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Highlights

The federal government's substantial use of information technology (IT) contributes significantly to federal agencies' energy use and environmental impact. To help mitigate this impact, organizations have adopted practices for using computing resources in a sustainable and more environmentally friendly manner-- sometimes referred to as "green IT." These practices include equipment acquisition, use, disposal, and related processes. GAO was asked to (1) determine the extent to which the government has defined policy and guidance on green IT and how selected federal agencies are implementing this policy and guidance, and (2) identify leading green IT practices used by federal agencies, state and local governments, and private-sector organizations. To do this, GAO evaluated federal guidance and policy, as well as guidance and initiatives at selected agencies; identified and characterized efforts in the public and private sectors; and interviewed officials.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Office of Management and Budget 1. To help federal managers better assess the effectiveness of progress made toward green IT-related sustainability goals, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, in conjunction with the White House Council on Environmental Quality, should consider including the leading green IT practices identified in this report as part of this guidance.
Closed - Implemented
In fiscal years 2011 and 2012, agencies provided sustainability plans to OMB. As we recommended, these plans included the leading green IT practices we identified. Inclusion of these practices will help federal managers more effectively meet their green IT-related sustainability goals.
Office of Management and Budget 2. To help federal managers better assess the effectiveness of progress made toward green IT-related sustainability goals, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, in conjunction with the White House Council on Environmental Quality, should update the existing green IT sustainability guidance, through the national strategy or another appropriate method, to direct agencies to develop baselines for their green IT-related goals and, where possible, targets that measure energy or cost savings or other quantifiable benefits.
Closed - Not Implemented
As of September 2015, the Office of Management and Budget has not implemented this recommendation. Specifically, the office did not update the existing green IT sustainability guidance with targets that measure energy, cost savings, or other quantifiable benefits. Although the office generally agreed with the recommendation in 2011, it has since stated that the office has no plans to implement it.

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