Global Action Plan is the product of Trewin Restorick, previously a recycling co-ordinator and then head of marketing at Friends of the Earth. He left and founded Global Action Plan (GAP) in 1993. GAP looks to build teamwork among groups of people who increase the sustainability of their activities in an environmental sense.
Global Action Plan
In 2003 it described itself thus: "Global Action Plan is an independent national charity that provides practical guidance to support sustainable development through a mix of facilitated behaviour change programmes based on measurable achievements and the promotion of sustainable lifestyles through web and paper-based publications." It has a quite impressive track record and has grown to employ 50 members of staff.
GAP is a registered charity, number 102648. It defines its purpose as: "To promote the protection and improvement of the natural environment by increasing public knowledge and understanding of human behaviour which is not harmful to man and other living species and to planetary ecology."
The latest GAP project is the Environmental IT Leadership TEAM (EITLT), which aims to build a green group of IT businesses and have it produce reports on greener IT practices and so exert pressure on government and vendors to bring about greener IT.
As a marketeer, Restorick is adept at tactics that raise awareness and also raise the profile of his charity; for it does not exist on voluntary contributions from individuals. No, it depends on and solicits funding from, organisations, both public sector and private. For example, landfill tax credit.
GAP's green IT awareness raising also raises the profile of GAP and exposes the charity to many more potential funding sources. GAP is akin to a small business that is hired by interested organisations to fund green projects.
It's not a business in the 'making a profit' sense but it is a business in its shrewd marketing of its capabilities to potential funders. Indeed Restorick has described it as a small business and said it had a £1 million turnover in 2003, when it had 23 employees. Its gross income in the 2005/2006 financial year was £1,173,377.
Green IT end user gap
GAP has literally identified a gap in the 'market' for green organisations. There are vendor groups such as the Climate Savers Computing Initiative and the Green Grid. There are state-sponsored organisations such as the US EPEAT. There are mass charity environmental pressure groups such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth which act as a voice of conscience for individuals.
But there are no IT end-user green organisations. Restorick's shrewd idea was that business is climbing on the sustainability bandwagon and that employees in the IT department were inclining towards greenness but had little support for translating their wishes into actions. Secondly, the government was not encouraging green champions in business.
Thirdly, there is a growing group of vendors who identify their future with green products, such as automatic PC switch-off software, or more energy-efficient PCs and servers.
Restorick has found a way to use these trends to help mobilise end users by getting sponsorship from Logicalis, an IT systems integration and services supplier.
He has also obtained MP-level support from Peter Ainsworth, the conservative shadow environment minister. Based on this he set up the restricted membership EITLT, with members invited by GAP and Logicalis to keep things manageable and, as its chair, helped it, facilitated it, led it, whatever to commission a report into IT staff attitudes to green issues.
This report, An Inefficient Truth, was presented at Portcullis House, not the House of Commons as marketed and reported, with the help of Peter Ainsworth, and has been widely reported.
GAP as a surfer
If Restorick were a surfer he would be praised for riding waves expertly.
What he is doing with EITLT is surfing; riding and helping to direct a growing wave of end-user feeling, if not demand, that it should be easier to buy more energy-efficient IT products. The focus is on energy efficiency as ROHS and WEEE have taken care, largely, of the hazardous substances and recycling issues. Energy-efficient IT is aspirational, modern and forward-looking.
Where things get tricky is that Restorick must needs become a thorn in the government's side but only a smallish thorn as GAP gets funding from DEFRA, local government bodies and various bodies that could be described as non-governmental organisations.
Restorick is not a thorn in the side of business; he cannot afford to be and does not want to be. GAP is not confrontational as Greenpeace and FOE can be. He presents, markets, GAP as wanting to work with business to help it become greener, to facilitate existing wishes, not to demand that business should go green because it is evil not to do so.
Restorick activity principles
What we might expect from EITLT can be shown by Restorick's three principles of activity:
1. Climate change communications is beset with technical jargon and needs simplifying.
2. Behaviour change is the end and it is more likely to be cemented firmly if groups are formed and make their own decisions.
3. There needs to be positive feedback.
Restrick believes that successful group green initiatives require leaders and need to be thought of as aspirational, modern and forward-looking. Energy-efficient IT certainly meets those three criteria and EITLT could provide the leadership he deems necessary.
What we might expect is that IT-using companies will be encouraged, by the EITLT, to form green IT task forces which will identify and encourage pro-green behavioural changes in their IT practises - wonderful news for the sellers of VMware, thin client products and power efficiency-increasing products.
The EITLT has disadvantages:
- It does not have a multi-year secure source of funding,
- It does not have a technically-skilled support office,
- There is no paid membership scheme, as the Climate Savers Computing initiative has,
- There is no government funding for its activities.
The activities it comes up with are going to have to be resource-light and possibly sponsored (funded) on a per-project basis.
But that's surfing for you. The surfer uses the wave's own energy to propel himself forward. Only, in Restorick's case, the EITLT has to somehow capitalise the green wave's energy to secure funding for its, and GAP's, own continuance.
Restorick has said: "The way we get business is that we actually market our product to businesses." We might envisage GAP facilitators funded on a per-project basis by IT-using businesses bringing them in as green IT consultants to help reduce IT carbon emissions through user group activities.
Restorick's green IT user wave does have potential legs. There is no other end-user IT organisation with the support of Gartner, national politician backing, very shrewd marketing, effective independence from virtually every IT vendor - and congratulations to Logicalis for its relatively discreet support - and a growing environmental consciousness everywhere we look.
But these strengths come at the cost of weaknesses in funding and technical expertise. When you are designing hot aisle: cold aisle datacentres it is inherently technical. It seems to me that Restorick may just not be interested in this side of green IT.
He wants group activity at a grass roots level; in effect he is a green social worker. That's his background and the Restorick leopard may not want to change its spots. He believes we should all consume less and that facilitated groups deciding to do that is the best way to achieve the change he wants.