Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Building a business from a Green foundation – avoiding the Green gimmick trap

Posted in social networking and business, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on August 24, 2010

I have been running an ongoing if occasional series on Green in this blog, looking at: social networking and developing organizations that promote effective Green and sustainability initiatives (see for example my Practical Handbook on best practices for the Green organization and postings 49 to 58, 60, 65, 70). I have also posted on Green businesses, (see for example Startups and Early Stage Businesses, posting 31.) I have been thinking about the Green business and its particular issues and have intended to add more postings on this to the blog. I am going to start to address that with this posting and my goal is to at least start a discussion here and provoke some thought on what I see as one of the biggest potential problems that businesses can face when going Green – developing a Green and sustainability approach into their basic organizational infrastructure and avoiding the trap of the Green gimmick.

This means more than simply avoiding marketing gaffs, as important as that can be, where a company claims to be environmentally responsible and responsive, but only as a marketing patina and not in substance. This means making Green cost effective, and it means developing and instituting Green best practices.

Much of my professional background is in Information Technology, so I will start with examples from there, and commonly encountered ones. Electric power consumption adds significantly to a business’ carbon footprint and computer systems can be a major cost center for this. Modern high capacity, high density server rooms consume large amounts of power to keep the servers running, and it is becoming increasing common that even more power is needed than that simply to cool these facilities. Green, and very cost effective Green can come out of initiatives to identify and utilize lower power consumption servers, and software that can limit the amount of time the hard drives are spinning to time actually needed, and that significantly contributes to power utilization for these computers. And for HVAC and cooling, this can mean keeping the computers cool and not the entire room they are in. There are a lot of ways to lower IT power consumption requirements and they can really add up in reduction of fixed operating expenses – and in reducing that carbon footprint incurred.

Printers can be found in most any business, and are usually simply taken for granted and overlooked. But printers take ink cartridges and they are usually the most expensive part of the machine, quickly adding up in cost to exceed the cost of the printer itself. And spent cartridges have to be discarded as toxic waste, or recycled for the most part and both add to the carbon footprint and are environmentally ineffective as far as long term sustainability is concerned. But solid ink printing (see Xerox and their printers for a best practices example) do away with the cartridge body, using blocks of ink that are used up and do not leave waste residue in the form of empty cartridges.

Going Green as a systematic approach means really examining your entire business, and looking for places where your carbon footprint comes from – and where you incur avoidable costs from it. And reducing those costs comes from developing practical, cost effective practices and options.

Telecommuting and other distance practices for working with staff and keeping them productive and connected come in here, as do options and processes from every business department and functional area – if you look for and identify places of opportunity throughout your organization. Yes, Green can make for very effective marketing, in showing your business seeks to address the needs and concerns of the marketplace and of the communities you live and work in. But marketing per se can be the icing on the cake where real savings and real opportunity to be competitive and to capture market share come from having and maintaining a Green infrastructure with its cost savings and efficiencies.

My next posting in this series is going to look into Green and sustainability training and developing the environmentally aware employee.

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