IT use has been calculated by Gartner to be responsible for 2 percent of worldwide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, equivalent to the airline industry. This is said to be a bad thing. Charities like Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth (FOE), the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) are all actively campaigning to get IT GHG emissions reduced.

- Climate Savers' Computing initiative was started by Google, Intel and the WWF.
- Logicalis is helping to fund Global Action Plan's IT greening activities.
- Greenpeace publishes its quarterly electronic industry reports

On any rational view of a problem, something accounting for 2 percent of it is trivial. You concentrate on the major issues such as fossil fuel power station emissions or Indonesian forest removal through burning. Why single out the insignificant IT users?

It's easy to see how there is a natural fit in terms of loose aims between vendors of greener IT products and IT-focused green charities but does that make working with charities in this area a sensible thing to do? The charities are viewing GHG reduction as a moral issue. The vendors see it as a marketing opportunity. Are lions lying down with lambs here? And which is the lion and which the lamb anyway?

Not a moral issue

Martin Niemer of VMware said: "There is a moral reason for looking at greening the data centre, but it is in danger of being swamped by marketing and hype - if this happens, then the people who do have a potential to make a change for the better will automatically glaze over any discussion of this topic. The IT industry as a whole - vendors, customers and partners together - has to take a more honest approach to this issue."

"Any vendor has to be honest with its customers on the reasons why they should be looking at virtualisation - alongside any energy efficiency benefit, there is the prospect for saving on power, cooling and space. These are the real drivers for looking at more energy-efficient data centres, compared to the marketing that covers the topic of 'green'."

Chris James, marketing director for EMEA at Overland Storage agrees that it is not a moral issue for business: "Other than for corporate social responsibility (CSR) purposes, the need for efficiency gains and the corresponding cost reductions are the driving force behind many so-called 'green IT' initiatives. In reality, greenness is a very real by-product of efficiency and cost-reduction efforts, but it is rarely the overall objective.'

He adds: "If green IT becomes a legislative requirement the business must act upon it but, until that time, the IT department needs to think about how to support the business' needs in the most energy-efficient manner."