Guest post: Christopher Lochhead, the former chief marketing officer at Mercury, was the driving force behind the concept of BTO (Business Technology Optimization), which is about aligning IT investments deeply with business goals. Now Christopher is thinking “green,” looking at what he is called Green Business Technology (GBT). In this post he argues that the tech industry is a green laggard and that the time will come when companies in all industries have to disclose the environmental impact of their products and services.
Global warming is hot--pun intended. The year 2007 will likely be remembered as the year that the environmental crisis hit the mainstream and what I call Green Business Technology (GBT) gets on the radar of CEOs, CFOs and CIOs.
On June 8, 2007 Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon called climate change the “defining issue of our era,” and declared the agreement by G8 nations to address the threat as an “important first step.”
Al Gore won an Oscar for his PowerPoint presentation turned documentary “An Inconvenient Truth.” All the US presidential candidates in both parties are being forced to take a position on global warming. And the Bush administration has gone from “questioning the science” to putting forward a green policy.
The facts are no longer in dispute. The planet is getting hotter. We are the cause. The increase in temperature is killing plants, animals, and habitats, while starting to threaten human life. It is also clear that the crisis is hurting us today and it will get worse over time.
The other thing that is clear--money can be saved and made by going green.
Toyota surpassed General Motors in units shipped to become the number one car company in the world. Their success is partly due to the Prius and other hybrids. They just announced they have sold over one million hybrids during the last ten years. GE is touting their “ecomagination” approach and pushing everything from green light bulbs to hybrid locomotives. And lots of other companies and industries are moving forward on becoming green.
Tech’s “Wasted” Opportunity
So what is the high-tech industry doing? Not enough. So far the technology industry is a green laggard. While some enterprises and vendors are starting to address the crisis, few are taking decisive action, which is surprising. Not only is going green the “right” thing to do for the planet, it is right for tech budgets, which have barely grown for the past six years. Business Technology executives can save a lot of green, by going green.
In spite of this fact the evidence of waste in our industry is everywhere:
- It is believed that 40 to 50 percent of tech budgets are wasted
- We have too many datacenters, applications, servers, and storage
- We consume to much for power and cooling
- Analysts tell us that the average PC is only actively being used 10 to 15 percent of the time while it is turned on
- We have a spotty record on recycling
Poor Green Record
Many other factoids underscore the tech industry’s wasteful ways. Even if you dispute some of the points above, it is impossible to make an argument that our industry is good at being green.
In addition, few leaders seem to want to talk about Green Business Technology (GBT). In preparing for this post, I reached out to over a dozen leading technology executives in the Fortune 500 and at vendors. None of them wanted to speak on the record. And while some in the press/analyst world have started to write about this topic, it is far from a top agenda item.
The Risk of Staying the Same is Greater Than The Change
I believe that the tech industry is about to change. Green Business Technology (GBT) will become a mainstream movement within three years (probability 100 percent). As this happens the question for your enterprise is will you be the Toyota or GM of your industry?
Some business technology executives have already started to make a lot of progress on their GBT strategies. They are saving money, self-funding new initiates, and striving to become carbon neutral. I predict that these forwarding-leaning CIOs are about change our industry by making three things happen:
- Market their GBT success as a reason for their customers to buy from their companies
- Force their competitors to get green or get crushed
- Force their vendors to get green
Beyond market forces that will soon force GBT to go mainstream, our industry may face stricter government regulations. Some consumer products makers are starting to list the “carbon footprint” of their products on their labels. In the UK, the government has announced plans to create labels that display the greenhouse gas emissions created by a product’s production, transport and eventual disposal, similar to the calorie or salt content figures on food packaging. Today in the UK, Walkers onion potato chips now come with a label warning consumers that their carbon footprint is 75g a package.
How far away are we from a time when companies in all industries have to disclose the environmental impact of their products and services? We are kidding ourselves if we think this won’t happen in the tech business.
So here’s the big question for the tech industry: Who will go green and grow and who will ignore the issue and become irrelevant?
In future postings I will outline some of the actions we can take can and the role of the CIO and vendors in leading the charge. I also welcome your thoughts on the topic.
Christopher Lochhead is part-time strategy advisor, full-time ski bum and is struggling to lower his carbon footprint.