Monthly Archives: May 2009

Crisis Counseling: Is Climate Change the New Y2K?

Credit: Konjin in Pantervel Its a funny old world. 

Vinnie Mirchandani thinks the IT industry is hyping up climate change.  He thinks they stampede their customers into panic buying of strategic IT solutions for what might not be a problem at all. All the while, the industry coaxes hapless regulators into passing laws on climate change that require IT investment. He compares this to the Y2K response:

Unfortunately, I see the same hysteria building around sustainability and green stuff. Doomsday scenarios. Vendor selling toolboxes when a hammer may suffice. Vendors with hammers that would break no matter how small the nail. Vendors lobbying regulators to require investments. Guilt based value propositions.

Nice gig eh?

Except, contrast that with what Greenpeace said this week:

The first results of the Greenpeace Cool IT Challenge expose the IT industry’s inadequate leadership in tackling climate change despite its claim to have the immense potential to enable 15 percent cuts or more in all global greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.  …… To really deliver on this potential the IT industry needs to look beyond just cutting its own emissions and deliver climate solutions for the rest of the economy.

During the Y2K era Vinnie was at Gartner providing advice to clients on how to deal with the threat. His concsience bothers him still:

I have been asked a few times since 1999 – did Gartner hype up the Y2k problem for its own benefit? And my response is – well, it did shake and wake people up and eventually make Y2K a relative non-event. But, in retrospect, I do wish we had helped clients protect more against the “greenwashing” that went on back then.

It strikes me as a rather odd way to view a successful response. Dare to imagine we might successfully do the same to arrest climate change?

There is an obvious cynicism trap we need to avoid here. 

Fortunately, Vinnie has the right instincts for the transparency needed to protect the integrity of the public & private sector climate change response:

This time the stakes are even higher. But we have a bigger set of watchdogs now. Us bloggers. I hope we don’t just report the problem. Or worse, just  hype it.

Hopefully we can learn from the Y2K experience without deriving cynicism from the virtues of preparedness & mitigation. Glad you’re part of the conversation Vinnie.

PS    Do please stop by my ZDNet stand: this week I blogged on Greenpeace Cool IT, Sun & Symantec as an example of a new breed of corporate  sustainability leadership.

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Jason says: ‘Sustainability Bigots — Lies, Damn Lies and Green Statistics.’ Err, What?

Jason Busch from Spend Matters has written another barmy blog post on sustainability. Last year it was about the perceived futility of African sourcing. Today’s post is about – well I’m not sure what its about exactly. I had to read it a few times. I tried to leave  a comment but Jason’s comment security feature defeated me (and on two computers no less). So hoping this will link back.

Let me deal w a few select quotes:

we personally think the notion of measuring — and comparing — carbon footprints across companies and regions is absolutely absurd given that we’re currently only looking at a partial picture of actual carbon emission.’

But industry has a methodology  for complete life cycle analysis known as the Greenhouse Gas Protocol. This lays out a process for emissions accounting throughout the value chain from supply chain to  production to use to disposal.

Perhaps a factory powered by a nasty coal belching Mao-era plant in China might lead to a greener total product — provided its employees are kept from making a decent income — than a completely green plant powered by wind in the west (or China, for that matter) whose employees make a better living.’

But really, is that the choice for developing economies, produce in poverty or become prosperous in pollution? First – many are working hard to invest in smart technologies to conserve the energy we already have and to find new renewable sources of energy. Yes, developing markets are energy hungry and yes sustainability is also about social and economic development. That is why it is generally recognised that the developed world needs to reduce more CO2 and faster and that the developing world should have a little more slack to develop their economies.

Jason thinks that surveys and benchmarks on the environmental comparability of electronic goods such as his Apple computer are not helpful and signify little. Personally I don’t think we have half enough studies on the carbon composition in our everyday consumption. Also – you should know that recently the ‘loonies’ at Greenpeace have been quite encouraging of Apple’s efforts.

Come on Jason, supply chain sustainability is a really important matter whether human rights screening or environmental performance. It would be great to see you turn your considerable expertise to attend seriously to these problems. This can save procurement departments money and reduce risk overall in the business network.

As an aside, please do visit my main perch these days on ZDNet. This week I blogged IBM, Oracle, Google, SAP and general tech industry supply chain human rights issues.