Sustainable Information Technology

This program focus is on the product and service provision components of Sustainable IT, optimising costs and minimising negative environmental impact.The Natural Edge Project Engineering Sustainable Solutions Program was supported by the Australian National Commission for UNESCO through the International Relations Grants Program of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Sustainable IT, also known as Green IT, is a multi-component approach to establishing and sustainably operating an IT business function. Sustainable IT is becoming increasingly important in the eyes of many organisations. A survey of organisations of all sizes across both the government and corporate sectors found that 80 percent of IT decision makers believe that implementing Sustainable IT in their organisations is important and 49 percent cite positive reputation as one of the greatest benefits. However, 51 percent of IT decision makers cite cost as a barrier to implementing Sustainable IT technologies, 25 percent cite complexity of implementation and maintenance, and 21 percent cite potential disruptions to current IT systems.

This Lectures Series offers a solution that addresses many barriers to Sustainable IT while optimising costs and minimising negative environmental impact. The focus is on the product and service provision components of Sustainable IT. Specifically, these lectures describe a holistic, end-to-end solution for IT systems of medium and large enterprises. This solution consists of:

  • Product service systems: also known as sustainable services and systems and eco-efficient services. There are several product service systems topologies. These Lectures describe the use services topology as applied to IT products and services. In this topology, customers purchase the services of some or all IT hardware and software products through leasing, renting, sharing or pooling while the vendor maintains the ownership, responsibility and stewardship of the products. The aims are to remove aged technology with minimal environmental impact while customers maximise their investment on their IT systems. Vendors can be either an external company or the customer’s IT business function, operating largely independently.

  • Sustainable IT products: i.e. those items of client and data centre equipment that are resource efficient to manufacture, transport and operate, and have low-to-no adverse health impacts on people and the environment throughout their lifecycles.

These lectures draw from information regarding product service systems and sustainable IT products. They also draw from information regarding the development and implementation of several previously and currently popular IT service models that are relevant to successful product service systems, including: IT service management (ITSM), also known as service-oriented IT management (SOITM); service-oriented architecture (SOA), also known as service-oriented computing (SOC); and IT leasing.

Since an IT system is a large and heavily integrated system with many components, a change in any component of the system will impact on several other components. Thus, it is important that decisions are informed by an accurate understanding and assessment of the impacts on the whole IT system. Hence, readers may be interested in learning about the business components of Sustainable IT, which are beyond the scope of these lectures. The business components are particularly relevant to decision makers in enterprises and include:

  • IT business function governance: Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), sustainability Capability Maturity Model (CMM), change management, supply chain management.
  • IT business function management: revenue, cost minimisation, asset utilisation, risk minimisation.
  • Environmental management systems: ISO 14000 family, Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS).
  • Resource audits: energy and waste.
  • Developing projects: scoping, goals, objectives and targets.
  • Measurement: Balanced Scorecard, key performance indicator (KPI), metrics, lifecycle analysis (LCA).
  • Reporting: Triple Bottom Line (TBL), Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), carbon footprint.
  • IT industry maturity and trends: emerging technologies, regulations, Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), carbon offsets.

Lecture 1: Drivers and Benefits of Sustainable IT

The aim of this lecture is to discuss the drivers and benefits of Sustainable IT, particularly for the customer. Drivers and benefits range through business, economic, environmental and legislative domains.

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Lecture 2: Product Service Systems and the Product Cycle

The aim of this lecture is to discuss product service systems, their barriers and lessons from past implementations, as well as the opportunities to reduce energy and materials consumption in packaging and equipment through end-of-life processing.

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Lecture 3: Client Equipment

The aim of this lecture is to discuss a four-step process for reducing energy consumption, materials consumption and materials toxicity in client equipment.

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Lecture 4: Data Centres and HP Case Study

The aim of this lecture is to discuss a seven-step process for reducing energy consumption in data centres and to present a Sustainable IT case study of IT vendor HP.

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Lecture 5: Roadmap and Success of Sustainable IT

The aim of this lecture is to discuss the strategies, activities and actions upon which customers and vendors should focus in order to successfully transition to, maintain and promote their Sustainable IT solutions at the organisation and industry level.

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This document contains the full citations for the references in the Lecture documents.

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Text Book

This course is supported by the text book developed by our team, namely ‘Hargroves, K. and Smith, M.H. (2005) The Natural Advantage of Nations: Business Opportunities, Innovation and Governance in the 21st Century, Earthscan, London’. References and optional reading material is provided for each lecture for those who wish to explore the content in more detail.


The Sustainable IT Lecture Series was produced by The Natural Edge Project using funds provided by Hewlett-Packard (HP) Australia. The development of this publication has been supported by the contribution of non-staff related on-costs and administrative support by the Centre for Environment and Systems Research (CESR) at Griffith University, under the supervision of Professor Bofu Yu, and both the Fenner School of Environment and Society and Engineering Department at the Australian National University, under the supervision of Professor Stephen Dovers.

Expert review and mentoring for the Sustainable IT Lecture Series has been received from Mike Dennis, The Australian National University; Scott Evans, Pitcher Partners Consultants and the Australian Information Industry Association; Bruce Scott, Griffith University; Chenobu Thong, Hewlett-Packard Australia; Michael Wagner, Hewlett-Packard Australia; Malcolm Wolski, Griffith University; and Tom Worthington, The Australian National University and the Australian Computer Society.


Stasinopoulos, P., Hargroves, K., Smith, M., Desha, C. and Hargroves, S. (2008) Sustainable IT: Reducing Carbon Footprint and Materials Waste in the IT Environment, The Natural Edge Project (TNEP), Australia.