Are you willing to pay more for a green tech supplier?

How much does a particular supplier’s green profile affect your decision to sign on the dotted line? I will answer this question personally and say that up until now, not much.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

How much does a particular supplier’s green profile affect your decision to sign on the dotted line? I will answer this question personally and say that up until now, not much.

I couldn’t tell you, for example, where it’s really best to buy your gasoline. (Because, face, it, a large majority of you reading this blog drive gasoline-powered vehicles and not some sort of wonderful hybrid.) I don’t know which supermarket chains make the best use of sustainable food practices. I LOVE print magazines and have piles of them at home that I have no hope of ever reading cover to cover, and I don’t even have a town library card, choosing to make both my local bookseller and the library where I donate all the books I read very happy.

These are all practices, mind you, that I’m slowly trying to correct. Especially as I write this, staring at awesome Rundle Mountain outside my hotel window in Banff National Park in Canada.

Chances are, you’re pretty much like me. Concerned, but not yet practicing consistent green habits. And, chances are your employer is pretty much the same, according to a recent study of green technology consumption habits by Rackspace, a managed hosting company in San Antonio that is trying to distinguish itself as a green supplier.

About 60 percent of the roughly 380 Rackspace customers who responded to its recent survey about green information technology said green vendors will be important to their company in five years, although they won’t be central to their procurement strategy. (It should be noted that the survey was sent to roughly 3,800 Rackspace customers.)

Of those who responded, only 12 percent said green issues would NOT be important to their company at all five years from now, while 30 percent said a supplier’s environmental practices would be central to their company’s decision to choose them as a partner. The percentages are virtually the same today.

When asked whether they would pay a premium to opt for a green supplier, about 30 percent of the respondents said they would NOT choose that supplier. Almost the same percentage (27 percent), however, said they WOULD opt for a green supplier even if the offering was priced 5 percent higher than a competitive product or service. One-quarter of the respondents said they would bear a price premium of up to 10 percent in order to support a green vendor.

John Engates, CTO of Rackspace, said these responses helped validate some practices the hosting company has adopted over the past several years. More than two years ago, for example, its facility in the United Kingdom began planting a tree for every server that it bought online, a custom that has since traveled across the Atlantic. (Incidentally, Rackspace brings up anywhere from 400 to 500 servers per month.) (Clarification posted on Oct. 13: Just eard from the Rackspace team. While the spirit of conservation within the company HAS traveled across the Atlantic from the U.K. to the U.S., the company does not plant a tree for every server it brings up in the States. It does, however, purchase carbon offset credits.)

To improve its environmental karma, Rackspace has begun adopting alternative energy sources (a new U.K. facility is powered entirely by a biomass fuel source) and has focused on evangelizing the most energy-efficient processor technology to customers even it if isn’t always the fastest. “Sometimes, if you step down in speed, you can get better price-performance per-watt,” Engates said.

Through its Greenspace program, Rackspace itself has adopted myriad programs at its corporate facilities to improve its own corporate green profile, such as creating roof-top gardens, dropping use of all non-organic pesticides and embracing various other practices that it hopes will help its successful certification within the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Building Rating System.

Two of the experiments it is supporting include the Owl Feather War Bonnet wind turbine project and the Schrack family farm project, which seeks to create energy from the methane generated by a dairy farm. Both are affiliated with Rackspace partner NativeEnergy, which supports a number of alternative energy projects.

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