Asian SMBs still lack green IT awareness

Small and midsize businesses in the region are still not clear what green IT entails, analyst says, adding that government and industry bodies need to do more.
Written by Vivian Yeo, Contributor

Despite projected growth in global green IT spend, small and midsize businesses (SMBs) in the region still do not understand what it entails, according to an analyst.

Raju Chellam, vice president for the Asia-Pacific region at Access Markets International (AMI) Partners, told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail interview that green IT is not yet entrenched in SMBs as they are generally more focused on achieving their growth and profit targets.

"Even among higher-end medium businesses, the concept of green IT is [deemed] more as an ideal to strive to, rather than as an immediate focus area," he added.

Because of a lack of awareness, SMBs believe that it is costly to engage in green IT initiatives, noted Chellam. "Many SMBs think going green involves overhauling their entire backend and front-end operations, the supply chain and their procurement processes. This means effectively restructuring the entire organization, which is not just avoidable, but also makes little economic sense, especially during times of [economic] crisis such as now.

Another reason for SMB inertia is the lack of compelling case studies, he pointed out. SMBs are typically cautious and only adopt proven technologies or processes that match their budgets.

"There are few examples of large corporations having gone green and reaped the benefits of a leaner supply chain or use of innovative technologies or processes," said Chellam. "Given this scenario, SMBs are not keen to be the first--so-called guinea pigs--to start experimenting with green IT."

Concerted push needed
Referring to Singapore, Chellam noted that the lack of strong pull and push factors are keeping SMBs from becoming green. "There is little incentive from either the utilities companies--electricity, gas and water--or government bodies for SMBs to adopt green IT practices. On the other hand, there is no disincentive for not going green, or for using too much power or water.

"Unless there is a concerted campaign by government bodies or industry associations to boost the benefits of going green, this lack of awareness will continue," said Chellam.

In response to e-mail queries from ZDNet Asia, Singapore's National Environment Agency noted that there is "a general lack of knowledge" among businesses, of what can be done to improve energy efficiency. Companies also may not have access to expertise to implement green projects, a spokesman said.

The agency announced in November a new grant to help businesses adopt energy-efficient technologies and equipment. The Grant for Energy Efficient Technologies or Greet, will help local companies defray the cost of purchasing energy-efficient products and services. NEA has said that a portion of this fund will be set aside specifically for SMBs, but it has not yet disclosed the amount. The spokesman noted that the allocation will be decided upon completion of consultation with the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (ASME) and Spring Singapore.

Greet, as well as other schemes by NEA such as the Energy Efficiency Improvement Assistance Scheme, will enable businesses to "get the help they need from efficiency experts and to fund projects that will afford them long term savings", added the spokesperson.

According to AMI-Partners, there are roughly 160,000 SMBs in Singapore, of which 98 percent are small businesses defined by the research firm as companies with less than 100 employees.

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