NEW YORK-Dell and Intel representatives talked about how the green IT movement sweeping the industry affected both their internal decisions and their business practices, in a panel at the Greener Gadgets Conference on Feb. 27.
Thanks to its ability to generate cost savings and efficiencies, not to mention projecting an air of corporate responsibility, many organizations have embraced green IT as the way of the future.
"We believe that the environment is an economic imperative and an imperative for our business," Michael Murphy, senior manager of worldwide environmental affairs for Dell, said during the panel. "We're hearing consistently that the environment is what powers buying decisions."
With regard to environmental consciousness, Dell has also been eating its own dog food, so to speak, internally.
"Last year we committed to becoming carbon-neutral," Murphy added. "We saved $3 million last year through driving efficiencies and renewables."
While many IT companies have been thinking green since their creation, the last couple of years have seen a need to project an environmentally friendly status to the world at large.
"We typically have avoided marketing on the basis of green until fairly recently," Stephen Harper, director of environment and energy policy for Intel, added. "In the past two years, one of the things I count as a success is convincing our senior management that people care about this stuff."
For Intel, energy efficiency is an integral part of the business, even aside from the need to be perceived as green.
"If we're not good at getting efficient," Harper added, "then you're going to have a laptop with the heat output of a nuclear power plant."
Some, however, evidently don't feel that the major IT companies go far enough in their green initiatives, even though much of the enterprise spends a significant part of their IT budget on such efforts.
"You can focus on the energy efficiency of your products, but when it comes to labeling the Intel chip and the carbon footprint of it, the information isn't available," Ken Rother, president and COO of Treehugger.com, countered during the panel.
In Rother's estimation, the industry needs more macro-level transparency with regard to its environmental impact and energy use, including product labels that describe materials usage and "some forms of communicating other than saying, 'We've made this [environmentally friendly] product.'"
Murphy asserted in a video interview that attempting to label Dell's products in such a way simply isn't technically feasible at this time.
The quest for IT to become completely environmentally friendly, however, runs into the realities of manufacturing, in which lead and other potentially toxic materials are integral to the process of creating semiconductors and other components. Attempting to utilize other materials in place of lead or these gases, both Harper and Murphy claim, can lead to reliability issues on the part of the device.
According to Stephen Harper: "Reliability is critical ... and we don't yet have substitutes."
Not yet, at least. But everyone at the panel seemed to agree that, as technology improves, devices and the companies that use them will only become more energy-efficient.