IT firms cross over to dark side

Technology companies will be among over 400 businesses taking part in Earth Hour this year, with activities ranging from switching off lights to a contest for eco ideas.
Written by Vivian Yeo, Contributor

SINGAPORE--IT organizations will be among businesses stepping up this year to play their part in Earth Hour, which takes place at local time 8.30pm for an hour on Saturday.

According to organizer World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Singapore, over 400 corporate entities will participate in the event this year in the country. Of these, more than 20 are from the ICT sector.

Earth Hour is an annual event which will see the participation of individuals and organizations from over 105 countries worldwide this year. Those observing Earth Hour are encouraged to turn off their lights for the entire hour in support of action on climate change. Businesses typically switch off non-essential lighting.

According to WWF Singapore's director for corporate responsibility and Earth Hour project manager Carine Seror, corporate participants such as SingTel, StarHub and Microsoft are tapping on their communication channels to spread the Earth Hour message to the public.

SingTel, she noted, has pledged to send over a million text messages and electronic direct mailers (EDMs) to its subscribers to "drum up interest and participation" for the event. StarHub also said it will send SMS messages and log in airtime to broadcast WWF's Earth Hour TV commercial. Microsoft has put up banners across the MSN and Windows Live network, sent out an EDM to Hotmail and Messenger users, as well as developed an Earth Hour Theme pack that includes Earth Hour emoticons and conversation backgrounds.

A spokesperson from NEC Asia said in an e-mail to ZDNet Asia that the company has requested for employees to switch off computing and electronic equipment including printers and copiers "before they go off for the weekend", in support of Earth Hour. NEC Asia, which is taking part in the initiative for the second time, is also encouraging staff to switch off lights in their own homes during Earth Hour.

Dale Smith, Symantec's senior director of education services in Asia-Pacific and Japan, told ZDNet Asia that this year marks the first time the company is participating in Earth Hour as a company-wide initiative.

The organization has urged its employees to take part in the hour of darkness at home. Given that the event takes place on a non-working day, the company's non-essential lighting would already have been turned off, he said in an e-mail.

Going the extra green mile
In the spirit of going green, some companies have taken more unusual measures, while at least one is prepared to chip in even if Earth Hour takes place on a work day.

Since last year, IT services vendor Datacraft Asia has added an extra 2 hours of lights off in its offices across the Asia-Pacific region a working day before the Earth Hour event. This is in addition to encouraging staff and their families to observe the actual Earth Hour.

According to Catherine Tan, administrative and facilities manager at Datacraft Asia's human resources department, there will be a photo contest and an energy-saving idea competition for employees in conjunction with Earth Hour 2010. The winning idea will subsequently be implemented across Datacraft offices, she said in an e-mail.

Among the company's unusual efforts to become more "green": It has done away with plastic cups by providing each employee with a customized mug. Staff also use a specially-designed eco-friendly screensaver that consumes less energy.

For Symantec, should Earth Hour take place during office hours, the company will consider turning off or minimizing the use of non-essential energy such as turning off all lighting with the exception of emergency and safety lighting, said Smith.

"We would also consider having everyone work from home on that day so transportation is reduced, and office lights and equipment can be turned off the whole day," he added.

Smith said Symantec has 26 green teams in 16 countries to identify sustainable opportunities and educate employees about behavioral changes. He is the Singapore chairperson for the company's Global Green Team.

WWF Singapore's Seror noted that the Earth Hour initiative is "only a first step" and more of a symbolic gesture. "It is extremely important that corporate go the extra mile to rethink the way they operate.

"Companies are part of the problem, but they are part of the solution, too," she said.

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