Go green with your information management program

Crown Records Management has introduced some zero emissions vehicles to its fleet
 
 
No matter the industry, your company has probably been working to improve its environmental credentials. You’re likely to be familiar with strategies like recycling and low emission vehicles. What you’re likely to be less familiar with is the mark information management can make on your company’s environmental policy.
 
For World Environment Day, we’ve investigated how information management can affect the planet, and presented some tips on how you can reduce your data’s carbon footprint. 

 

Can’t see the file for the trees? 

Even in 2018, the average office worker is still printing more than 6,000 sides of A4 every year. To feed this hunger for printed emails and contracts, 30 million acres of forest are destroyed annually. The manufacture of paper itself is also harmful, with 10 litres of water used per sheet and 253 gallons of petrol used per ton of virgin paper. 
 
Here are a few behavioral changes you can introduce into your business to reduce this environmental burden: 
  • Allocate printing costs to departmental budgets rather than to central operating costs. This provides bosses with a monetary incentive to keep an eye on employees’ paper use.  
  • Don’t have employees print the pre-read for your meeting, ask them to access the file on one of their devices. Many companies are bulk buying tablets to replace paper in the workplace. 
  • Look at this list of apps we put together for World Paper Free Day. They’ll provide a corresponding digital solution for every excuse to print.

Does memory serve you correctly? 

 
Even if you’ve already moved on from paper, data management in your business is having a big environmental impact. Every time you access or save a document within a virtualized environment, you’re using the processing power of your company’s servers –  which run on electricity. You’re also heating up those servers, which use energy-intensive cooling systems. This helps contribute to climate change and puts pressure on energy reserves. Is everything your hanging onto worth it? Research suggests not: it’s been estimated that 85 percent of the data businesses hold onto is useless and that, by 2020, it could take US$ 3.3 billion in energy costs to manage.
 
Less data and fewer data touchpoints in your workflow processes means less load on  servers and less energy use in the long term. Here’s what you need to do to cut down:  
  • Dust off your dark data. Here’s some advice on having a spring clean. 
  • In line with the EU general data protection regulation, you should have introduced destruction dates for all personally identifiable information. Why not put a timer on the rest of your data as well? 
  • Appoint an information manager in each department and apply storage costs to departmental budgets to incentivise a more thoughtful approach to data retention. 
  • Use collaborative tools to put an end to the to and fro of email document sharing. The multiple versions in multiple locations are adding to your environmental impact daily, and make version control less transparent. 
  • Get an information audit to ensure your workflows are as efficient as possible, reducing the pressure on your servers. 

Some clouds have a silver lining

 
Many businesses are switching their data storage needs from in-house servers to the cloud, which is often a good environmental and financial decision. 
 
In 2015 the world’s data centers used 416.2 terawatt hours of electricity, around 3 percent of global electricity consumption. That’s only going to grow exponentially in the coming years. These seem like scary numbers, but there’s little doubt that centralized Cloud services are more energy efficient than having lots of small in-house servers. Research suggests that the use of cloud servers by businesses could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 85 million metric tons within the next decade.
 
While all data centers require a lot of energy to function, they’re not all equal when it comes to their environmental credentials. If you’re outsourcing, it’s good to know whether your company’s data center uses renewable energy sources. If it’s not, you may wish to consider switching. Check the company’s public policy statements for information about their current energy consumption and their long-term goals.