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Abstract

Green IS offers the promise for IS scholars to make a significant contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating the effects of global climate change and other environmental problems. While significant achievements have been made in shaping Green IS as a subfield in the IS discipline, the emergence of Green IS is still by far too slow, given the magnitude of the problem. Against this background a panel was organized at ICIS 2012 in order to discuss future directives for the IS discipline. This article, co-authored by the panelists, reports on the major issues raised by this panel. First, the article gives an account of major achievements in the field of Green IS. Second, it presents five specific directives which we agree are important for the future of our discipline.
This is the author’s version of a work that was published in the
following source:
vom Brocke, J., Watson, R., Dwyer, C., Elliot, S., & Melville, N.
(2013). Green Information Systems: Directives for the IS
Discipline. Communications of the Association for Information
Systems (CAIS), 33(30), p.509-520
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The final publication is available at
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Communications of the Association for Information Systems
Volume 33 Article 30
12-1-2013
Green Information Systems: Directives for the IS
Discipline
Jan vom Brocke
University of Liechtenstein, jan.vom.brocke@uni.li
Richard T. Watson
Terry College, University of Georgia, USA
Cathy Dwyer
Seidenberg School of Computer Science & Information Systems, Pace University, USA
Steve Elliot
University of Sydney Business School, University of Sydney, Australia
Nigel Melville
Stephen M. Ross School of Business, University of Michigan, USA
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Recommended Citation
vom Brocke, Jan; Watson, Richard T.; Dwyer, Cathy; Elliot, Steve; and Melville, Nigel (2013) "Green Information Systems: Directives
for the IS Discipline," Communications of the Association for Information Systems: Vol. 33, Article 30.
Available at: hp://aisel.aisnet.org/cais/vol33/iss1/30
Volume 33
Article 30
Green Information Systems: Directives for the IS Discipline
Jan vom Brocke
Institute of Information Systems, University of Liechtenstein, Liechtenstein
Jan.vom.Brocke@uni.li
Richard T. Watson
Terry College, University of Georgia, USA
Cathy Dwyer
Seidenberg School of Computer Science & Information Systems, Pace University, USA
Steve Elliot
University of Sydney Business School, University of Sydney, Australia
Nigel Melville
Stephen M. Ross School of Business, University of Michigan, USA
Green IS offers the promise for IS scholars to make a significant contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions
and mitigating the effects of global climate change and other environmental problems. While significant
achievements have been made in shaping Green IS as a subfield in the IS discipline, the emergence of Green IS is
still by far too slow, given the magnitude of the problem. Against this background a panel was organized at ICIS
2012 in order to discuss future directives for the IS discipline. This article, co-authored by the panelists, reports on
the major issues raised by this panel. First, the article gives an account of major achievements in the field of Green
IS. Second, it presents five specific directives which we agree are important for the future of our discipline.
Keywords: Green IS, sustainability, business transformation, energy informatics.
Editor’s Note: The article is based on a panel presentation at the International Conference on Information Systems
(ICIS), held in Orlando, Florida, USA, December 2012.
Volume 33, Article 30, pp. 509-520, December 2013
Green Information Systems: Directives for the IS Discipline
Green Information Systems: Directives for the IS Discipline
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I. INTRODUCTION
Industrialization over the last three centuries has changed the chemical composition of the earth’s air, land, and
waters. This period, extremely short by geological periods, has so transformed the environment that it is seen as a
distinct epoch, the Anthropocene. Some human societies have overstressed their local environment and collapsed
[Diamond, 2005]. Now, there is the considerable risk that we may soon exceed the boundaries for sustainable life for
global human civilization [Rockström et al., 2009].
Manifestations of environmental degradation include climate change, with increasing droughts, floods, and extreme
weather conditions; rising sea levels; and declining food and water resources [Stern, 2007; UN, 1987]. The leading
scientists in this domain attribute environmental degradation on a global scale to human behavior. More than 190
countries accept their scientific evidence and have formally committed to take action [UNFCCC, 2007]. The
challenge to be addressed is of global proportions: changing current polluting practices by business, government,
and society [Porter and Reinhardt, 2007; Stern, 2007].
Green IS has emerged as a new area of scholarship that addresses issues created by the Anthropocene period. It
offers the promise for IS scholars to make a significant contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and
mitigating the effects of global climate change and other environmental problems. While information technology
creates an environmental load because of the electricity required for its operation and the problem of disposing of
obsolete hardware, innovative information systems can reduce environmental problems.
While significant achievements have been made in shaping Green IS as a subfield in the IS discipline, the
emergence of Green IS is still by far too slow, given the magnitude of the problem. This is alarming, mainly for two
reasons: first, the IS discipline may miss an opportunity to contribute to one of the most important problems of our
modern society; second, the IS discipline may lose a historic chance to prove relevance and thus strengthen its
position as an academic discipline.
