Is the economy turning corporate decisions from green to grey

Since the economic meltdown started, one question has been: Is this the end of the green agenda, at least in the short-term? And will environmental stewardship be considered a luxury we can no longer afford?

A recent survey by IBM and Info-Tech reported that many mid-sized organizations around the world are buying into green IT despite falling bottom lines and falling stock prices. Another survey by Cisco identified that one-third of all businesses with green plans intend to move forward with them. So can environmental sustainability be good for the bottom line?

The driving force behind continued—and even increasing—green IT investments is the need to control costs by improving energy efficiencies. This is the first-tier greening strategy that most organisations should do, without excuse, as they can save money. The IBM paper looked at 11 possible green IT initiatives, with the most popular being storage consolidation, remote conferencing, and telecommuting.

It doesn’t surprise to see that these three initiatives can result in immediate bottom line savings. Plus they create a smaller carbon footprint through lower electricity bills, reduced consumables costs, decreased current and future operational expenses. Plus they may even attract rebates and incentives from local governments and utilities.

The examples in these reports hold true elsewhere. Data centre experts at the March 2009 Green: Net conference in San Francisco, encouraged increasing server utilization to improve energy efficiency by more than 200 percent. And companies such as Cisco are still pushing ahead with products to dramatically impact CIO’s bottom lines. Its new Unified Computing System (launched March 16, 2009) is said to reduce data centre capital expenditures by 20 percent.

There may be other benefits of “the downturn”. As investors look for safe growth options for their money, buying into technologies that improve efficiencies and pay big returns may be a good option in the current climate (economic and environmental). While relatively modest, CoolIT Systems, recently received $5.1 million in funding to expand development of its liquid cooling system.

There will continue to be uncertainty ahead, despite the optimistic view of green IT’s future. This is particularly so once we get beyond the first-tier changes, which provide both immediate and parallel cost and green improvements. Beyond this first-tier the payback may not be so immediate. And with company acquisitions such as IBM’s potential takeover of Sun Microsystems, we are yet to see the end of the economic fallout and any reshuffling of the corporate world that lay ahead.

So, my advice is to stay tuned, but in the mean-time, get those costs down, and while you do it, let the world know how green you are becoming. Now that has to be good for business.