Buying Green IT: The Green IT Criteria You Need to Consider

By M. David Stone  |  Posted 2008-11-07 Print this article Print

If your company is pushing a green IT infrastructure strategy, you have a new set of green IT criteria to consider when purchasing IT hardware. Your company has likely set requirements for things like energy use and recyclability such as requiring that all new desktop systems meet Energy Star requirements or that the manufacturer must provide a recycling program. But you may also wish to consider the vendors' own sustainability position. Do they practice what they preach and sell?

If your company has decided to focus on sustainability, you're almost certainly including green criteria in your buying decisions for IT hardware. Odds are you've set requirements for things such as energy use and recyclability-specifying that all new desktop systems meet Energy Star requirements, for example, or that the manufacturer provide a recycling program. That's a big step forward, but it's important to understand that it's just a start.

One of the less obvious, but potentially more important, green strategies is to add a requirement that the manufacturers you buy from are also taking sustainability issues seriously. After all, if everyone buys only from manufacturers that are making a serious effort to go green, it will only encourage other manufacturers to do the same. Here are some of the things you might want to ask the companies you buy from. Not so incidentally, if your company is serious about committing to sustainability, it might want to consider adopting some of these ideas itself.

1. Does the Company Have an Official Sustainability Policy?

As the old saw goes, actions speak louder than words.  That said, however, having an official corporate sustainability policy indicates an awareness of green issues and a stated intention to take them into account. 

Canon, for example, has had a written Canon Group Environmental Charter since 1993, most recently updated in 2006.  Among other points, it includes an intent to buy products that have a lower environmental burden and also encourages the collection and recycling of Canon's own products at the end of their lifetimes. Ask the companies you deal with if they have their own formal policies.  If they do, ask whether they're posted on the Web, so you can see them.

2. Who's in Charge of Sustainability Issues?

Having a corporate concern for sustainability is all well and good, but knowing who's in charge can tell you a lot about how much the company really cares about turning that concern into action.  For example, InfoPrint (the joint venture between IBM and Ricoh) has a chief sustainability officer.  As the company points out, putting a high-level official in charge of green issues helps ensure that both the individual and the issues have the clout internally to make a difference.

3. Does the Company Make an Effort to Educate?

Arguably nothing tells you how seriously a company takes green issues as its commitment to educating both its employees and potential customers on the subject.  Teaching employees the importance of sustainability will tend to make them sensitive to green issues on the job.  And once you've taught customers that sustainability matters, it will be hard to persuade them to buy products that don't take it into account.

Canon, for example, includes increasing the environmental awareness of its employees in its charter, as well as "encouraging environmental protection initiatives on an individual level."  Outside of the company, Canon has donated textbooks on green issues to Japanese schools and has participated in seminars and forums on the subject.  In the United States and Canada, it has sponsored an environmental competition, the Canon Envirothon, for high school students since 1997. Ask the companies you deal with what they do to educate employees and consumers about green issues.


M. David Stone is an award-winning freelance writer and computer industry consultant with special areas of expertise in imaging technologies (including printers, monitors, large-screen displays, projectors, scanners, and digital cameras), storage (both magnetic and optical), and word processing. His 25 years of experience in writing about science and technology includes a nearly 20-year concentration on PC hardware and software. He also has a proven track record of making technical issues easy for non-technical readers to understand, while holding the interest of more knowledgeable readers. Writing credits include eight computer-related books, major contributions to four others, and more than 2,000 articles in national and worldwide computer and general interest publications. His two most recent books are The Underground Guide to Color Printers (Addison-Wesley, 1996) and Troubleshooting Your PC, (Microsoft Press, 2000, with co-author Alfred Poor).

Much of David's current writing is for PC Magazine, where he has been a frequent contributor since 1983 and a contributing editor since 1987. His work includes feature articles, special projects, reviews, and both hardware and software solutions for PC Magazine's Solutions columns. He also contributes to other magazines, including Wired. As Computers Editor at Science Digest from 1984 until the magazine stopped publication, he wrote both a monthly column and additional articles. His newspaper column on computers appeared in the Newark Star Ledger from 1995 through 1997.

Non-computer-related work includes the Project Data Book for NASA's Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (written for GE's Astro-Space Division), and magazine articles and AV productions on subjects ranging from cosmology to ape language experiments. David also develops and writes testing scripts for leading computer magazines, including PC Magazine's PC Labs. His scripts have covered a wide range of subjects, including computers, scanners, printers, modems, word processors, fax modems, and communications software. He lives just outside of New York City, and considers himself a New Yorker at heart.


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