We recently featured in Housing Technology discussing the benefits of Green IT and our commitment to making Propeller Powered a climate neutral company.
●What is ‘green IT’?
The concept of green IT for IT hardware is relatively simple to understand – from consideration for recycled or recyclable elements in components and energy-efficient production to eco-friendly packaging and zero-emission standby modes, these are all concepts that we are familiar with from other products.
For software though, it is perhaps a slightly trickier concept. In simple terms, it relates to energy efficiency. Where Propeller Powered is making a difference is by developing cloud-based systems that enable housing associations to work from anywhere – simply put, less commuting and travel between sites has an immediate impact in decreasing emissions. What’s more, cloud-based data storage is far more energy-efficient than a room packed full of churning servers requiring climate-control.
● Why is green IT important from an operational perspective?
Because the systems that we design are cloud-based, they can be accessed from anywhere. Whilst there has been a shift in attitude within housing to move to off-site data centres, many of the legacy systems do not have a true cloud-based SAAS offerings and as such can’t realise all of the green benefits and efficiencies of modern platforms.
Under normal circumstances, there’s an immediate benefit in reduced travel time and emissions. Given the state of the nation since Covid-19 took hold in March, it’s been a game-changer for many of our clients. Their ability to continue to meet service levels and legal compliance requirements – despite being off the road and out of the office – was largely due to their use of Propeller’s cloud-based systems.
At Propeller, the green approach is also key to our own corporate values – we vet our suppliers and any recommended partners to ensure those values are shared by those we work with. Since July, we have become official ClimatePartners, offsetting our carbon emissions with funding for eco projects around the world including the development of hydropower in Indonesia. Participating UK companies come from a range of sectors but we’re currently the only software company in the UK to be demonstrating our commitment to carbon neutrality by signing up.
Housing associations that choose Propeller are buying a climate-neutral product and service, and making a positive contribution to the fight against global warming.
● Does green IT have any financial benefits to housing providers?
Commercially it absolutely makes sense because for any business today given the climate crisis we face, green issues are money issues. Energy efficiency will by and large equate to cost savings. There may be an initial outlay to move over to new systems, but the long-term savings can be easily identified.
Increasing awareness of sustainability across the industry also means that the housing providers that choose to operate sustainably are looked on favourable in contract award processes. But it’s not just virtue-signalling – they need to be able to demonstrate genuine efforts, and having a green supply chain is an important part of the process.
When it comes to software systems, the greener they are, the less energy they require so there will clearly be a cost saving there. Software like ours is not only developed in a green way, and works to maximum efficiency in itself, it also helps our clients to schedule their work and allows closer scrutiny of performance and time management which can in turn lead to further considerable financial benefits.
Our clients can operate more efficiently, using less energy and resources to complete more tasks in real-time.
Ateb Group, a housing association operating across Wales, recently adopted the Propeller Workforce Management and Compliance System after almost three years of struggling to keep on top of records held across several different systems. Ateb came online in May 2019 after a speedy eight-week onboarding period and their Maintenance and Compliance Coordinator Linzi Laugharne says that their compliance activity is now “poles apart” compared to previous.
● What are the qualitative and/or intangible benefits of green IT?
No-one could have foreseen the widespread disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. But as mentioned above, for the clients who were already using our cloud-based job management and compliance programmes, the leap to life in lockdown was considerably smoother than it would have been otherwise for both customers and staff. And we also picked up a couple of new clients who quickly realised that they needed to shift their systems over if they were to be able to continue to operate under restrictions.
In addition to that, we consider it part of our role as a responsible business to be doing all that we can to operate in an environmentally-conscious way, and help our clients to do the same.
One of our direct contributions is by offsetting our own carbon emissions through ClimatePartner. We’re helping countries like Indonesia, which currently generates less than 6% of its electricity from renewable energy sources, to make a real difference to their overall
emissions with the development of a large hydropower project in northern Sumatra aimed at increasing renewable sources to 23% by 2025*.
● Does green IT help or hinder your IT operations?
It’s definitely a help for us – by facilitating remote working (both for us and our clients), by actively working sustainably and fundamentally operating as a better business.
● How do you measure the impact/success of green IT initiatives/policies?
As part of the ClimatePartner programme, we have completed a comprehensive audit to calculate our own carbon emissions – whether they’re generated through energy consumption by way of heating, electricity usage, rackspace, travel or otherwise. By collating all of that information, we achieved not only a benchmark of our carbon emissions for this first year of the partnership, but also a great insight into areas of the business where other efficiencies could be made. That audit will be repeated on an annual basis so it’s an excellent way to monitor how our carbon emissions are reducing over time.
For clients using our system, one of the simplest metrics is to review staff productivity. By comparing the jobs completed by an individual engineer before and after implementing Propeller’s job management, it is easy to see that more intelligent planning, increased automation and mobile data inputting have a clear impact on efficiency. The same applies to support staff responsible for data management and customer relations – increased automation and workflow improves the overall speed of processing and eliminates laborious paperwork.
● Do you have any examples (quantitative and/or qualitative) of green IT programmes?
Our systems are all cloud-based so they are inherently green. From realtime field management to digital certifications and automated text messaging, cloud-based functionality is at the heart of what we do.