Which is more meaningful right now? Green IT vs. technology that helps a business be green AND save money

I've got this embarrassing riches of interview notes piling up here in my home office, which I am now revisiting because everything is just so darn weird out there that surveys, in particular, should really be subjected to some skepticism. That is, however, unless they're tying green IT to some sort of money-saving agenda.

I've got this embarrassing riches of interview notes piling up here in my home office, which I am now revisiting because everything is just so darn weird out there that surveys, in particular, should really be subjected to some skepticism. That is, however, unless they're tying green IT to some sort of money-saving agenda. That's because the momentum behind that sort of activity is only accelerating.

So anyway, Microsoft released some statistics last fall compiled by KRC Research examining the green tech buying/investment inclinations of small-business IT decision makers, a put-upon group if there every was one. The poll covers the opinions of 250 people, a majority of whom designated themselves as an owner, founder or president of the company they were representing. Close to half were from companies with fewer than 5 employees, and the biggest "industry" represented was construction and real estate, with 13 percent of the respondents.

At first blush, the results are encouraging. Generally speaking, smaller companies were more inclined to adopt environmentally friendly business practices than their larger counterparts; 44 percent said this was "very important" to their company. Regionally speaking, executives from the Western states were more likely to feel this way. Approximately 4 in 10 were more focused on green practices than there were 12 months earlier. More tidbits from the survey can be found at this link.

The ulterior motive of this particular survey was to explore the role that technology could play in helping a business improve its sustainability profile. Francois Ajenstat, director of environmental sustainability for Microsoft, reports that an overwhelming majority of the respondents (94 percent) believe technology would be vitally important. The practice about which most (44 percent) felt most strongly was the role that a paperless office could play in sustainability AND in saving them money at the same time. "Paper is something you can touch and feel," Ajenstat says, explaining the results. "Some businesses, like real estate, have very intensive paper processes."

Computer power management strategies were cited by 28 percent as the best way to save money while improving the environment, while 26 percent felt allowing employees to telecommute would be useful. Mobile technology, more efficient server technology and Web conferencing services were cited.

I have to admit that I was surprised power management didn't rate higher than the paperless office. But then I got to thinking JUST how much real estate firms use to handle a basic transaction, and it made my head spin. This is indeed the case of an industry that could become both greener and more efficient simultaneously. Definitely the right combination right now.

So, how much have these companies saved so far by adopting some sort of technology to become greener? Of those that HAVE saved, the average was $19,200. Only 17 percent of the respondents said that had saved NO money or lost/spent money in the cause of being green.

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