How to “green” your business

- Leadership - Nov 12, 2015

Every organisation, business or data centre consumes material and energy resources, either directly or indirectly through the things or services they buy.  It’s now common knowledge that the world is getting warmer.  There are still arguments about whether burning fossil fuels is the cause or whether we are just riding a long-term warming cycle. In 1963, the Thames froze over in London.  In 1814 the last of the London Frost Fairs was held, with shops, stalls and gambling on the frozen river.  Today, the Champagne makers of France are moving to Sussex because their native land is too hot.  There is no doubt the world is warming and we will all be in serious trouble if it continues.  So what can a responsible enterprise do?  Every small action will help contribute to change.  With this in mind, below are five tips to help businesses become increasingly green:

1.    Buy Blue or Green Energy

All businesses, regardless of their size or sector, buy energy as without it, they wouldn’t be able to run. Gas is much more efficient than electricity, because a lot of the electricity generated is used to heat up wires on pylons, cables under the streets and transformers. Gas is also a third of the price per Kilowatt-hour, so using gas instead of electricity when possible is a no brainer.


Almost every business has the option to buy “brown” electricity generated from coal, “blue” electricity generated from renewables and nuclear, or “green” electricity generated exclusively from renewables. The prices rarely differ too much, although green energy can be cheaper than brown. So buying blue or green electricity will make a difference not only to the environmental impact of your business, but possibly also to your profit margins too.

2.    Switch the Lights Off

It may sound obvious, but switching the lights off saves energy.  A walk around London, or any other major city, on a winter’s evening shows how many businesses do not do it. Office blocks are ablaze with light long after everyone has gone home. Admittedly, the life of both fluorescent tubes and incandescent bulbs is reduced by switching them on and off, but it is hardly energy conscious or socially responsible to leave them on for twelve hours without anybody being in the building. Therefore switch lights off when not in use, or better still, fit movement detectors so the lights come on when someone enters a room and switch off if there is no movement.  Even better, fit LED bulbs.  They are bright, use almost no energy and last for years and years. 

3.    Move the IT to a Data Centre or Cloud

Using an in-house data centre is the most energy inefficient way to run business IT systems. An in-house data centre is rarely designed with energy efficiency in mind, whereas a professional data centre designed for IT, datacomms and voice colocation has energy efficiency at the forefront of its operations. This is due to two factors. Firstly, there are clear environmental benefits to running an energy efficient data centre but also because the cost of energy is high for a data centre and it bears the costs. A responsible data centre will therefore already be using green electricity while continuously considering how processes could be made increasingly efficient.  A Cloud will also be running in a data centre and the combination of data centre virtualised servers and data centre energy efficiency is by far the greenest way there is to run an IT system currently.

4.    Recycling and Waste Disposal

Every business’ waste disposal processes differ.  A steelworks or a data centre do not have the same disposal issues as an insurance office for example due to the nature of the industry.  However, every business can do its bit and make a difference to the environment. Paper can be separated out and recycled.  Batteries can be separated out and sent for specialist disposal.  Bottles and glass can be sent for recycling.  Food can be delivered to special composters to be used to create energy.  If an organisation like Nestle, can define, operate and achieve a “zero to landfill” policy, so can most other UK businesses given a bit of thought and effort.

5.    Partner with Green Vendors

With green issues and sustainability now at the forefront of public attention, many organisations now have a formal environmental and sustainability policy.  Worryingly, many still do not. As a buyer, it is worth rewarding those that take their environmental responsibility seriously. For example, does a data centre operate energy efficient cooling? Does a transport company operate its vehicles in an energy conscious way? Is the environmental policy open, transparent and published on the organisation’s website for all to see? 

The environment is everyone’s responsibility.  Whether the rise of temperatures is caused by burning fossil fuels or just part of a long term climate cycle is a matter up for debate.  But no-one can deny it is happening, otherwise Champagne makers would not be buying up the Sussex Downs and we would still have annual London Frost Fairs. There will be winners and losers but mankind overall will be a loser from global warming if we continue to ignore the obvious changes. We all have an opportunity to do our little bit and whether we are a Welsh steelworks, a London data centre or a Scottish insurer, we should all be responsible enough to do it.

The Author: Roger Keenan is managing director of central London data centre City Lifeline

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