Thursday, January 31, 2008

See Verdiem at the Washington Technology Summit

If you're local (in Washington state), mark your calendar for the Washington State Technology Summit, April 15th at the Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue. We'll be on a panel in the afternoon addressing clean technology.

See you there!

Gartner Predicts Green IT is the Future of Tech

As Computing Business editor Mark Samuels reports, Gartner has issued a new set of predictions for business technology. While making tech predictions is no new thing for the analyst, the consistency of Green IT showing up on these lists is relatively new.

Green IT shows up three times out of 10 on Gartner's new list as predictions of areas where executives and IT professionals will need to take action in 2008. The predictions include:
  • By 2009 - More than one third of IT organizations will have one or more environmental criteria in their top six buying criteria for IT-related goods. In the future, IT organizations will shift their focus from the power efficiency of products to asking service providers about their measures to improve energy efficiency.
  • By 2010 - Seventy-five per cent of organizations will use full life cycle energy and carbon dioxide footprint as mandatory PC hardware buying criteria. Most technology providers have little or no knowledge of the full life cycle energy and carbon dioxide footprint of their products.
  • By 2011 - Suppliers to large global enterprises will need to prove their green credentials via an audited process to retain preferred supplier status. Organizations with strong brands are already helping to forge the first wave of green sourcing policies and initiatives.
Click here to learn more.

Two simple steps to "green" your office printing

Sustainable business practices can be incredibly complicated - if you let them.

Take printing at the office, for example. If you over-think it, you can come up with dozens of things you'd need to do across the entire "supply chain" of printing, things that together would completely and comprehensively "green" your printing. This would include a more energy efficient printer, more environmentally-friendly ink, recyclable ink cartridges, fewer printers across the office, etc.

Or, you could do two simple things right away:

1. Get better paper.
2. Print fewer pages.

Two smart companies (New Leaf Paper and GreenPrint) can get you started.

A pleasure to be nominated...

Verdiem has been named a finalist for the National eWell-Being Awards in the UK.

From the SustainIT Web site:

The National eWell-Being Awards are unique in celebrating the social, economic and environmental benefits of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). The aim is to identify and promote the most innovative uses of ICT by local authorities, businesses, third sector organisations and academic institutions.

Winners will be announced at the end of April.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

No plastic, mo' money

In December, Whole Foods took away plastic bags as a carry-out option in its Austin store. By April, plastic bags will be banned from all nationwide Whole Foods stores.

How can you take your Whole Foods purchases home this summer?

1) Use paper bags (still provided by Whole Foods)
2) Use reusable bags (nylon or canvas, sold by Whole Foods)
3) Carry them (not recommended)

The Whole Foods brand is organic in nature to begin with, so this move is already well-tied to the parent company's core values. However, one can't help but think the move is also rooted in the financial benefits of both eliminating cost (no longer buying gazillions of those bags as an operating cost) and a nice incremental top-line revenue bump and profit on something that most customers will likely buy (the nylon/canvas bag sold at a high markup).

Jan 31 Update

EcoGeek makes a compelling argument this morning for why plastic bags are actually more environmentally-friendly than paper. To quote them:

Whole Foods' moving over to 100% recycled paper is actually going to be worse for the environment.

Creating recycled paper, it turns out, is a much more energy-intensive process than creating plastic bags. That's why grocery stores prefer you take the plastic. Plastic is also much easier to ship, as it takes up way less space in packing, and they weigh far less per item of shopping you take home with you. And while we might worry that all that plastic is coming from foreign oil, the amazing thing is that even with all the billions of plastic bags we use every year, they constitute about 0.03% of our oil use in the U.S.. Obviously not the most pressing problem we've got.

Check out their full rationale here.

Talk is cheap, save the world

Sustainability is important, we say. It needs to be a priority, we say again.

Yet our words are not always followed by action - at least when it comes to corporate citizenship and sustainability initiatives.

A survey released by the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship (BCCCC) and The Hitachi Foundation shows CEOs and other executives support responsible corporate citizenship, at least in principle. The third biennial 2007 State of Corporate Citizenship in the US, "Time to get real: Closing the Gap Between Rhetoric and Reality," studies what CEOs and other business executives say they believe about the importance of corporate citizenship and what policies are actually in place at their businesses.

Although 73% of the 751 top executives surveyed said that corporate citizenship needs to be a priority for businesses, only 39% of the businesses include corporate citizenship as part of their business planning. An even smaller percentage of these businesses (28%) actually have written corporate citizenship policies or statements.

The gap presented here is much more than just words vs. actions. It's actions vs. results. It's nice to say we want to improve our carbon footprint, and reduce our impact on the world around us. But the typical corporation needs more than a "good feeling" to move forward, and rightfully so.

In the face of a possible economic downturn, successful corporate citizenship projects need to be tied directly to financial results for the business. Without that tie, corporate citizenship and sustainability projects could likely become unfunded mandates - or worse.

