Standards for Green ICT Gear Move Too Slowly

Standards for Green ICT gear and the accompanying databases of qualified models are invaluable tools for organizations striving for more sustainable purchasing practices. One challenge is that technology innovation and sustainability awareness evolve very rapidly while standards processes move very slowly. The ENRGY STAR for Data Center Products program of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is a case in point.

The program published version 1 of its server specification in May 2009. Manufacturers from China, France, Japan, Korea and the United States now offer qualified ENERGY STAR server models. Version 1 was a good start, but, like all first attempts, there is room for improvement. Almost three years later, the process of finalizing version 2 drags on with no apparent end in sight.

The situation is worse for the program's other product categories, which lack even a version 1 and for which purchasers have no access to a list of qualifying products. Work began on a specification for Data Center Storage in April 2009 and for Uninterruptible Power Supplies in February 2010, yet there appear to be no end dates for these processes either.

Lest I create the impression that this problem is exclusive to ENERGY STAR, I will note that the "Revision Process" for IEEE 1680.1-2009, the basis for the EPEAT database, will unlikely result in publication of a revised standard in 2012. Nor have I seen a more agile response by any of Europe's many certification processes for green ICT gear.

How can we improve standards and certification processes to give conscientious buyers better resources?