Anybody who believes that environmentally conscious IT in the big world of profit and loss is an amorphous concept because one cannot actually see a carbon footprint is way, way out of touch.
Efficient power consumption, carbon footprints and facilities' operating expenses are becoming more strategically instrumental for enterprises all the time. There are plenty of business people-environmental, financial and marketing-who have abiding interest in seeing these numbers improve over time.
Fortunately, plenty of companies are taking green IT best practices quite seriously, and these largely are the ones that already are role models to others. The highly respected environmental advocacy organization, Greenpeace International, on Nov. 10 published its latest "Guide to Greener Electronics," and the United States is the clear leader in this space.
Hewlett-Packard, for all its administrative faux pas of the last several years, nonetheless has kept its eye on the ball in the way it conducts business with relation to the environment. So have Dell, Nokia, Apple and Philips, among others. Three of the top four environmentally correct IT companies are based in the United States, according to Greenpace.
Sustainability Is the Key
HP-which last August announced that it would stop making PCs and smartphones but reversed that decision following the installation of new CEO Meg Whitman a couple of months later-is producing IT in a more sustainable way than its competitors, Greenpeace said.
Palo Alto, Calif.-based HP, up three places from last year's list, scored highest on its sustainable operations and energy criteria, but it could improve on green products criteria, Greenpeace said.
"HP takes the top spot because it is scoring strongly by measuring and reducing carbon emissions from its supply chain, reducing its own emissions and advocating for strong climate legislation," Greenpeace International's Tom Dowdall remarked.
Still, there's plenty more that can be done, as witnessed by HP's rather paltry-looking 5.9 score out of a possible 10 on Greenpeace's tough e-scale. Greenpeace's criteria demand electronics companies:
reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) by implementing a Clean Electricity Plan;
- clean up their products by eliminating hazardous substances;
- take back and recycle their products responsibly once they become obsolete; and
- stop the use of unsustainable materials in their products and packaging.
You can download a 12-page PDF copy of the list criteria at this Greenpeace.org Website.
HP's Massive Supply Chain
HP, which has 324,000 employees of its own, has done very well in most of these departments, especially when one considers the vastness of its supply chain. We're talking about tens of thousands of other companies (parts, service and software suppliers, partner companies, integrators and value-added resellers) and various other business connections for the world's largest IT hardware, software and service provider.
Austin, Texas-based Dell jumped from No. 10 in 2010 to runner-up this year, scoring 5.1 out of 10 to mark a major improvement. In its report, Greenpeace remarked that Dell now has by far the most ambitious "climate target" of the rated companies, with plans to reduce its carbon emissions by a whopping 40 percent by the clear-vision year, 2020. The PC, server, storage, and cloud software maker also has an exemplary policy on sustainable paper sourcing, Greenpeace said.
Sweden's Nokia, which has had its share of problems competing in the new, more cutthroat-than-ever smartphone market, had spent the last three years at No. 1 but this year fell to No. 3, scoring 4.9. This drop was mainly due to weaker performance on energy use, Greenpeace said.
Surprisingly, two very environmentally aware IT companies, IBM and NetApp, were nowhere to be found on the list. Neither were such other giants as EMC, Oracle, Microsoft and Cisco Systems. Since most of the companies on the list make consumer products, perhaps it behooves business-to-business IT companies to become more aware of environmental concerns.
Will Consumers Heed This Information?
It is not known what kind of impact public lists like this have on consumer buying habits. However, Greenpeace-which is most well-known for such campaigns as saving whales and dolphins from rogue fishermen-had a group of its volunteers in the mid-1990s successfully put pressure on sporting-goods manufacturer Nike to improve labor practices in the Far East.
Greenpeace claims there has been an increase in take-back programs and reductions in the IT industry's use of hazardous materials and chemicals since it began this campaign a decade ago.
You can view the entire Greenpeace list, along with the full report cards on each of the top 15 companies, at this Website.