Green IT projects risk being dropped as part of businesses’ cost-cutting measures, a management consultancy has warned.

Compass Management Consulting claimed that too many ‘first generation’ green IT projects were poorly defined and lacked meaningful measures of success. This led to their worth being questioned when IT costs were reviewed. Its conclusions were based on an analysis of the firm’s work with 120 global companies and major government departments.

“Too many green IT projects have no dollar values attached in terms of benefits to be delivered, so they do not get senior people’s attention. This lack of defined fiscal benefit means that more and more projects are being quietly dropped,” said Steve Tuppen, consulting director at Compass. 

However, Compass claimed that in the long term, cost-cutting may be good for sustainability, by driving a fundamental change in the way IT services are delivered.

“The current economic situation may prove to be the best opportunity we have to implement real change in the way IT services are consumed and delivered more sustainably,” said Steve Tuppen, consulting director at Compass.

Compass believes that organisations with large IT estates could reduce power consumption and reduce costs by between 30 and 50 percent through measures such as increasing the standardisation of IT services and server virtualisation.

For example, Compass said that one UK government department carried out server consolidation, desktop transformation, printer rationalisation and data centre power saving projects to achieve a reduction in emissions of 29,897 tonnes of CO2 a year, contributing to savings of £1.9 billion over five years. 

In addition, the UK government’s CIO, John Suffolk, recently said that the G-Cloud would help the public sector to standardise and simplify its ICT, saving it £1.206 million a year. This also included the rationalisation of data centres.

“The greenest policy of all is to close data centres, ship out old PCs and servers in good shape for disposal and bring in a more energy efficient estate,” said Tuppen.

He also believes that financial incentives to reduce consumption through utility-type pricing should be implemented, to address rising energy costs associated with data centres.

"In some outsourcing contracts, suppliers are paid handsomely for installing extra servers, so are incentivised to implement new applications on new machines rather than install on an existing machine using virtualisation software.

“Transformation projects need to include changes in the way suppliers are paid and what units of measure customers are paying for,” Tuppen said.

Although Tuppen recommends organisations “ship out” old PCs and servers for disposal in their efforts to be green, it may not be the most environmentally-friendly move, especially in light of further delays to “much-needed” changes to the existing Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive.

According to Computer Aid International, which supports the recycling of electronic waste, only a third of the e-waste currently collected in the EU is treated according to the directive. The remaining 67 percent is not accounted for, and is either landfilled, sent to sub-standard treatment facilities or illegally exported.

Revisions to the law were expected to be made this month, in order to clarify the scope of the directive and address existing shortcomings, however, in a third delay, the vote is not expected to take place until 2011.

Haley Bowcock, environmental advocacy officer at Computer Aid, said: “The review process that began in 2008 by the EU gave some hope that the WEEE Directive was heading in the right direction. But successive delays in the process can’t help but make one wonder that the EU is not taking the issue seriously.”

Tony Roberts, CEO and founder at Computer Aid , added: “Europe must clamp down by implementing higher reuse and treatment targets. The WEEE Directive is failing – changes need to be effected now, not in 2011 or 2012.”