Against this background, a panel was organized at ICIS 2012 to discuss future directives for the IS discipline [vom
Brocke, Watson, Dwyer, Elliot and Melville, 2012]. The panelists covered different perspectives such as research,
teaching, transfer, and community building. Each panelist specifically addressed “what the IS discipline needs to do”
in order to fully leverage the potential of Green IS. This article, co-authored by the panelists, reports on the major
issues raised by this panel. First, we give an account of major achievements in the field of Green IS (Section II).
Second, we present the panelists view on the development of the IS discipline. We present the views in a
consolidated way by suggesting specific directives that we agree are important for the future of our discipline
(Section III).
II. A REVIEW ON WHAT HAS BEEN ACHIEVED
Green IS has evolved as a subfield of the information systems discipline investigating how Information Systems can
support sustainability [Watson, Boudreau and Chen, 2010]. It contrasts from Green IT in that it is not limited to the
energy efficiency and equipment utilization of IT, but focuses on the design and implementation of information
systems that contribute to the implementation of sustainable business processes [Watson et al., 2010]. Green IS is
considered to have high transformative power, as it addresses the transformation of socio-technical systems in a
number of application areas [Boudreau, Chen and Huber, 2008].
To date, a number of path-leading contributions have helped shape the field of Green IS. In addition, considerable
work has been done in order to establish Green IS as an academic community. In this section we present an
overview of major achievements of both research and community building in order to ground the discussion of future
directives for the IS discipline.
Selected Scholarly Contributions
In the following, we illustrate selected contributions that characterize the contemporary field of Green IS. For further
accounts of the literature, we refer to Brooks, Wang and Sarker [2012], Corbett [2010], Vazques, Rocha,
Dominguez, Morales and Ahluwalia [2011], and Kossahl, Busse and Kolbe [2012].
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It is argued that establishing environmental sustainability is “one of the most important global challenges of the 21st
century” [Melville, 2010, p. 14] and that the information systems discipline has both a responsibility and an
opportunity to contribute to solving this challenge [Watson et al., 2010]. On the one hand, IT contributes
approximately 2 percent of global greenhouse gas emission [WWF/Gartner, 2008]. Mitigating these effects through
more energy-efficient systems with minimized environmental impact is the domain of Green IT [Chen, Watson,
Boudreau and Karahanna, 2009; Elliot, 2011; Iacobelli, Olson and Merhout, 2010]. More broadly, Green IS is
suggested as a means to also address the remaining 98 percent [Elliot, 2011; Watson et al., 2010] through
designing information systems that serve as “a potential enabler of green, sustainable solutions” [Seidel, Recker,
Pimmer and vom Brocke, 2010, p. 1] and as potential enabler of behavioral change by individuals, organizations,
and society [Iacobelli et al., 2010].
It has been argued that in the past information systems have provided solutions for all kinds of human problems
[Melville, 2010; Watson and vom Brocke, 2011], which gives IS a major opportunity in the area of sustainability
[Bengtsson and Ågerfalk, 2011; Melville, 2010]. Unfortunately, there is only limited focus on sustainability in IS
research so far [Dao, Langella and Carbo, 2011; Melville, 2010]. Recently, attention to sustainability has increased
within different business disciplines [Dao et al., 2011]. For instance, from 2000 to 2010, the focus on Green IT and
Green IS research has increased every year [Vazques et al., 2011].
In order to contribute to environmental sustainability, Elliot [2011] argues that the unsustainable behaviors of
individuals, societies, organizations, and governments need to change toward more sustainable behavior. Based on
the principles of General Systems Theory [von Bertalanffy, 1996], a cybernetic relationship has been identified
between the natural environment, business, government, and society (including education/universities), such that
each impacts and is impacted on by the others [Elliot, 2011]. In this way, the outcome of persistent unsustainable
practices leads to deterioration of the environment that then impacts negatively on business, government, and
society (e.g., in the form of extreme natural catastrophes). Melville [2010] presents the BeliefActionOutcome
(BAO) framework as an initial research agenda on sustainability. This framework consists of three parts: belief
formation, action formation, and outcome. The intention to adopt Green IS is influenced by several factors, for
instance, by environmental concerns, attitude, subjective norms, and normative beliefs [Kranz and Picot, 2011].
In order to drive behavioral changes, the importance of information is highlighted by several authors: Dumont and
Brison-Chraniotis [2008], Kranz and Picot [2011], Loock, Straake and Landwehr [2011], Melville [2010], Watson et
al. [2010], Watson, Boudreau, Chen and Sepúlveda [2011]. Feedback information, in particular, has been identified
as an important influence on behavioral change at the individual level, i.e., descriptive normative and injunctive
normative feedback, especially in comparison with a reference group [Kranz and Picot, 2011; Loock et al., 2011].
People have to be supported in adapting new behaviors [Bengtsson and Ågerfalk, 2011], for instance, through
innovative applications of technology [Elliot, 2011]. Information systems, in particular, can be an enabler for adopting
sustainability practices.
