Information Systems for Environmental Sustainability

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

IT for Environmental Sustainability: Focus on Actions & Beliefs…

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Greenpeace is addressing “green IT”:

  • Cool IT Challenge: urges IT companies to innovate, mitigate their own carbon footprint, and advocate for significant policy changes.
  • Climate Leader board: ranking of IT companies by efforts to offer economy-wide technological climate solutions that contribute to global greenhouse gas reductions; initiatives to reduce their own global warming emissions; and active engagement in political advocacy and support for science-based climate and energy policies
  • Social media advocacy: as an example, the “unfriend coal” campaign has 500,000 people signed up for the facebook coal campaign to urge it to use more renewable energy to power its data centers.

A recent blog post by Jodie Van Horn discusses “How Green Tech Can Help the World Go Oil-Free,” which is an overview of how innovative IT can cut energy use and carbon emissions in key areas of: smart grid, individual mobility, telecommuting, and industrial transport.

Given that these areas of innovation are in very early phases of implementation (pilots, experiments, etc.), what can help accelerate such IT-enabled change? In addition to the usual suspects of incentives, regulation, etc., the beliefs and assumptions held by people also play a role. How can IT help here?

  • Bring esoteric numbers (e.g., .871 gC02/KWh) to life using mashups and effective visuals

  • Eco-visualization: using artistic techniques and technology platforms to raise awareness of energy use

  • Using online social networking to apply “digital pressure” on friends to understand critical environmental issues.

So, innovative information systems can impact individual beliefs and assumptions by presenting environmental information in new and compelling ways and letting people make up their own minds and by spreading the “digital” word rapidly through online social networks, as described in the BAO framework.


Author: nigelpm

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

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