Information Systems for Environmental Sustainability

IT, Resource Productivity, Environmental Preservation, and the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Carbon Reduction in Services: IT Leadership at KPMG

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Carbon emissions vary widely by industry in terms of both GHG Scope and magnitude, as I’ve discussed in earlier posts.

In services, one might guess that Scope 2 (purchased energy) and Scope 3 (supply chain, commuting, etc.) are large relative to Scope 1, but  quantitative empirical research is nascent. So, what can we learn from individual firms?

In 2008, KPMG assessed its GHG emissions and found that more than 20% resulted from the energy consumed by its IT infrastructure. Compare this with 2-3% across all industry sectors.

The firm developed a corporate carbon strategy, “Living Green,” led by the COO. A member of the IT organization realized the potential of IT to support the strategy, and was appointed “Green IT Manager”:

The role of KPMG’s green IT manager is to help environmental, financial, and productivity efficiencies throughout the IT organization and broader business activities. Because these efficiencies are framed within the context of using technology or improving technology processes, KPMG’s green IT manager remains part of the IT organization — but gains access to business requirements and initiatives as a member of KPMG’s Living Green steering committee. To achieve this, KPMG’s green IT manager takes a life cycle view that starts with an IT energy baseline all the way to communicating successes of projects, and everything else in between — such as identifying and prioritizing projects, developing business cases, and coordinating implementation teams.

As Darren likes to say, “Green IT is about wasting less — not using less.” And the “waste” that Darren is tasked to eliminate includes environmental, financial, and productivity waste. Environmental waste includes impacts such as energy-related CO2 emissions, paper-related CO2 emissions, and electronic waste during disposal. Financial waste includes capital expenditures from underutilized equipment or shorter-than-necessary IT asset life cycles, as well as operating expenses like energy costs, hardware maintenance fees, and software license fees. And productivity waste refers to staff time spent on unnecessary travel that could be replaced with Web or videoconferencing. As KPMG’s green IT manager, Darren achieves this by greening KPMG’s technology assets and technology-related business processes. [more from Forrester (“A KPMG Case Study: The Case, Responsibilities, And Success Metrics Of A Green IT Manager” April 26, 2010 by Doug Washburn” subs. req) and KPMG]

Overall, the “green IT manager” success metrics are

  • Deliver tangible environmental and financial value.
  • Align green IT to broader IT strategic imperatives.
  • Become a resource to KPMG clients.
  • Share knowledge across KPMG’s member firms

Is this particular path of using IS for sustainability in organizations particular to this industry or firm? How will it develop and evolve over time? What are the causal mechanisms underlying this form of IS innovation? As usual, more questions than answers.


Author: nigelpm

Associate Professor of Information Systems, Stephen M. Ross School of Business, University of Michigan - Helping organizations to navigate digital transformation.

One thought on “Carbon Reduction in Services: IT Leadership at KPMG

  1. Pingback: KPMG: “Vital component of successful [GHG] data collection is the integrity, robustness and adaptability of the information systems being used” « Information Systems for Environmental Sustainability

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