Green IT: Reduce Costs and Increase Customers - Page 2

By Polly Traylor
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Breaking Down the Benefits

It does feel good to do the right thing for Mother Earth.  But that's not enough for American business, which cares mainly about sales, not acts of kindness.  Here's a look at the practical reasons why small businesses – or any business for that matter – should operate more environmentally.

1. Going green means going lean.
Saving money is the number one goal most companies have when embarking on a green-IT initiative, experts say. The competitive benefits of operating more leanly are important to clients, Woodruff said. Energy Star, a program funded by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to help small businesses become more energy-efficient, reports that most small businesses can cut their energy costs by 30 percent – the same as a large company.

2. Establish a reputation for ethical business practices.
The benefits don't stop on the balance sheet.  By going green, companies can establish a favorable, ethical reputation in the marketplace and prepare for future environmental regulations. “Doing things for the environment also makes good business sense," Davignon said. “If you don’t think that way you are probably missing out on an ethical leadership opportunity or missing a customer segment that you could market to…and you may open yourself up to a legal liability.”

3. Take advantage of green's marketing benefits.
Unless you've been in a dark hole for the past few months, you can't have missed the widespread "green" messaging in the marketplace.  From department stores to grocery stores to hotels, everyone is trying to capitalize on the power of Green.  You can too, once you embark on real change. And the result can be growth in your business. “We love helping clients get the credit for energy-saving initiatives they are doing,” Woodruff remarked. Of course, your efforts must be valid – otherwise your customers will eventually catch on.

Getting Beyond the Barriers

Despite the many positive reasons for changing business IT practices, the percentage of small businesses actually doing anything about it is still low. Only 18 percent of small businesses have invested in energy-efficient upgrades, according to the 2008 NSBA survey.

Part of the problem may be not knowing where to start and the misconception that it's going to cost a lot of money to do anything worthwhile, according to Melissa Quinn, sustainability manager with SoftChoice, a business-to-business reseller of IT products. “There is a lot of low-hanging fruit,” she said. 

“Most business leaders really don’t how to go green,” added Woodruff, who is also chairman of the Certified Carbon Reduction Manager Program.  "They don’t know how to be environmentally-friendly, and they especially don’t know how to do it profitably.”

Small companies struggle to implement energy-efficient policies and products primarily because they are strapped for time, said Jerry Lawson, national manager of Energy Star. For larger projects, access to capital is also at least a perceived problem, he said.

However, there are many ways to get started that don't involve massive investments of time or money, such as through power management features on your PCs, double-sided printing and adopting some of Energy Star’s "Sure Energy Savers" guidelines. Watch this site for more advice and tips on how to implement a green technology practice in your business.

Be sure to read part one and part three of this series.

Polly Schneider Traylor is a freelance business and technology writer based in San Mateo, California.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!

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This article was originally published on June 12, 2008
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