When asked about her feelings seeing the store closed, she replied (and I paraphrase), “Well it’s really sad, another store abandoning the area all because they can’t make enough money.”

Really?

Really?

Does Macy’s have a moral or social obligation to keep a store open that does not meet their profit guidelines? They are in business after all to make a profit, aren’t they? And, if Macy’s does have that obligation, then don’t we have the obligation to shop there? I wish the reporter had asked the woman where else she was shopping that day. Wal-mart? Or perhaps some other discount retailer? Or maybe they should have asked how many times she comparison shopped and bought the same item from another retailer because they had it for a few dollars less than Macy’s.

It raises some interesting questions and it creates a vicious cycle.

As consumers we are always shopping for the lowest price, many times willing to give up brand loyalty, store loyalty and even quality to get it. This drives the small retailer from business, the larger retailers are constantly cutting costs to keep margins, and manufacturers also are forced to cut costs to make a profit. This can lead to lower wages for employees, jobs sent out of the country, reductions in quality, and ultimately to the elimination of the brand altogether. This, in turn, leads to workers making less money or losing their jobs, therefore needing to shop for the lowest price. We have met the enemy, and they are us!

On the other hand, businesses that continually raise prices as a way of increasing profit margins, or continually cut their costs to the detriment of their employees or their supply chains or the planet to increase their profit margins also contribute in large part to the cycle. (Yes, I believe businesses should make a profit!)

It raises some interesting questions, does it not?

For those that are wondering, yes, I know how to spell awareness (and so does my spell checker)!

I recently read the book “Awearness”, by Kenneth Cole, yes, that, Kenneth Cole, the fashion designer. (Thanks for the gift Jane!). I must admit, I was not AWARE of Mr. Cole’s involvement in social, environmental and political issues. He truly leads his company with a triple bottom line approach of People, Planet and Profit.

 It was my reading of this book that inspired me to create the “Rivers of Change Action Alert” that many of you received. (If you did not receive it and would like to receive a periodic email highlighting areas in which you can become involved, or you would like to see a sample, please drop me an email or post to this blog).

 The chapters in the book are divided into issues confronting the world such as: Political Activism, Human Rights, Civil Liberties, AIDs, the Environment and more. Each chapter begins with an introduction of the topic by Mr. Cole. Following the introduction are articles written various people, some who have reached celebrity status and some who may not be household names. These articles zero in on specific aspects of the issues. One of the things that set this book apart in my mind is the way each chapter closes.

 Each chapter ends with a section titled “HOW TO…” which details several ways an individual can get involved with the issue covered in the chapter. These actions are categorized by “Time”, “Items”, “Expertise”, and “Dollars”. Following that is the “WHERE TO…” section which provides descriptions and web addresses for a multitude of organizations working on that particular issue.

 This book has something for everyone from Robert Redford writing on free speech to Rachael Ray on nutrition for kids. The list of authors is incredible: Melissa Etheridge, Martin Luther King III, Ashley Judd, Russell Simmons, Jon Bon Jovi, Lauren Bush, Lance Armstrong, Dr. Victoria Hale, President Bill Clinton, Sir Elton John, Ludacris, Sarah Brady, and many, many, more!

 The Environment chapter, titled “Is It Us, or Is It Warm in Here?” begins with an article by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. about kicking our carbon addiction, moves through Avery Hairston encouraging youth involvement and Woody Harrelson on sustainable living and ends with Alicia Silverstone on the impacts of our diets on the environment and Lance Bass on how to spread the word. The “HOW TO…” section has suggestions for using our Time to become politically involved or encouraging involvement at work or school, and thinking green at home. The Items category recommends BYOB (Bring your own bag) shopping or building a rainwater-catching system. It goes on to encourage using our Expertise to produce a website, become a public speaker, or start a community garden. We can also put our Dollars to use by buying local, or save money by saving energy, or sponsoring and endangered animal.

 I am certainly not doing the book justice here. I encourage you to check out KennethCole.Com or Awearnessblog.Com and of course read the book! And please, let me know your thoughts after you do!

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INSIGHTS

Insights is the weekly, thought-provoking newsletter from Jeffrey S. Ton.
Every Tuesday – Delivered to your inbox.

A different focus each week:

Leadership Thought – A lesson-learned, an insight shared
Leadership Q&A – A response to a reader’s or a connection’s question
Leadership Spotlight – A highlight of a person or company helping others to grow their leadership
Rivers of Thought – A more personal thought, observation or musing

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