Green IS research has also examined the organizational level. Watson et al. [2011] have argued that organizations
can develop innovative solutions when they focus on eco-effectiveness instead of eco-efficiency. While eco-
efficiency is characterized through minimizing the ecological footprint of existing solutions, eco-effective focuses on
solutions which are sustainable per se [Watson et al., 2011]. Seidel et al. [2010] have argued further that, to be
accepted as credible providers of such innovations, companies need to be internally sustainable as well. The
development of organizations toward more sustainable practices have been investigated, referring to “green IS
initiatives” [Bengtsson and Ågerfalk, 2011; Watson et al., 2010] or “sustainability transformations” [Seidel, Recker
and vom Brocke, 2013]. Iacobelli et al. [2010] have argued that these transformations not only mitigate the
environmental load, they also help organizations create large-scale benefits such as competitive and strategic
advantages through green IS initiatives. Thus, it is important not to isolate Green IS initiatives, but rather to
capitalize on the potential of information systems in comprehensive sustainability transformations [Dao et al., 2011;
Hedman, Henningsson and Selander, 2012].
Resistance to sustainability issues increases when changes in existing routines are required [Bengtsson and
Ågerfalk, 2011]. Therefore, solutions have to be defined that consider all stakeholders [Bengtsson and Ågerfalk,
2011]. Support from middle management, transparency, as well as social-altruistic and bio-centric values and
motives, are further important factors of successful green IS adoptions [Kranz and Picot, 2011; Seidel et al., 2010].
Institutional arrangements have to be taken into consideration as well [Fradley, Troshani, Rampersad and De Ionno,
2012]. In alignment with the environmental strategy of the organization, a green IS strategy should be defined. It
should outline the significance of IS for the core business and its environmental impacts and be the basis for
business process reengineering toward more sustainable processes [Loeser, Erek and Zarnekow, 2012].
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Seidel et al. [2013] have identified four specific affordances of information systems that particularly provide for
sustainability transformations, namely, reflective disclosure, information democratization, output management, and
delocalization. Reflective disclosure affordances allow for a reconsideration of belief formation, action formation, and
outcome assessment related to work practices. Information democratization affordances enable dissemination and
interaction about sustainability-related information from both internal and external sources. Output management
affordances enable the management of environmentally harmful outputs and the associated resource consumption
of work practices. Delocalization affordances enable work practices to become location-independent and thus
reduce negative sustainability impact stemming from resource movement to location of work (e.g., traveling).
Apart from understanding the role of IS in contributing to environmental sustainability, the importance of solutions
has been put forth [Watson et. al., 2010]. Watson claims that the IS discipline should “reorient itself as a solution
science” [Loos et al., 2011, p. 249]. To date a number of solutions have been presented, including several in the
areas of smart grids and smart metering technology [Kranz, Gallenkamp and Picot, 2010; Kranz and Picot, 2011;
Wunderlich, Veit and Sarker, 2012], greening of data centers (e.g., Karanasios, Cooper, Deng, Molla and
Pittayachawan, 2010; Alaraifi, Molla and Deng, 2011; Brandt and Bodenstein, 2012; Bodenstein, Schyrn and
Neumann, 2011), cloud computing [Hedwig, Malkowski and Neumann, 2010], sustainability management
information systems [Petrini and Pozzebon, 2009; Butler, 2011; Kerschbaum, Strüker and Koslowski, 2011], office
solutions for pollution prevention [Ijab and Cooper, 2012], and information systems for individuals, such as specific
green apps [Pitt, Parent, Junglas, Chan and Spyropoulou, 2011].
The literature advocates that sustainability should be considered a major objective in information systems research.
Environmental objectives should be handled as nonfunctional requirements in the development phase of IS artifacts
[Zhang, Liu and Li, 2011]. Apart from the design and use of specific information systems, vom Brocke and Seidel
[2012] present general guidelines for sustainable design in IS design science research. As an example, for a new
research stream dedicated to solutions for environmental sustainability, the field of “energy informatics” has been
established [Watson et al., 2010]. Building on the premise that “energy + information < energy” [Watson et al., 2010,
p. 2], energy informatics is concerned with increasing the efficiency of energy demand and supply systems through
information systems [Watson et al., 2010].
Selected Initiatives by the Community
In addition to academic literature, the community has started initiatives to foster research on Green IS. In 2010 a
special interest group on Green IS (SIGGreen) (http://siggreen.wikispaces.com) was established. The mission of
SIGGreen is to nurture and build a community of Green IS scholars. SIGGreen has held two initiating workshopsat
the International Conference on Information Systems (ICIS) in 2010 at St Louis and at the European Conference on
Information Systems (ECIS) in 2012 at Barcelona. The proceedings of these workshops have been published on
Sprouts (http://sprouts.aisnet.org/view/organization/SIGGreen.html). In addition, SIGGreen has produced online
virtual workshops that attracted participants from countries around the world. For example, the SIGGreen virtual
event from November 1011, 2010, attracted visitors from thirty-one countries.
