Greening Govt ICT: A Mechanism-Based Explanation of Institutional Change in the UK Public Sector

Tags: energy | Suste Tech | green ICT | Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions | Institutional Theory | Social Mechanisms | Field Study

In the United Kingdom, public sector information and communication technologies (ICT) are responsible for between 35-38% of total ICT-related Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. Surprisingly, this sector is generally overlooked by researchers studying the environmental impact of ICT. Hence, this study adopts a problem-driven approach to the analysis of the institutional mechanisms that lead to the direct, enabling, and systematic effects of Green ICT in public sector organizations. A qualitative field study of the UK public sector is conducted, as the UK’s Greening ICT Strategy is regarded as an international exemplar. Using this paper’s mechanism-based explanatory model as a sensitizing device, the field study findings are then employed to develop mechanism-based explanations of the institutionalization of the UK government’s Green ICT strategy, which underpins the government’s efforts to reduce its GHG emissions. There are obvious lessons here for the public sector globally, while the paper also provides practical insights into how government-led Green ICT-based initiatives can institute wider societal and organizational change. One significant finding is that contrary to the ‘Iron Law’ of climate policy, the cost savings associated with the introduction of Green ICT provide more effective incentives for governments and public sector organisations than environmental concerns alone.