IBM: Energy concerns are translating into green-tech action among smaller businesses

If you thought health care was the biggest or only cost concern for small and midsize businesses (SMBs), think again.According to the results of a telephone survey released today by IBM, a majority of SMBs on a worldwide basis cite energy costs as the “biggest cost increase” for them over the next two years, outstripping increases related to health care, payroll, rent and other types of equipment.

If you thought health care was the biggest or only cost concern for small and midsize businesses (SMBs), think again.

According to the results of a telephone survey released today by IBM, a majority of SMBs on a worldwide basis cite energy costs as the “biggest cost increase” for them over the next two years, outstripping increases related to health care, payroll, rent and other types of equipment. Among businesses from the United States, energy and health care services tie for first place as the cause of the largest cost increases over the past two years.

As a result of these concerns, the survey finds, about 44 percent of the respondents have put some sort of environmental policy into place.

The phone survey reached approximately 1,400 companies with between 50 and 500 employees during October. Countries covered included the United States, Australia, India, France, Brazil, Germany, China and the Benelux. Only people with responsibility for IT or facilities management were asked to participate in the poll.

Considering the source of the data, it shouldn’t surprise you to hear that the surveyed companies are examining their technology infrastructure and purchases as a way to curb energy costs. About 55 percent said they are buying energy-efficient technology, consolidating servers, or assessing the performance and energy demands of existing servers as a way to minimize costs.

But the survey definitely uncovers some profound differences in how U.S. businesses think about environmental concerns vs. their counterparts in other countries. Here’s a couple of examples:

- Slightly more than 50 percent of the non-U.S. businesses said their company’s concern for the environment has impacted decisions about energy usage vs. only 38 percent of the U.S. companies that said the same thing. - Almost 50 percent of the respondents from outside the United States said energy efficiency was a concern when making IT purchases, compared with 26 percent of the U.S.-based respondents. - The U.S companies, in fact, were also more likely not to know how much their IT equipment contributed to energy usage.

So, what to make of all these stats?

For one thing, although many high-tech vendors have aimed much of their green-speak at larger enterprises, their message might actually resonate more loudly with the SMB community.

It also tells me, sadly, that most of the green action in this country is and will continue to be driven mainly by cost concerns. Still, I guess the fact that they are taking action at all is cause for applause.