The SIGGreen group has considered Green IS from a variety of perspectives, including Education and Curriculum
Section, Glossary of Terms and Concepts, Research Theories and Methods, Solutions, Changing Behavior, Virtual
Collaboration Tools, and Requirements and Use Cases. The SIG also features a list of Green IS references and a
link to Centers and Communities. In addition, it communicates recent activities in the field
(http://siggreen.wikispaces.com).
Apart from supporting and building a community of Green IS scholars, SIGGreen is also concerned with how to
make academic activities less resource intensive. It has developed a series of programs that leverage online
collaboration tools. SIGGreen organized a “demo” event where participants tested different collaborative tools,
including trial versions of corporate tools such as WebEx and GoToMeeting. An important objective for SIGGreen
has been to identify the functional requirements for academic online collaboration.
Members of the SIGGreen have organized Green IS tracks at a number of conferences of the Information Systems
community, including the European Conference on Information Systems (ECIS), the International Conference on
Information Systems (ICIS), the Americas Conference on Information Systems (AMCIS), the Pacific Asia
Conference on Information Systems (PACIS), and the Australasian Conference on Information Systems (ACIS). In
addition, a number of panels have been organized at these (and other) conferences (e.g., Pernici et al. 2012).
Apart from conferences, journals have also acknowledged the importance of the topic of Green IS. Position papers
have been published (e.g., Loos et al., 2011) and a number of special issues have been organized, including
Management Information Systems Quarterly (MISQ), Journal of Strategic Information Systems (JCIS), Information
Systems Journal (ISJ), Electronic Markets (EM), and Business and Information Systems Engineering (BISE). Since
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2011, several books in the field have been published, such as Energy Informatics by Watson and Boudreau [2011]
and Green Business Process Management. Towards the Sustainable Enterprise by vom Brocke, Seidel and Recker
[2012]. All of these initiatives demonstrate that there is a vibrant, international community of Green IS researchers.
In summary we can conclude that both the scholarly contributions and the services to the community led to an
adoption of Green IS in the IS discipline. Some remarkable achievements have been made. Still, given the
magnitude of the problem, we consider the uptake far too slow. In the following, we advocate specific actions for
accelerating the development of the field.
III. PERSPECTIVES ON WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE
The Queen’s Question
We start off our discussion with an opening example Richard T. Watson used on the Green IS panel at ICIS 2012 in
Orlando―The Queen’s Question:
During a visit to the London School of Economics at the height of the financial crisis, the Queen of England
asked a simple question, “Why did academic economists fail to foresee the crisis?” Imagine if the Queen
were to visit a highly reputable Information Systems department, she might start with the following simple
question. “How is information systems different from computer science?” Our IS colleague gives an answer
his grandmother might understand: “Computer scientists study how to make computers work better,
whereas in Information Systems we study how to make organizations work better.” The Queen, thinking she
understood the answer, continued, “Did Information Systems academics help build the Web, e-commerce,
social media, and all those iproducts that Apple makes?” At this point, the Dean volunteers to answer,
hoping it will advance his chances of a knighthood, “My Information Systems department doesn’t build
things, it builds theories, he proudly proclaims. “Like the economists,” states the Queen. Jony Ive later
received a knighthood, for helping to build those Apple iproducts.
Richard T. Watson, Introductory Statement at the Green IS panel at ICIS 2012.
If IS wants to pass the royal test of social value, we need to start solving significant social problems, and we believe
Green IS is the best candidate that we have. Global warming is the most critical threat humans have faced in tens of
thousands of years. Climate change has threatened the survival of Homo sapiens previously [Calvin, 2002], and it
would be unwise to assume that we will blithely overcome the first case of human-induced mass climate change
unscathed, because human-initiated local environmental degradation has caused the collapse of civilizations in
recorded time [Diamond, 2005]. Information systems have been perhaps the greatest force driving global change
over the centuries (e.g., language and computer-based IS) and have certainly been the driver of change in the last
half-century. Thus, there is a major opportunity for IS scholars and practitioners to play a key role in reducing and
reversing the impacts of global climate change. Though major achievements have been made in the field of Green
IS, the Information Systems discipline should do more in order to prove leadership. Therefore, we indicate a number
of specific directives we deem important for further contributions to challenges of environmental sustainability
through information systems research.
Directives for Future Developments
Building on the viewpoints of the panelists and the discussion with the audience at the Green IS panel at ICIS 2012,
we have abstracted five specific directives we deem critically important for the IS discipline. We discuss
consequences for both IS research and IS community practices stemming from these directives. An overview is
provided in Table 1.
1. We need to change the field’s orientation from inward-looking to an outward-looking. The IS discipline needs to
develop from an inward-looking preoccupation with challenges confronting the IS discipline to an outward-looking
determination with challenges faced by society. That way, IS could establish, as a means to solve high-visibility,
high-impact global challenges [Agarwal and Lucas, 2005]. A related call is for the IS field to broaden its focus and to
undertake more applied research by designing and developing systems to solve problems or achieve goals
confronting people [Lee, 2010].
