Mar 06 2008

When Going Green, Timing Is Everything

Everybody likes the Earth. It’s hard not to, especially since it’s the place that we all call home. Yet across the business world, green initiatives are rarely a top priority if they negatively impact the bottom line.

Phil Leiter, IT manager at investment adviser Cumberland Associates, sums up the thinking of many business professionals. “I’m not so much motivated by the virtues of being green as by the virtues of being efficient,” he says. But that doesn’t mean that Leiter doesn’t take eco-friendly initiatives into account when acquiring new technology — he does. Satisfying tangible business and end-user needs drives his company’s purchasing decisions; green factors in when it’s practical.

Going green for goodness sake isn’t likely. But if going green coincides with good business practices, you’ll have a much better chance of making the case. Here are a few opportune times to evaluate energy-efficient computing options:

When a product reaches its end of life. Most businesses upgrade computers on a regular three- or four-year cycle. This is the time to break out the math on power consumption: notebooks versus desktops, LCD versus CRT monitors, and so forth. LCD monitors consume nearly 50 percent less energy on average than their CRT counterparts, for instance.

A second opportunity arises when it’s time to discard old equipment. Once you’ve decided to upgrade, recycling versus simply discarding the equipment is worth considering.

“It’s become a lot easier to do since I first started in 2002, and it’s one of the few initiatives that’s [hard] to argue against from a cost perspective,” Leiter reports.

The good news is that more than 70 percent of BizTech readers say that they recycle old technology equipment, and almost 80 percent have replaced CRT monitors with LCDs.

When top management asks for it. Upper management is driving a growing number of green initiatives, says Richard Hodges, founder and CEO of GreenIT, a consulting firm on environmentally sustainable information technology. “A lot of organizations either want to appear to be green and sustainable or are already making significant commitments in being socially and environmentally responsible and reducing greenhouse emissions,” says Hodges. He advises IT staffs to prepare now for answering management’s questions regarding eco-savvy tech options.

According to a BizTech poll of 536 readers last month, 13 percent said green computing was a management-driven business initiative. If that’s the case at your company, there’s also a good chance your CEO has set aside additional funds to make it a priority. Those funds may be needed. Although most green initiatives offer cost savings, many also require outlays up front for new equipment or hardware.

Christopher Mines, an analyst with Forrester Research, has come across a few instances where CEOs have created green IT slush funds — beyond regular technology budgets — that their tech teams can tap into for new projects with green outcomes. He expects this trend will continue.

When it makes I.T. more efficient. Even if there’s funding set aside, IT still must provide a strong business case for any new technology initiative — green or not.

Take virtualization as a case in point. Although there are initial up-front expenses, particularly for new hardware, the ability to capture system snapshots for better disaster recovery and system redundancy and to simplify system reboots, combined with reduced power consumption, caused Tronair to shift to server virtualization, says Jeremy Dotson, LAN administrator for the aeronautical equipment-maker. “We are using virtualization to lower our power consumption,” he says.

Luckily, when it comes to green IT initiatives, businesses don’t have to make a choice between being eco-friendly or business savvy. Our cover story, “Going Green,” showcases 10 business- and eco-savvy tips that will help your company run its IT infrastructure more efficiently.

The bottom line? For green initiatives to take root, they’ve got to impact the bottom line.

Lee Copeland
Editor in Chief

Orlando Copeland