For a financial giant the size and breadth of Citigroup, a goal to slice greenhouse gas emissions 10 percent from 2005 levels by 2011 means a lot of IT projects, including server, storage and desktop virtualization initiatives; a program to consolidate its 'strategic' global data centers from 52 in 2006 to 14 by the end of next year (along with 10 satellite data centers); and a mobile device recycling program which went global in October.

But that's only part of the story. Michelle Erickson, Citigroup's initiative director for the global sustainable IT program since May 2007, recently discussed these initiatives, and how changing employee behavior around energy consumption and unnecessary data retention is equally vital towards helping the bank achieve environmental stewardship.

 

Tell us about the progress made by Citigroup's virtualization efforts.

In our North American x86 environment, we now have over 5,000 virtual servers. We're achieving close to $2 million in annual power and cooling savings. What would normally take 1128 kWh is now consuming 312 kWh. For every server that's moved to a virtual environment, we realize 40 percent power savings.

One of our data centers in New York has had a very aggressive decommissioning effort for about a year and it has already reduced its power consumption by 10 percent.

 

How does Citi's data center consolidation strategy play into its green IT efforts?

Our data center decommissioning strategy is moving from 52 to 14 global strategic data centers, which we're closing in on completion. We created one of the first LEED Gold (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating from the U.S. Green Building Council) data centers (in Georgetown, TX in Nov. 2008) and the first LEED Platinum data center in the world (in Frankfurt, Germany in April 2009).

Everyone's trying data de-duplication efforts but there's an important component on the end-user level. It doesn't matter how important your effort is on the back end - if you're not changing employee behavior it's not enough.

Earlier this year we ran a huge month-long global campaign called Lighten your Load. It's about helping employees to understand that every time they save an e-mail or fail to delete a file it's being stored somewhere. It helps them to become aware.

Tips were sent out every week. How to reduce their electronic footprints, how to reduce their e-mail usage, how to reduce their storage, reminding people they don't need to keep every e-mail in the chain of communications, just the last email. All of that stuff makes a difference.

We're attacking behavioral change at the same time that we're attacking back-end operations.

 

Tell me about Citi's mobile device recycling program and the progress you've made.

This was the first official program of the sustainable IT effort that we built from the ground up. It started in the New York metro area (in 2007) with 28 drop off locations. It was a huge success. The proceeds went to support the New York City Mayor's Office drive to combat domestic violence.

We accept Citi-issued cell phones and Blackberries over a three week period. We package everything up for our shipment to our recycler. We scrub data off the Blackberries since they have a higher reseller value for the proceeds that we raise. If it can be refurbished, it is. If not, it is recycled in an environmentally-sound way. It's a great program. Not only that we're operating in an environmentally conscious way but that we're touching each employee. Most people think of green IT as data centers. We took a much more holistic view when we started.

Last year we did this across 32 U.S. cities in 51 drop off locations. Nationwide, Citi volunteers donated a total of 8,456 no-longer-used phones, chargers, and other accessories. We raised $30,000 which went to fifteen different organizations (including Gateway Battered Women's Services in Aurora, CO and Youth Emergency Services Shelter in Des Moines, IA). It was so successful that this year we've actually gone global. We have ten cities in China participating, 20 drop off locations in London and we're operating across the U.S. It helps to support community organizations and it's an educational opportunity for our employees to learn the proper way to dispose of an electronic device.

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