That said, we do not disregard the importance of problems within the IS field, such as IS adoption or IS integration.
We do, however, call for widening the scope to more global challenges of our society, including environmental
sustainability and social welfare. We firmly believe that by anchoring our research in societal problems and by
providing solutions for these challenges through knowledge in IS, we can demonstrate the value and improve the
appreciation of the IS discipline.
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Table 1: Directives for Green IS Development
Directive
Orientation of our research
Practices of our community
1. We need to change the field’s
orientation from inward-looking to
outward-looking.
Select problems of societal
relevance and work on IS
empowered solutions.
Communicate your research outside
the IS academic community (e.g.,
through blogs).
2. We need to push our research
beyond theories and orient
ourselves toward solutions to
global societal challenges.
Build on observation and
description in order to predict
and design.
Consider products and prototypes as
outcomes of IS research.
3. We need to emphasize the social
value of a research contribution
rather than counting publications.
Focus on research that matters
rather than on research that
counts in numeric terms.
Acknowledge the societal impact of
our work in tenure and promotion
processes (e.g., advisory positions).
4. We need to reach out to non-IS
scholars of environmental issues
for discussions, critique, insights,
and possible collaboration.
Engage in interdisciplinary
research partnering with experts
both from application areas and
other solution sciences.
Create space for meeting with
scholars from other disciplines (e.g.,
through joint venues).
5. We need to set an example of
sustainable academic practices.
Include sustainable academic
practice as an area of IS
research.
Incorporate principles of sustainable
academic practicing in our daily work
(e.g., video conferencing).
Apart from selecting research topics that matter to society, an outward-looking orientation also calls for
communicating IS research outside our community. IS researchers should foster their contribution to the public
discourse through, for example, blogs or advisory positions in society. Such actions should increase the visibility and
impact of IS research among practitioner-oriented thought leaders.
2. We need to push our research beyond theories and orient ourselves toward solutions to global societal
challenges. Fundamentally, we need to recognize that there are four phases to research, namely, observation,
description, prediction, and design. The last two phasesprediction and designare the social returns that might
earn the royal nod. At present, we seem excessively focused on description (e.g., theories and frameworks) as the
endpoint for research, and this is especially apparent when you look at our journals and conferences. Global climate
change, in particular, is a problem that needs solutions today and maybe even yesterday. For this, we need to go
beyond theories. We should be applauding IS solutions that contribute to solving the contemporary problems of our
society, and these should be most prominent in our premier journals. Sadly, for humanity and our field, this is not the
case.
One way of contributing to these challenges is to consider design-oriented research [March and Smith, 1995] as a
paradigm aiming at the design of innovative systems [Hevner, March, Jinsoo and Ram, 2004]. That said, we do not
question the role of theory. However, we do believe that, in order to solve the grand challenges of our society, we
need to advance beyond theory. We need to design solutions and evaluate their usefulness in practice. Such
solutions can build on theory. The knowledge gained from applying the solutions in specific use contexts can, in turn,
contribute to theory [Gregor and Jones, 2007].
As an academic community, we need to provide more opportunities to discuss information systems designs for
significant and novel problems. Apart from academic publications, demonstrations of products and prototypes need
to be acknowledged more strongly as an output of our academic work. As an example, the eighth international
conference on design science research in information systems and technology (DESRIST, 2013) featured a product
and prototype track (www.desrist2013.fi). This track was organized as an integral exhibition at the conference where
IS scholars were presenting IS-enabled solutions to a variety of contemporary challenges. We need to have more of
such venues in which we can share and discuss solutions to societal challenges enabled by the IS community.
3. We need to emphasize the social value of a research contribution rather than counting publications. The fixation
on hits in a selected group of journals as a measure of one’s academic worth often rewards practices that focus on
the easily published topics rather than the issues that are socially important. The basket of eight and the three
premier journals have created a monopoly. We essentially have one outlet with multiple brands because of the lack
of differentiation by field journals. Monopolies rarely innovate and settle on conservative incrementalism. As a result,
the tenure-and-publish game is not aligned with social needs such as global warming.
As a community, we have to reject the ecological fallacy that all A-journal articles are superior to all B-journal
articles. The reviewing system is fallible, and important contributions can easily end up in what are perceived as
lesser-quality outlets. There are Nobel prize-winning articles that the supposedly best journals have rejected [Gans
and Shepherd, 1994]. Reviewers and editors need to get much better at assessing the social contribution of
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research and emphatically focusing on accepting articles that furnish solutions for societal challenges such as global
warming. Such a refocusing will be good for the planet and good for the field. Because times have changed, we
must judge journal submissions on their contribution to solving the major societal threat. The old order is not helping
us to solve global warming.
With this directive, we neither disregard our academic journals, nor do we criticize the role of rankings as a means to
evaluate the quality of diverse outlets. We do think it is necessary, however, to broaden the set of evaluation criteria.
Indications of social contribution might include invitations to translate our research for executives and government
leaders, or perhaps an annual prize initiated by AIS for socially relevant research.
