Non-green IT products 'marketing suicide'

Vendors selling products not labelled "environmentally friendly" or "green" are committing "marketing suicide", according to a panellist at the ZDNet IT Priorities Roundtable discussion held in Singapore last week.
Written by Munir Kotadia, Contributor

Vendors selling products not labelled "environmentally friendly" or "green" are committing "marketing suicide", according to a panellist at the ZDNet IT Priorities Roundtable discussion held in Singapore last week.

However, CIOs attending the session admitted they disliked it when vendors tried to sell individual products identified as being green. Instead, vendors need to demonstrate how their products integrate into a universal green IT policy, which would include products but would also encourage fundamental changes in employee behaviour.

"It's not adequately demonstrated how the implementation of green products will lead to savings without jeopardising operations. We don't really see one that tells us that you will cut down your electricity bills," said Andrew Tan, an IT administrator for Singapore's Ministry of Defence.

Bok Hai Suan, director at NCS, said it was important to look at green initiatives from more than simply a product perspective.

"If everybody makes a point of switching [their PC] to economy mode or switching it off ... you would immediately get some savings. It's something we should consider," he said.

Eileen Yu, editor of ZDNet Asia, gave an example of just such a policy implemented by electronics giant Philips: in its Singapore office, there are certain days when the air-conditioning system is set to a lower power, which reduces electricity costs but increases the average temperature. On these days, employees are encouraged to dress more casually — men can leave their neckties at home, for example.

Opinions at the Roundtable discussion clearly reflected the key findings from the most recent IT Priorities Asia 2009 survey, where more than half the participants said green initiatives were either low priority or not even on the agenda. Around 90 per cent indicated that improving employee productivity and cutting costs were their most important goals.

At the same time, it seems vendors see green technology as a very high priority, according to Ho Se Mun, executive director of the Singapore Infocomm Technology Federation (SITF), an industry association with over 400 members.

"We ran a survey at the beginning of this year and one of the top five areas that the vendors are looking at [is] green IT. There is a lot of emphasis in the industry to promote green — for saving the earth and, more importantly, I think it is just good business," she said.


Phil Devlin (Credit: Munir Kotadia/ZDNet Australia)

Attempting to sell a product that is not "green" could be damaging to business, according to Phil Devlin, business development manager at HP.

"No vendor will come out and say 'our product is not green', that would be marketing suicide," he said.

The Singapore Government is leading the way when it comes to promoting green initiatives. In 2008, it created the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Sustainable Development (IMCSD) to encourage individuals, companies and government departments to adopt eco-friendly practices.

Earlier this year, the government also announced it was building the CleanTech Park at Nanyang Avenue in Singapore. This 50-hectare eco-business park is described as a "living laboratory" for developing scalable, sustainable business practices. By 2030, it is expected to house a working population of 20,000 people.

Being a small country with a mature economy allows Singapore to react very quickly compared to other countries in the region, according to SITF's Ho Se Mun.

"In Singapore, things can get implemented a lot faster. It is such a small country so when we want to implement something, the scope of complexity is smaller. For example, implementing the same thing in Singapore is a very different challenge altogether than implementing the same application in China. The sheer size of it will give you a different flavour altogether. In countries like Korea, it is a different ball game. They are very advanced," she added.

So it seems that although the government is heading in the right direction, in order to provide customers with what they want, vendors need to re-examine their green IT strategy.

ZDNet Asia's Yu suggested that the IT community has to recognise that green IT does have its advantages but these need to be presented in a manner that allows both vendors and users to understand exactly how they form part of a sustainable green IT policy.

"Even though we have talked about how it's very important to align technology to business — and we have been talking about that for at least five to eight years — the fact is that no one is doing that yet. We hear that green isn't exactly being shown to us as a business proposition, it is still a tech proposition.

"However, we know and recognise that business must align to IT and vice versa, sometimes that is not fully addressed yet by the IT community and that is something that we will always be looking to do," she added.

IT Priorities Roundtable discussions took place in Sydney on Tuesday, 27 July, and in Melbourne on Wednesday, 28 July. The next sessions will be held in Mumbai and Delhi on 4 and 6 August respectively.

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