Green IT at Washington Mutual Saves Lots of Green (Money) -- and Electricity and Trees, Too

CIO Debora Horvath is leading a cross-functional effort to cut WaMu's computing costs and environmental impact. Here's how WaMu got started, takes advantage of its green-thinking employees and is already saving millions.

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IT first rolled out the software in a spring 2007 pilot to 100 PCs. Horvath was concerned that the software might introduce latency issues or bugs that could cause WaMu's systems to crash. It did not. The software, she says, is highly customizable with lots of options for IT and users to figure out. For instance, the application can lower a PC's power settings when it's not in use for a certain amount of time (if, say, an employee goes to a meeting). Or the PC can be powered down at a specified time, say, at 6 p.m. every night. (A warning message pops up before a PC powers down, and an employee who is working can delay the software from powering down.)

Horvath and her team worked out the specifics of its program, incorporating rules from all of those situations and has applied them enterprisewide. For example, during business hours (8 a.m. to 6 p.m.), PCs and monitors in WaMu's retail branches remain on at all times. At WaMu's back-office locations, however, monitors turn off after 20 minutes of inactivity, and PCs go into standby mode after 30 minutes of inactivity. And, at 6 p.m. every night, if there is no activity, the PCs go into standby and the monitors turn off.

From the savings on the pilot and enterprisewide rollout thus far, Horvath projects that the program will deliver $3 million in savings this year. WaMu has also received $230,000 in rebates from its electric utility.

In addition, WaMu is enabling its customers to become greener through WaMu's products. One notable example is WaMu's "Make a Statement, Plant a Tree" campaign. Born out of the marketing and e-commerce departments, the program aimed to help the Arbor Day Foundation's efforts to plant a million trees by getting WaMu customers to switch from paper to online banking statements. For every consumer that switched, WaMu donated a dollar to the Arbor Day Foundation. In spring 2008, WaMu presented a $1 million check to the foundation for 1 million trees to be planted.

So not only did WaMu's efforts do well for the environment, but WaMu now has a total of 2.7 million customers using its e-statements. The savings on paper itself as well as postage and "handling the paper," Horvath says, is approximately $18 million a year.

"We're going to continue to drive this hard," Horvath adds. "If we can take it from 2.7 million, currently, and add another 3 million this year, then our savings will be closer to $36 million in 2009."

Does Going Green Actually Help Business?

Why are companies embarking on green IT initiatives? The Forrester report describes the results from an April 2008 survey of more than 1,000 IT personnel: green motivations range from corporate strategy and sustainability, to improving the brand, to complying with regulations, to reducing IT operational expenses. (For more on this, see "Power Costs Drive Moves to Virtual Servers" and "UPS's New Telematics System Cuts Fuel Costs and Makes Drivers More Efficient.")

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