The green IT stars of 2010

InfoWorld's 2010 Green 15 Awards: Green-tech projects coupled with innovation and collaboration yield bountiful rewards

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KPMG scores sky-high savings with telepresence
Part of a firm-wide green IT makeover, KPMG sheds 100 metric tons from its carbon footprint by reducing air travel

When browsing KPMG's internal travel portal to plan a face-to-face meeting, employees will sometimes find a pleasant alternative to booking energy-sapping, time-consuming flights: booking time in one of the company's 16 HP Halo telepresence studios. Not only does that approach spare workers the stress and jet lag of air travel, it's helped the massive accounting corporation achieve its goal of employing technology to cut costs and reduce its carbon footprint.

According to Darren McGann, green IT manager at KPMG, air travel accounts for 60 percent of the firm's overall carbon footprint, which is why the company has made a determined effort to promote telepresence usage among employees. "Within a month of integrating Halo into our travel portal, we saw a 30 percent increase in its usage," said McGann. "Once employees use telepresence, the technology sells itself and employees who use Halo become the biggest promoters of the technology."

KPMG staff have grown to appreciate telepresence for a variety of reasons. "Employees continue to use it not only as a cost-savings measure but because of the social benefits they discovered from their initial experience," McGann said. "Users have said that it allows them to maintain closer relationships with global teams and decrease frequency of travel, thus improving their work-life balance. And it makes them feel good about working for KPMG since the firm has these technologies available."

Beyond boosting productivity and morale, telepresence has helped KPMG achieve its financial and environmental goals. The firm has shaved a cool $1 million from its travel budget and 100 metric tons from its total carbon footprint.

If telepresence isn't an option, the Green Travel Advisor within the travel portal directs employees to hotels that comply with the key environmental guidelines of the American Hotel and Lodging Association.

In addition to telepresence and the Green Travel Advisor, KPMG monitors both its data center and its 88 remote offices' computing facilities for compliance with ASHRAE's updated temperature recommendations. Monitoring the remote locations entails using a BMC Performance Manager Patrol agent to collect router intake temperatures from the various offices via SNMP. That data is then graphed for trending purposes, helping to identify areas to implement tighter controls to save energy and operating costs.

"Collecting and monitoring more data points allowed us to safely raise the temperature setting to 74 Fahrenheit, which in turn enabled us to reduce our CRAC energy consumption up to 15 percent," said McGann. "The monitoring provides more response time to a spike in temperature and also alerts us when there is a temperature drop and therefore waste of electricity."

KPMG has also developed an IT Sustainable Procurement Standard, a joint effort between IT and the firm's procurement department, requiring that new IT hardware meet Energy Star and EPEAT standards. The procurement standard will result in a predicted energy savings of over a half million kWh for 2009 purchases alone, along with huge reductions on GHG emissions, water usage, and general materials.

McGann attributes much of KPMG's sustainability success to the support it's received from upper management. "There needs to be buy-in from an organization's leadership to successfully implement green initiatives," he said. "It often helps to secure this buy-in by presenting a business case for green IT initiatives that demonstrates not only the cost savings, but the environmental impact."

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