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January 17, 2007

Green is the way to customers’ hearts and wallets

The likes of Tesco, BT and British Airways recently announced that they are joining together to extol the virtues of corporate social and environmental responsibility. In the IT world, Dell founder and chairman Michael Dell announced at the 2007 Consumer Electronics Show that it was time IT took a lead in environmental issues. Going green, it seems, is the way to win consumers' hearts and wallets.

By CBR Staff Writer

Dell announced a ‘plant a tree for me’ program at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. This would give the customer the option of volunteering $2 for a laptop or $6 for a desktop, as a donation that will be used to fund a worldwide tree planting program to offset the impact of the carbon emissions used to generate the power to run the equipment during its lifetime, which Dell has estimated to be three years.

Dell did not say if it was donating any funding to the program to cover the carbon emissions generated in manufacture, and, more importantly, it did not include server products in the scheme. Servers use more power than laptop or desktop devices because they are typically run 24/7, while laptop and desktops normally operate only eight to 10 hours per day.

Dell is not the first IT organization to announce initiatives aimed at becoming more environmentally aware. VIA, the chip maker, announced in September 2006 that its new C7-D chip would be carbon-neutral from an energy consumption perspective. VIA used UK consultancy Carbon Footprint to calculate over its lifetime the impact that the C7-D would have. VIA claims that, given a three-year lifespan, the C7-D would require four trees to be planted.

This questions the Dell announcement as the C7-D is only the processor chip, and, if used at full capacity of 1.8GHz, it consumes 20W of power. Therefore, the question is whether $6 for a desktop covers the cost of being carbon-neutral. Using Carbon Footprint’s figures and an estimate from IE, a UK-based desktop management vendor, an average desktop consumes 200W, and $6 would need to fund the planting of considerably more than four trees to be carbon-neutral.

However, another vendor that is very much aware of environmental responsibilities is HP, which for many years has embedded global citizenship as one of the seven core elements in its corporate objectives. It is also worth noting that HP has been recycling products since 1987; it developed the Designed for Environment policy in 1992, and entered into a joint initiative with the World Wildlife Fund US to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from its operating facilities worldwide in 2006.

It appears that other organizations are just beginning to recognize that being seen as ‘green’ is good for business. However, as HP clearly demonstrates, if you do not generate headline-grabbing announcements that are aimed at the customers, then your efforts will largely go unrecognized. As customers and investors push organizations to consider environmental issues, it looks likely that 2007 will become the green year, with many more carbon-neutral initiatives being announced by leading vendors. The difficulty will be making sense of the initiatives, and verifying if they do equate to being carbon-neutral, or are just a marketing ploy.

Source: OpinionWire by Butler Group (www.butlergroup.com)

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