Many people readily believe that companies in general don’t care about acting responsibly, whether that means going green or simply paying their taxes. All they care about, goes the familiar refrain, is feathering their own nests and making as much money as possible.
Industries such as IT have been attacked as major offenders here - but perhaps this is unnecessarily cynical. Some of the biggest brands today are leading the way when it comes to going green. Greenpeace’s global Cool IT Leaderboard puts Alcatel-Lucent on top, followed by AT&T, Cisco, Dell, Ericsson, Fujitsu and Google, for green solutions, energy impact and advocacy.
David Lear, executive director of sustainability at Dell, says greener IT is “absolutely key” to doing business globally today. “Environmentally conscious IT is not just ‘cool’, it is an absolutely necessary part of conducting global business when you look at the energy and cost constraints that businesses face.”
Dell develops products with an eye to reducing energy, packaging, materials, manufacturing and end-of-life management costs. “More than ever, our customers look to us to help them meet their environmental goals,” Lear confirms.
He notes that electricity costs have risen 25 per cent in recent years by some estimates. Additionally, companies must now comply with even more regulations concerning energy use and carbon emissions, including greenhouse gas reporting requirements for listed companies. IT teams are feeling the pressure - and sustainable, energy-efficient, end-to-end solutions are required.
“We are minimising our impact through water conservation, renewable energy and reducing waste. We have institutionalised sustainable bamboo in our product shipments and are piloting new eco-innovative mushroom packaging for cushioning heavy products,” ends Lear.
Green-focused consultancies, advisers, commentators and accreditations have sprouted like weeds all over the UK landscape in recent years, alongside myriad metrics and contradictory claims about the “greenness” of hardware. So it is no wonder that many organisations suffer from a kind of environmental inertia.
Broken down into bite-size parts, however, a green business project can become quite manageable. The government itself leads by example, continuing to work to reduce its carbon emissions, use of paper and water, waste production, and the number of flights staff take. Any business can do the same.
Slash transport costs by adopting remote conferencing and communications, including video, where possible, as well as flexible working that allows staff to cut back their commute. Paper use can be reduced by deploying imaging and printing technologies - such as follow-me printing and authorising duplex-only at the end point.
Carbon emissions and overall waste reduction might require more thought, but once again there are things anyone can do such as activating PC power management features and turning off the office lights every night.
No time for this? Delegate to a team that meets once a month to discuss green implementation and assess progress. There is no doubt that “doing something that matters for the bigger picture” can also boost staff morale - and perhaps even retention and productivity long term.
Online carbon calculators can help work out savings targets. The UK government one aimed at households or individuals is at http://carboncalculator.direct.gov.uk/index.html, but there is a business-focused one on the National Energy Foundation’s website at www.nef.org.uk/greencompany/co2calculator.htm.
Many customers too may be keen to source greener IT options. VARs can also develop services such as green audits that help them reduce their waste and emissions. The UK-based Carbon Neutral Company signs up resellers for its carbon footprinting services.
Ian Foddering, chief technology officer at Cisco, says IT is one of few industries capable of boosting sustainability quickly. “Done properly, modern communications and networking technology has great potential as a weapon in the battle to reduce carbon output,” he confirms. “It can revolutionise the way energy is managed and distributed and it has the potential to save businesses large sums of money.”
The tech is there, from collaboration to energy-efficiency offerings. “IT was already vital to business, but has suddenly assumed a new importance that CEOs cannot afford to ignore,” Foddering says.
Foddering says that “worryingly few” public or private sector organisations have so far realised the benefits of going green - representing a real VAR opportunity.
Authorities agree corporate as well as individual environmental sustainability and responsibility have become must-haves, not nice add-ons. And with green reflecting savings as well as differentiation, how could the channel lose?
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