Green COBIT: A call to action
Like many others, I’ve been interested to see how COBIT would move forward with the release of COBIT 5. I am a staunch supporter of the framework for its clarity, detail and practicality. As a regular user of other frameworks and standards, I very often find myself turning to COBIT when I need to beat a path through the complexities of IT organisations and processes and give clients a clear way forward.
But there’s something missing. And that something is what I’m calling Green COBIT. I was hoping that the new framework would take a leadership position in the movement toward sustainable information technology. COBIT and ISACA are the ideal vehicles to bring IT-related environmental issues to the forefront of best practice in our industry. Instead, in COBIT 5 the subject is skirted around at best, and ignored at worst.
COBIT: Be the Green Leader
The fact is, COBIT and ISACA can and should take a leading role in the Green IT movement. What the new framework delivers in this area falls a long way short of that ideal, and this is why:
COBIT 5 recognises that some stakeholders will want long-term sustainability, but only in terms of “value.” The implication is that this is only financial value. It’s not clear to the reader that this value could include environmental, rather than purely financial, sustainability.
When COBIT 5 discusses innovation and emerging technologies, there is no mention of the critical role of inventiveness in IT when it comes to transforming enterprises—and whole economies—into low-carbon centers of excellence. This at a time when huge efforts are being put into innovation in producing low-energy devices (and the standards such as EPEAT and ENERGY STAR which support them), more efficient data centers, and even Green IT qualifications such as those provided by the BCS—not forgetting, of course, that IT is an enabler of other low-energy technology processes and behaviours.
For a standard that is all about governance, there is very little recognition of the role of corporate social responsibility (CSR). True, there is a “Culture, Ethics and Behaviour” enabler, but this is essentially only about the form of our cultures and ethics in IT. I believe that there is a role for COBIT in being bolder about the content of ethical policies when it comes to CSR.
Is any of that stuff really important in “delivering value”? I refer readers to the recent Apple/FOXCONN debacle to judge for themselves.
Green Policies and Culture
COBIT 5 talks a little about “Policies and Culture,” and of course this is the area where Green IT is born and grows in organisations. But there is no explicit guidance on the development of sustainable IT policies or behaviours, and this is a wasted opportunity.
Again, “Environment” is recognised as a stakeholder driver, but only in the context of “compliance with external laws and regulations.” Given the situation in terms of political instability in Europe, financial meltdown in the west as a whole, massive industrialization in developing countries, and worrying changes in the global climate, compliance with the law is not nearly enough for enterprises that want to lead.
The 17 COBIT enterprise goals recognize financial, customer, internal, and learning and growth dimensions. There is no dimension of social responsibility or a correlating IT goal of sustainability.
Green COBIT: An Idea Whose Time Has Come?
It would be unfair to criticize COBIT 5 for failing to deliver something that it never sought to achieve in the first place, and I remain a staunch supporter of the framework. But now is the time to recognise that we have to get specific about Green IT and the primacy of ethics and social responsibility in enterprises. The idea of Green COBIT could lead where others only follow.
Note from COBIT 5 Task Force Co-Chair, Derek Oliver:
The COBIT 5 Task Force completely agrees with the importance of green IT issues. I am confident that we reflected this importance in COBIT 5 as there are 17 IT-related goals (see figure 7, page 17, of COBIT 5: Enabling Processes) that can address this. When an enterprise is determining how it will conduct asset and resource management, it can define any of these as it sees fit, whether for green IT, sustainability, privacy, etc. The goals cascade in COBIT 5 works well to support these objectives. The enterprise and IT-related goals stemming from the stakeholder needs result in specific goals structured in alignment with the Kaplan Balanced Scorecard (BSC) model, which uses Financial, Customer, Internal, and Learning and Growth dimensions. COBIT 5 focuses on stakeholder drivers, which lead to stakeholder needs. If green IT issues are designated as a stakeholder need in an enterprise, COBIT 5 will steer the enterprise towards meeting that need.
We welcome your comments! Please log in using the Sign In link at the top right of this page and then leave your comment in the box at the end of the post.
To view all blog posts, please click on the ISACA Now link in the blue box on the left.
View full post on ISACA Now: Posts