Accounting for the societal contribution of our work would set incentives for researchers to focus on the social impact
of their research rather than on credits associated with certain publication outlets. Ideally, such outlets would be the
most prestigious ones that offer the highest dissemination of work to society. Academic journals, such as Nature and
Science, for instance, reach a high number of readers from diverse academic disciplines.
4. We need to reach out to non-IS scholars of environmental issues for discussions, critique, insights, and possibly
collaboration. Collaborating with non-IS scholars can accelerate development of science-based practical insights for
management. First, it is valuable to gain deeper understanding of application areas where societal challenges arise,
such as housing, transport, and energy supply. Second, knowledge in neighboring disciplines, such as engineering,
architecture, and computer science, can contribute to innovative solutions. Given the variation in scholarly
knowledge accumulation across disciplines, it makes sense for IS researchers to understand what is known in
adjacent fields for similar problem domains. Bansal and Hoffman [2011], for instance, provide an account of
contributions to environmental sustainability in different areas of management. Research across disciplines can
accelerate much-needed knowledge of wicked Green IS and Green IT problems, such as how to generate new
sources of value with smart energy systems in the area of energy informatics [Watson et al., 2010].
Regarding academic practices, this calls for an increase in opportunities for exchange with colleagues from other
fields. On the one hand, this would mean to foster the participation of IS scholars in venues (such as conferences) of
other areas. On the other hand, this means opening the IS community to involve colleagues from other fields. Both
tracks at conferences and special issues in scholarly journals could focus more on boundary-spanning topics
involving experts from neighboring fields. For that to work well, academic communities, not only the IS community,
need to appreciate more the contributions of other fields, e.g., in tenure processes. As long as we primarily count
publications in journals ranked in our own rankings, we will not stimulate research on pragmatic challenges of our
society.
5. We need to set an example for sustainable academic practices. Academic scholars need to be more aware of the
environmental footprint of their work. At present, academic discourse and networking essentially takes place at
conferences, which can require extensive global traveling and expensive lodging in conference hotels and can make
little use of information systems to lessen the environmental effects. That said, we do not suggest the replacement
of conferences per se by virtual meetings, but we need to evaluate to what extent personal meetings are necessary
and in which settings they are organized best in order to allow for positive effects on social networking while treating
the environment with care.
This sets an exciting research area for the IS discipline investigating innovative ways of accumulating knowledge
and problem solving utilizing information technology. The study by Seidel et al. [2013], for instance, identified
affordances such as information democratization and the delocalization that might enable new ways of interaction. In
addition, SIGGreen has identified functional requirements for academic online collaboration, including a shared-
content repository, a platform for “rich” real-time virtual interaction, and a discussion board for asynchronous
collaboration.
In addition, we believe that the IS community should demonstrate leadership in adopting sustainable academic
practices. We think that the information systems discipline has both an obligation and an opportunity to serve as a
role model for innovative and more sustainable ways of conducting research and teaching on a global scale.
SIGGreen, in particular, should continue to set a good example of such practices. It is hoped that pioneering
solutions evolving from this effort will be followed by other disciplines.
IV. SUMMARY AND OUTLOOK
This article evolved from a panel on Green IS at ICIS 2012 in Orlando which discussed the current state and future
directives for the IS discipline. First, we gave an account of major achievements in the field of Green IS, including
both scholarly contributions and community building. Critically reviewing the results, we present the panelists views
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on future directives for the IS discipline. We presented the views in a consolidated way by suggesting five specific
directives that we think are important in order to further contribute to environmental challenges as an academic
discipline.
In addition to establishing Green IS as an important research topic, we argue that our discipline also needs to evolve
in the following ways. First, we need to reshape the field from inward- to outward-looking. Second, we need to push
our research beyond theories and orient ourselves toward solutions to global societal challenges. Third, we need to
emphasize the social value of a research contribution rather than counting publications. Fourth, we need to reach
out to non-IS scholars of environmental issues for discussions, critique, insights, and possible collaboration. And
fifth, we need to set an example of sustainable academic practices.
These directives raise substantial issues on how to organize an academic discipline in order to enhance research-
community effectiveness and efficiency. We believe that the IS community should take a leading role in this
discussion. IS has proven leadership in innovating and transforming organizations in many ways during the past
decades. Now, there is a historic chance to transform science to better serve humanity. In order to capitalize on this
opportunity, two things need to be done: First, we need to identify innovative ways to organize research communities
through IS. Second, we need to start acting on these new ways in our academic work. While the former calls for
research on the organization and function of a scholarly community, the latter poses sociopolitical challenges to
implement a new modus operandi. We hope that this report can help stimulate the discussion needed to facilitate
what we believe is a much-needed change.
Of course, this report needs to consider a number of limitations. First and foremost, the report is an opinion piece of
the selected experts on the panel, so other scholars may come to other conclusions. In addition, the viewpoints
presented in this article are strongly time-bound. It is the intention of this article to stimulate the discussion in order
to further develop the field. Hopefully, future audiences will see a number of our directives already integrated into our
discipline.
