Behind-the-times boardrooms in IT sector hold back younger generations bid to go green

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Accusations of apathy and self-interest are frequently levelled at young people. However, new research launched by the CMI reveals that, in terms of embracing the green agenda, in the IT sector those at director and senior management-level risk squandering the enthusiasm of junior and young managers to take action on green issues.

The CMIs Lean and Green report shows a striking disparity between senior and junior staff members in organisations across the IT sector in terms of their passion for, and willingness to take action to combat climate change in the workplace.  While 87% of managers in the sector recognise energy usage is a key business issue, just 38% report that their organisation actively addresses its carbon footprint. 

The CMIs chief executive, Ruth Spellman, explains: Making green management business as usual is a key challenge facing the profession today.  Its frustrating that the majority of managers recognise this but are being held back, either because of a lack of leadership commitment, complicated regulations, or inadequate resources.  We hope the recommendations in this report will give managers the tools they need stop paying lip-service to green issues and start taking action.

This inertia seems to stem from the very top; more than half of all directors are identified as climate change cynics.  In contrast senior management commitment is recognised by 86% of managers in the IT sector as the most important driver of environmental practices, followed by cost savings and regulatory compliance.  While an encouraging 71% of managers in the sector say they would be turned off by an employer with a poor environmental record, fewer than half are proud of the environmental record of their current employer, further bolstering the argument that good intentions do not translate into actions.  This also means businesses not addressing their environmental impact risk losing out on the most talented recruits. 

To encourage managers at all levels to play their part in transforming the UK economy for a low-carbon future, the CMI is calling for all UK organisations to have a green team, led from the top, in place and active by 5 June 2010 World Environment Day.  These teams will be responsible for harnessing the enthusiasm of the younger generation and using it to engender a carbon-conscious culture across their workplaces.  Other recommendations include assigning green performance targets to individual employees as well as to the organisation as a whole, adopting meaningful measures of environmental performance and providing sufficient resources to help realise potential business benefits.     

Recycling, which 82% of organisations in the IT sector have introduced, remains the most popular green initiative, but fewer than half (44%) have introduced energy-efficient light bulbs and fewer still have tried to reduce the energy consumption of IT equipment.  This suggests that in the current economic climate, businesses could be missing out on important cost benefits by not signing up to the green management movement. 

Anna Pretious, Environmental and Energy Conservation Manager (North Wales Police) on behalf of ACPO Cymru, said: We would like to see people thinking innovatively beyond recycling to look at how things like improved vehicle fuel-efficiency, consideration of whole life cycle analysis in purchasing decisions, making better use of energy-efficient IT and designing low carbon buildings could help improve both their environmental performance and their bottom line.      

Eva Eisenschimmel, EDF Energys Chief Officer, People, Organisation and Brand Performance, said: We welcome this research by the Chartered Management Institute and the insight it gives into this serious issue.  Every business leader needs to consider how their company will thrive in a low carbon economy. For many, this will involve a transformation of the business model something that EDF Energy made a long term commitment to and on which we are making strong progress.. This has to be led from the top but turned into a reality for all employees. Long-term performance measures linked with reward schemes is a powerful mechanism for making this happen.

Chris Earnshaw, President at the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) said: As trusted sources of information on the latest issues, member organisations such as the IET and the CMI have a key role to play in facilitating change.  The Lean and Green report suggests organisations are overlooking the benefits of becoming low carbon in terms of winning new business, retaining talented employees and attracting new customers.  Engineers should be at the forefront of organisational decision-making when it comes to sustainability managers should call on their expertise when developing green policies.   

The Lean and Green research, which involved a UK-wide survey of 1,500 managers and detailed case studies, was conducted by the Centre for Environmental Strategy at the University of Surrey and the CMI, in partnership with the IET and the UK Business Council for Sustainable Energy, and supported by EDF Energy and the Association of Chief Police Officers Cymru.

The executive summary and full report are free to download at

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