Over the last decades, IT has become one of the leading industries worldwide. Its effects on our society and its environment are considerable. Its most obvious effects result from the production, operation, maintenance and disposal of IT infrastructure, roughly hardware. This is what the majority of “green IT” initiatives have been concerned with up to now.
Yet, there is another important manner in which IT affects its environment: IT changes individual and organisational behaviour. Think of how the Internet, office automation, mobile phones, route planners and many other applications have affected the way we act (e.g., work, travel) and communicate.
At the heart of IT lies software. The way software is designed (e.g., what functions it supports, which parts of its environment it interacts with, which IT infrastructure it uses and how) can have a major influence on the sustainability of the human activities involved. Such fundamental decisions are typically made during Requirements Engineering (RE), and finally expressed as requirements. Consequently we have decided to research how to discover requirements that help minimize the negative environmental (and, more recently, societal) impacts of (the activities supported by) the software under construction.
So we made a real life experiment to (i) get an insight on how sustainability requirements can be discovered, (ii) what existing tools and techniques facilitate this task, and (iii) what their limitations are in this respect. The experiment consisted in inventing and writing the requirements for a new software for Yellow Events. This company creates and organizes “responsible” events for companies and individuals, so they wanted a software that would help them make their events more green. And this is what we did, adapting here and there recognized Requirements Engineering techniques, from goal modeling to (mis-)use case, from stakeholders analysis to rich scope pictures. This way we came up with innovative functionalities for saving our planet, like integrated car-sharing management system, green-rating for suppliers, distance-based search and the like. I paste here two artifacts from this study, but you can read the full story in the paper we published at REFSQ’11 on this: Discovering Sustainable Requirements !