Global warming is the most significant issue facing society. We need to reorient to become a solution science that
focuses on critical societal problems, and very specifically the bulk of the field should address global warming as a
key challenge in sustainability research. As such, IS can demonstrate leadership in solving the grand challenges
confronting our society. In addition, it can show how science, in general, may be organized by leveraging IS for
increased societal impact. IS practice has and can reshape society for the better, and IS scholars can do a better job
of supporting practice by focusing on solutions to our most pressing problem.
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Editor’s Note: The following reference list contains hyperlinks to World Wide Web pages. Readers who have the
ability to access the Web directly from their word processor or are reading the article on the Web, can gain direct
access to these linked references. Readers are warned, however, that:
1. These links existed as of the date of publication but are not guaranteed to be working thereafter.
2. The contents of Web pages may change over time. Where version information is provided in the
References, different versions may not contain the information or the conclusions referenced.
3. The author(s) of the Web pages, not AIS, is (are) responsible for the accuracy of their content.
4. The author(s) of this article, not AIS, is (are) responsible for the accuracy of the URL and version
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ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Jan vom Brocke is a professor of Information Systems and the Hilti Chair of Business Process Management at the
University of Liechtenstein. Together with his colleagues Stefan Seidel and Jan Recker, he investigates how
organizations can establish sustainability practices in their operations. Jan is co-editor of the book Green Business
Process Management. Towards the Sustainable Enterprise and serves on the advisory board of SIGGreen and as
academic counselor to swisscleantech, a trade association for sustainable economy. In addition, he is an advisor on
Green IS to the Liechtenstein Government and a delegate on ICT research to the European Commission.
Richard Watson, with his colleague Marie-Claude Boudreau, has been working on Green IS since early 2007. He
co-authored the first academic paper, case study, and book on Energy Informatics. He actively cooperates with IS
and engineering scholars in developing Energy Informatics as a solution science that will reduce energy
consumption. Watson discussed the Energy Informatics research program at the University of Georgia and the work
with Engineering faculty to establish a cross-reality lab for research and instruction.
Cathy Dwyer is chair of SIGGreen, a special interest group of the AIS focused on the application of information
systems to environmental sustainability. Together with founding SIGGreen chair Helen Hasan, she has created
several Green IS research programs that blend virtual collaboration with face-to-face meetings. Her most recent
work has been to examine the environmental footprint of academic research, using the activities of SIGGreen as a
case study.
Steve Elliot seeks to assist organizations respond strategically to the transformative forces of environmental
sustainability. His work acknowledges the key contribution of business in addressing sustainability challenges by
examining pioneering companies and proposing a trans-disciplinary framework to support business transformation.
Recognizing the necessity for universities to make a critical contribution to resolving the challenges of sustainability,
his current work also examines how and where IS applications and IS scholars could assist universities to realize
their potential.
Nigel Melville examines how innovative applications of information systems can shift environmental beliefs, enable
new courses of action, and impact sustainability performance in organizations. He authors a popular scholarly blog
entitled “Information Systems for Environmental Sustainability” (over 25,000 views), wrote the IS chapter for the
recently published Oxford Handbook of Business and the Natural Environment, which reviews the state of the field
across all management disciplines, and has authored several published and working papers at the nexus of IS and
environmental sustainability. He is currently focusing on enterprise information systems for managing energy and
carbon emissions in organizations.
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Climate change is one of the most pressing global challenges facing society today, with potentially detrimental sustainability impacts on individuals, organisations, and societies. The impact of digital technologies on climate change is one of our key research priorities at the Digital Sustainability Knowledge Hub of the University of New South Wales, Australia. Building on digital sustainability research, we call for research contributions to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change, as it could cause far-reaching disruptions to communities and the economy here in Australia and worldwide. In this article, we provide an overview of Australia's perspectives and approaches to addressing climate change. Moreover, to encourage researchers to study and develop solutions, we propose future research directions focusing on climate resilience, climate-conscious citizen science, and organisations’ Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) strategies.
Article
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This paper discusses the emergence and the recurrent use of Green IS practice in organisations. The theoretical construct of "field" adopted from Bourdieu's theory of practice is used in explaining the Green IS practice phenomenon in a case organisation called Acadia. In particular, the study investigates the relationships between local actions including the historical and internal processes in Acadia against the external origins that shape and reshape Green IS practices in Acadia. The findings indicate that Acadia's Green IS practices emerge and are recurrently used due to a number of internal and external factors, as well as the power relationships of the human actors within Acadia. In addition, the ability to manage and allocate resources by the powerful actors enables Green IS practice to become tangible in the company. The "field" construct also sheds light on the conflict and conflict resolution among actors occupying the different Green IS subfields in the course of Green IS practice formation. © (2012) by the AIS/ICIS Administrative Office All rights reserved.
