FrEDI: Freeform’s Environmental Discussion Image

We’ve just released a research report calledGreen Computing:
The role of IT in the push towards environmental sustainability
’. While doing the research and validating the findings it rapidly became clear to me that few people are constantly aware of the big picture and their part in it. IT is, after all, just an enabling component in an organisation’s strategy yet, to listen to some people, ’greening the data centre’ is the start and end of its environmental contribution.

The report examines the broader role of IT and actually gets inside organisations and looks at the drivers for green (and ’green’, incidentally, isn’t high on the list), cultural issues – including attitudes to IT, where responsibilities for action lie, and how IT can support the organisation’s sustainability objectives. The statistical content was based on feedback from 1474 IT professionals while the interpretation was a combination of experience and consultations following the report’s first draft.

Anyway, the point of today’s post is to introduce you to FrEDI, an illustration which reflects all the areas that need to be considered when participating in an environmental sustainability strategy. The acronym stands for Freeform Environmental Discussion Image although, in retrospect, perhaps ’Illustration’ would be a better last word. Its purpose is to keep people’s minds open to the bigger picture when discussing and planning their environmental activities.


As you can see, there’s a certain amount of blurring between the various elements of the illustration, this reflects the fact that nothing happens in isolation except, possibly, the determination of the drivers which are best decided at board level, even if some of them are informed by others within the organisation.

You will also notice that the drivers are two-tone – one for internal drivers, such as budget or PR value, the other for external drivers, such as government regulation.

The only way for the drivers to be implemented is through people and they are reached and inspired through leadership. Which, of course, comes from people. Hence the blurring. You may notice that both drivers and leadership fade out at the bottom, leaving the field clear for people, processes and ICT to intermingle and bring about the necessary change.

People are on top of the stack, quite deliberately because nothing at all happens without people. Processes are created and carried out by people and most of them are intimately supported by ICT.

The bottom part of the illustration hints at sustainability in that equipment and resources have to be chosen, acquired, used then disposed of. They are split in two, to reflect the different nature of hardware and resources. Servers, storage, cooling, PCs, laptops, thin clients, mobile devices, printers, etc on the one hand and electricity, paper, ink, toner, water etc on the other.

We believe that it is useful to have an illustration like this to hand whenever debating environmental matters so that the bigger picture is never lost. Organisational and individual benefits will be maximised through harmony and environmental benefits will drop out as a by-product.

Do take a look at the report if this subject interests you. And, of course, your feedback is always welcome.

PS In case you were wondering, the fact it looks like a tree wasn’t lost on us. In fact, it looks most like an Evergreen Oak, but we realised that if we called a tree, then this would lead to hierarchical expectations when, in fact, we’re all in this together.

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