Green tech as vendor survival strategy? More tech giants apparently think so

Yesterday, I participated in a briefing about SAP's latest corporate sustainability report, which I wrote about for my SmartPlanet blog.There were several "aha" moments for me during the conference call, not the least of which was the declaration's chief sustainability officer, Peter Graf, that SAP will not survive as a viable enterprise software powerhouse one decade from now if it fails to embrace sustainability principles end-to-end.

Yesterday, I participated in a briefing about SAP's latest corporate sustainability report, which I wrote about for my SmartPlanet blog.

There were several "aha" moments for me during the conference call, not the least of which was the declaration's chief sustainability officer, Peter Graf, that SAP will not survive as a viable enterprise software powerhouse one decade from now if it fails to embrace sustainability principles end-to-end.

There are all sorts of ways in which this will happen: for starters, SAP's software has a huge potential role to play in sustainability reporting. Think of all the relevant data points that are hidden in its various enterprise software applications and then think of how it can inform ongoing, interactive reporting. Heck, this could even be the basis of a new service for the company!

Green tech as an innovation driver is apparently on the minds of other tech giants. Today, a piece showed up on GreenBiz.com about Panasonic's new "Green Transformation 2012" strategy. The goal is to become the world's leader in green innovation -- not just in terms of its own corporate impact, but as far as innovation in six key green technology areas: Energy systems, heating ventilation and air-condition, networked audio-visual technologies, healthcare systems, security and LED lighting. Hitachi apparently made a similar declaration last month, and Samsung disclosed some thoughts along the same lines this week.

By their very nature, technology companies have two very distinct roles to play in the whole green IT movement: Not only do they have to shape up their own act internally, they must rethink their product strategies. The days of green sensibilities being a "nice-to-have" in a piece of hardware or software apparently are gone.

As an IT manager, that's a good thing for you, because not only can it become another bargaining point on the procurement list but there's all sorts of innovation being spurred by the green technology movement. Better videoconferencing, more energy efficient server designs, environmental management software that dovetail with corporate risk management approaches.

Although business types really like the term green, the sorts of changes that concerns about the environment and sustainability are drivings will result in one of those tectonic industry shifts where established players who don't move quick enough will become much less of a household or a boardroom name than in the past.

It's time for you as an IT professional to figure out how to use this to your advantage.