Strategic CIO // Executive Insights & Innovation
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8/7/2007
12:17 PM
Bob Evans
Bob Evans
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If You Want To Go Green, You Gotta Show Them The Green

It's all fine and dandy for businesses today to yap about environmental consciousness and saving the planet and picking photosynthesis green as their new corporate color, but those plans will never get past the yap stage unless they're tied inextricably to rigorous, real-world business plans that demonstrate the financial benefit of such strategies.

It's all fine and dandy for businesses today to yap about environmental consciousness and saving the planet and picking photosynthesis green as their new corporate color, but those plans will never get past the yap stage unless they're tied inextricably to rigorous, real-world business plans that demonstrate the financial benefit of such strategies.Sure, we can say that's just callous and brutishly capitalistic, but it's also the way things are in this global economy. Environmental policies detached from business realities will either never get off the ground or will fail when they do.

Here's how Technology Forecasters Inc.'s Pam Gordon put it late last week: "...executives are completely -- and properly -- motivated by shareholder value. The best way to communicate green ideas -- better product design, more-efficient facilities, better process in manufacturing, even natural landscaping -- is to demonstrate how they'll save money, or increase revenue. And measuring financial benefits -- and the financial risks of not being proactive in this area -- can now be done with standard accounting models." Gordon succinctly adds this: "The central truth about lean and green: What's good for the environment is good for profits."

A great example is the ambitious recycling program Dell has undertaken, with a goal of recovering 275 million pounds of computer equipment by 2009. Last year, Dell said, the company recycled 78 million pounds -- and while that's a long way off from 2009's goal of 275 million, it nevertheless is up 93% from Dell's recycling total for 2005.

Company chairman Michael Dell used this program to try to position Dell as the industry leader in the minds of business and consumer customers, who should not "be forced into improper disposal due to a lack of environmentally responsible options." In hypercompetitive industries such as the one where Dell bangs heads with Hewlett-Packard and IBM, every advantage needs to be pursued. And if customers begin to take fully into account the cost of disposing of computer equipment that's about to be replaced, then perhaps they'll evaluate more closely the recycling options of their potential vendors.

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