5 Midwest Corps Meet Green Power Challenge

5 corporations from the Midwest were recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency for taking the initiative to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Kohl's, Baxter, GE Healthcare, General Motors Services Parts Organization and Monsanto were all commended for purchasing significant amounts of renewable energy.

Since 2006, when EPA issued this nationwide challenge, 53 Fortune 500 companies have collectively purchasing over 6 billion kWh of green power annually. This amount has surpassed the goal set by the Green Power Partnership by 130%! EPA estimates that the CO2 emissions avoided from the program are equal to more than 570 million gallons of gas.

For the full release click here.

GreenBiz's State of Green Business - What about PC energy waste?

Kudos to Joel Makower and the GreenBiz team for their 2008 State of Green Business report. If you're relatively new to the sustainability opportunities available to corporate America, it's a great first read. You can download a copy of the PDF report here.

At the same time this report highlights some important sustainability opportunities and challenges in enterprise businesses, it goes light on one of the fastest-growing, fastest-to-implement, and highest cost-saving potential initiatives companies are implementing - PC network power management.

The typical computer wastes nearly two-thirds of the energy is uses, simply by operating at full power when it's not in active use. By leveraging centralized PC power management solutions, enterprises can cut PC costs by as much as $60 per PC per year, adding up to significant operating cost savings.

This isn't meant to be a sales pitch (if you want one, you can find it here), but a reminder that, of all the sustainability projects out there, there's still plenty of wading and triaging to do.

The biggest projects aren't always the best to start on right away. The most visible projects, the sexy sustainability projects, don't always generate the kind of short-term and sizeable payback and ROI that companies need, not only to compete in slower economic conditions but also to quickly leverage the impact and benefits of sustainability across the enterprise.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Accenture: Still has to make business sense...

According to a new Accenture study, nine out of ten companies report that climate change is not a big priority.

According to the report, just 5% of big businesses consider global warming a top priority, and only 11% peg it at second or third place.

"Climate change is not going to get nearly the same degree of attention here as it would have achieved if the economic outlook were brighter," says Mark Spelman, global head of strategy at Accenture. "Whenever there are underlying economic concerns, people will focus on them."

I wrote last week about whether or not sustainability practices would be recession-proof. Accenture's findings confirm that, as a stand alone, climate change and the associated work required by an enterprise company, are not important enough to prioritize. But if those changes can be aligned with a strong, direct business benefit - higher profits, growing revenue, reduced costs - that's when projects get prioritized and green lighted.

More on recession-proof green practices here.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Federal Govt Could Save $1 billion from Green IT

HP and Intel worked together to examine the amount of energy and power that the Federal government could save by adopting green data center technology. Just what does this amount to? $1 billion over 5 years.

Their Go Green Power Play report explains that by implementing various energy saving technologies, notably Dynamic Smart Cooling, Virtualization and Power Distribution Efficiencies, potential savings equate to around 40%. Cost savings for the first year alone are almost $200 million.

And cost savings aren't the only benefit. After 5 years the additional savings equate to:
  • Removing 1,459,3791 cars from the road
  • Providing 9,589,8722 text books to children
  • Recycling 2,270,1463 tons of waste in the U.S. instead of landfilling them
Click here to learn more.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Green Marketing Best Practices

The perils of misleading consumers into thinking your product or service is green (when it's not) are well-documented. It seems the rise in popularity of green products and environmentally-friendly marketing has been paralleled with growing consumer skepticism, and a distrust of green claims by mainstream and emerging companies alike.

Navigating that minefield is no easy task, but William Brent appears up for the challenge. Brent is senior vice president of Weber Shandwick's CleanTech practice, based in Seattle, where he manages a portfolio of clients focused on lessening the impact we have on the world around us.

I asked William to talk about green marketing, what it really means, and what lessons we've learned so far about how to do it well. You can read the results here.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Is green recession-proof?

I was asked last week what the impact of a nationwide economic downturn could be on companies prioritizing and funding sustainability initiatives. It's a great question with two answers.

I believe in the not-too-distant future, sustainability will be a fundamental, "table stakes" part of doing business for global enterprises. Reducing the impact companies have on the world around them will soon become non-negotiable, and a requirement for doing business with customers (commercial and consumer) that expect them to act responsibly.

Today, that isn't the case - at least not yet. While several businesses have blazed a trail with significant corporate responsibility and sustainability initiatives, not enough of those efforts had paid off - either in increased sales or decreased operational costs. Unless such initiatives demonstrate a consistent ability to provide value to the organization, they'll be close to the chopping block in leaner times.

That said, technologies are emerging that allow companies to "go green" and save green at the same time. Verdiem's SURVEYOR software, for example, is helping companies save up to 60 percent off their PC energy bill, while cutting associated carbon emissions up to 40 percent. That represents a high, measurable impact on both the environment and the bottom line.

And if this kind of savings is both real and verifiable, it's the kind of thing that will get prioritized higher in lean times.