Cost To Business Or The Environment?

“Adopting green technologies is good for the planet and for your business” is one of the most commonly quoted phrases of the moment.

But what does this mean in practise? What exactly does ‘good’ for your business mean?

With an increasing number of businesses keen to demonstrate their green credentials, a tendency towards hype or sales ’spin’ is often inevitable. It is something that has bedevilled those intent on promoting true green practices and principles within their businesses. On the one hand you want to be seen to be ‘doing the right thing’ but on the other hand you do not want to be perceived as a purveyor of ‘greenwash’- leaving many in a position akin to being caught between ‘the devil and the deep green sea.’

Although this week’s news about the Mafia assets seizure, all $1.9 billion of them, proves that for some organisations being a claim of greenwash is hardly the worst crime to be accused of. For those of you that missed the story, it is suspected that the Mafia is allegedly ‘going green’ by laundering money through alternative energy companies. The man at the centre of the investigation is Sicilian businessman Vito Nicastri, a man known as the “Lord of the Wind” because of his vast holdings in alternative energy, mainly wind farms, concerns. Although his assets – have been seized he has not been arrested on any charge yet.

Given that this might just be the most extreme example of green technology benefiting a business, it does highlight how companies are leading the charge to develop and invest in environmentally friendly technology — not just because it’s good for nature, but it’s also good for the bottom line.

And at the end of the day, a business regardless of its intent, image and corporate responsibilities is judged on its bottom line. It was the author of “Green Ledgers, Janet Ranganathan of the World Resources Institute think tank, who stated several years ago that “If companies understand the true cost of environmental factors to their bottom line, they are more likely to do something about it on their own.”

This was a point appears not lost on the 14 year old work experience pupil that we have the pleasure of hosting with this week. James joined us on Monday, the day we launched our Racks 4 Acres cloud rainforest preservation campaign, and immediately wanted to know about its rationale and our views on the ‘green debate’. Being the hard labour merchants that we are, we turned the tables on him and asked that he jot down his own views on the topic. This was a totally unplanned and unprompted exercise, but we thought it would be of interest to hear the views of a teenager who until this point had not been asked to crystallise his thoughts around this subject. What follows is his unedited response.

“I believe that it is every businesses duty to take the next step forward in preserving the earth’s natural resources. I believe taking the greener option is the better option.

It is very difficult to make a company environmentally friendly. In any business it all comes down to profit and most people don’t want to change the way they work or manufacture things because this could result in losses on the profit margins. But evidently this method is very effective and can actually increase profits. For example: BT has created a new energy-efficient home phone. BT’s new greener phones boast power supply units specifically designed to use up to half the amount of energy compared to previous models. I believe that BT is doing this for the company but also for its customers, it will benefit both.

To become a greener company you have to invest a lot of time and money to kick start your greener business because most things will have to be changed, from light bulbs to machinery.

This is sometimes appears an impossible task particularly if you are a computer company which uses thousands of pounds of electricity a year. I feel that people should start using more energy efficient methods when using computers or lighting e.g. just switching them off once they have been used to cut back on their bills.

Here is a five point step to saving valuable energy:

  • Don’t put equipment on standby.
  • Turn off all switches at the wall.
  • Use recycled items and products.
  • Turn of all systems at night.
  • Use and reuse leaflets and brochures.

Now either we have landed ourselves a very perceptive 14 year old or James has succinctly captured the issues facing business today. The benefits of green computing must affect the bottom line, businesses will only take on the pain of reengineering their processes if it makes economic sense to do so and that sometimes doing the simple things can make a difference. But perhaps the most interesting and telling aspect of James’ piece was his opening sentence and his choice of the BT home phone as an example.

As an individual James is concerned with the world’s fragile state (his School and the media have influenced here) and he genuinely believes that business has a part to play in conserving the earth’s resources. And this was reflected in his choice of the BT phone.

Of all the millions of examples that he could have selected, James choose that one….why?

It was simple he said. This was a brand he knew well, selling a product that he knew and understood, for a price he considered reasonable, and it was aimed at helping customers save money whilst benefiting the environment.

And there, my marketing friends, speaks the voice of the next generation of consumer.

Phil Worms is the director of corporate communications for iomart Group, one of Europe’s largest providers of managed hosting, cloud computing and business continuity services. Having spent 25 years working in the IT industry he is recognised as one of its brightest thinkers. He regularly contributes internet and "new media" related features for trade publications and national newspapers and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. He is an advocate of social media using it for both business and charitable causes. Phil has sat on several national advisory committees ranging from the provision of broadband access to online safety initiatives. He is now heavily involved in the debate surrounding the greening of IT with energy efficiency and carbon emission reduction a particular topic of interest. In his spare time Phil is dedicated to raising money in an attempt to bring a new arts and music centre to his hometown of Helensburgh. It is this venture that has given him his finest moment – being mentioned on David Bowie’s official website when he organised a mass community recording of the classic song Heroes!