Article
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Recent research has acknowledged the key role of information systems (IS) in helping build sustainable organizations. Although many organizations have implemented strategies for increased sustainability, empirical evidence for the effects of such strategies is sparse, and the understanding of the underlying processes to reach ecoeffectiveness is limited. We draw upon the competing values framework and a longitudinal study of Nordea, a large Nordic bank, to develop a theoretical model that explains the processes through which an organization passes as to successfully institutionalize a sustainable work environment, and the role of Green IS in this process. Three main findings emerge: First, the transformation towards eco-effectiveness can be understood as an incremental process, involving a number of actions over a long time period. Second, Green IS initiatives cannot be studied in isolation from other sustainable initiatives, since they are re-enforcing each other. Third, Green IS initiatives can act as 'motors' towards eco-effectiveness, in bridging competing models of organizational effectiveness.
Conference Paper
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Over the past two decades the rise of information technologies (IT) has enabled businesses to communicate, coordinate, and cooperate in unprecedented ways. However, this did not come without a price. Today, IT infrastructure accounts for a substantial fraction of the national energy consumption in most advanced countries. Subsequently, research turned to finding ways of making IT more sustainable and lessening the environmental impact of IT infrastructure. In our previous work we developed LINFIX, an innovative method for handling the scheduling problem in data centers, which substantially reduced the total energy consumption compared to commonly used practices. Due to the computational complexity of the scheduling problem, we were, however, unable to estimate the cost reduction of LINFIX compared to what is theoretically possible. In this work we employ a genetic algorithm to provide a benchmark to better assess the quality of the LINFIX solutions. While the genetic algorithm frequently finds better solutions, the additional average cost reduction when compared to LINFIX is less than 0.1 percent. Taking the computational speed into account, this confirms our hypothesis that LINFIX provides very energy efficient scheduling plans in short time.
Conference Paper
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The pressure on enterprises to manage and improve their environmental sustainability is steadily increas ing. Despite the growing awareness in the IS community and business practice, current IS solutions remain in an initial state. Sustainability benchmarking is seen as a novel and effective tool in this context. However, sustainability benchmarking faces two major obstacles: First, the heterogeneity of the data requires significant pre-processing, and, second, the sensitivity of the data causes enterprises to reluctantly share this data. Our contribution is twofold: After analyzing the data input problem and identifying appropriate and available solutions, we present a secure sustainability benchmarking service (SBS) to overcome the information-sharing problem. Our service uses homomorphic encryption to protect the data during processing and differential privacy to protect against leakages from the reports. Finally, we evaluate in detail a prototypical implementation of this secure sustainability benchmarking service and illustrate its applicability in industry.
Article
This paper presents an alternative view of the Information Systems identity crisis described recently by Benbasat and Zmud (2003). We agree with many of their observations, but we are concerned with their prescription for IS research. We critique their discussion of errors of inclusion and exclusion in IS research and highlight the potential misinterpretations that are possible from a literal reading of their comments. Our conclusion is that following Benbasat and Zmud's nomological net will result in a micro focus for IS research. The results of such a focus are potentially dangerous for the field. They could result in the elimination of IS from many academic programs. We present an alternative set of heuristics that can be used to assess what lies within the domain of IS scholarship. We argue that the IS community has a powerful story to tell about the transformational impact of information technology. We believe that a significant portion of our research should be macro studies of the impact of IT. It is important for academic colleagues, deans, and managers to understand the transformational power of the technology. As IS researchers with deep knowledge of the underlying artifact, we are best positioned to do such research.
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The effects of climate change on companies' operations are now so tangible and certain that the issue is best addressed with the tools of the strategist, not the philanthropist.
Article
This paper analyses the current state of research in the domain of energy informatics. The intention is to provide a structured overview of the existing body of knowledge in the investigated field. To accomplish this, the authors employed a literature analysis including major and relevant outlets from the IS and business study disciplines. In total, 109 papers were . To illustrate the state of the art of the discipline, the authors develop a concept matrix showing the used methods and investigated units of analysis. On that basis, the agenda for future focused research opportunities is laid out.
Book
Environmental issues now loom large on the social, political, and business agenda. Over the past four decades, "corporate environmentalism" has emerged and been constantly redefined, from regulatory compliance to more recent management conceptions such as pollution prevention, total quality environmental management, industrial ecology, life cycle analysis, environmental strategy, environmental justice, and, most recently, sustainable development. As a result, understanding the intersection of business activity and environmental protection has become increasingly complex, and there has emerged a focus in academic research on business decision-making, firm behavior, and the protection of the natural environment. This handbook reviews the state of the field as it grows into a mature area of study within management science, its achievements, and its future avenues of research. It brings together original contributions in the field along several lines of enquiry. The first six focus on disciplines as delineated in contemporary business schools: business strategy; policy and non-market strategies; organizational theory and behavior; operations and technology; marketing; and accounting and finance. The seventh section reviews emergent and associated perspectives, whilst a concluding section, written by long-standing leaders in the field, discusses the future outlook for research. Readership: Academics, researchers, and graduate students in Business, Management, Environmental Studies, and Environmental Protection