Study Shows Companies Clamoring to Go Green

By Sharon Linsenbach  |  Print this article Print

A survey of 1,000 companies worldwide underscores what many solution providers are already slowly discovering: Green IT initiatives can translate into plenty of green in the bottom line.

New research commissioned by Symantec shows a wealth of opportunities for solution providers to help customers with equipment, services and strategies for going green.

As recently as 12 months ago, many organizations might have placed green IT close to the bottom of their list of technology priorities. Now, however, new research shows that green IT is topping the list of initiatives organizations want to tackle in 2009, even in the midst of an economic crisis.

The research, commissioned by Symantec as a double-blind survey of over 1,000 companies worldwide, offers solution providers hard evidence that green IT is a fresh, untapped opportunity to deliver products and services that fit both customers’ business needs and the need to meet green IT goals.

"Green IT is no longer a 'wish-list’ item," says Jose Iglesias, vice president of Global Solutions at Symantec. "Now it’s an essential line item—it has reached critical mass."

Nearly 97 percent of survey respondents are either in early or late stages of discussing strategies for green IT or are in the trial stages of implementation, the study showed. This can mean anything from considering new, energy-efficient servers, storage and other hardware to increased recycling of supplies and equipment to the construction of green buildings, all of which are lucrative areas for solution providers, Iglesias says.

For many organizations, slashing energy costs is the driving factor behind these initiatives, with 90 percent of respondents saying they want to reduce electric consumption and 87 percent aiming to cut cooling costs, Iglesias says. Another motivator is the fact that 86 percent of respondents’ corporate offices have been pushing hard to adopt green strategies.

"Corporations definitely want to wrap themselves in a 'Green Flag,’" Iglesias says. "They feel they can save money at the same time they’re doing the right thing, which sends a great message to their customers."

Green IT’s critical mass can drive increased sales for solution providers, says Iglesias. The survey was completed just two months ago in March 2009, and Iglesias cites the results as proof that, even in the midst of economic turmoil, organizations continue to invest in green IT strategies and technologies.

Budgets for green IT are rising, even in the throes of a collapsing economy, according to the survey results. Even as organizations cut their overall IT budgets, 73 percent of respondents said they plan to increase their spending on green IT. Iglesias says as energy costs increase, organizations must look more closely at each dollar they spend, and many were shocked at the size of their energy bills.

"The typical respondent we surveyed is paying nearly $21 million to $27 million a year on electricity," says Iglesias. "This is one reason why even as overall IT budgets shrink, green IT budgets as a subset increased their percentage of overall IT spending."

Even in an economic climate where organizations try to do more with less and cut costs by any means necessary, many respondents stated they are willing to pay a premium for green technology. Eighty-nine percent of respondents said product efficiency is an important or very important selling point, and nearly two-thirds of companies that participated in the study are willing to pay 10 percent more for a product that is green or touts green credentials. Even more surprising, Iglesias adds, 41 percent of respondents said they’d be willing to pay a 20 percent premium on greener products.

"They’re not going to buy an inferior product just because it’s green, but if there are two very similar products, they’ll buy the green one," he says.

When it comes to defining and driving adoption of green strategies, the study showed that IT is at the heart of corporate green initiatives, says Iglesias. The study defined green IT as including strategies for energy savings, carbon footprint reduction and ecological impact, and IT plays a key role in developing and implementing processes for paperless offices, recycling of supplies and equipment, and other sustainability options, Iglesias says.

To help drive awareness of energy usage, 83 percent of respondents say their IT departments are responsible for or are cross-charged for electricity. Cross-charging means that while a company’s facilities department actually pays the energy bills, the money to do so is taken out of the overall IT budget, Iglesias explains, which makes it imperative for IT departments to look for ways to cut costs and increase efficiencies. Eighty-nine percent of respondents said IT should play a very or an extremely significant green role, and that corporate CIOs are increasingly becoming a "flag bearer" for these green efforts. An astounding 94 percent of respondents actually have a Green Advocate position on staff that has an IT focus.

The survey showed that for most organizations—and the IT departments that drive these green initiatives—green IT continues to be a top priority, Iglesias says. In fact, the top three green priorities are replacement of old, inefficient equipment (95 percent of respondents), monitoring electrical usage (94 percent) and server virtualization/consolidation (94 percent), areas that solution providers can leverage to drive sales, increase services revenue and help customers solve these problems.

Solution providers would do well to heed the conclusions of the study, and to take steps to educate themselves on ways to help customers achieve a greener focus, Iglesias says.

"This is smack-dab in the middle of a 'pot of gold’ opportunity for the channel," he says. "This is a key, crucial way that they can not only deliver on the business demands of their customers, but also deliver on social responsibility initiatives, too."

Sharon Linsenbach Sharon Linsenbach is a staff writer for eWEEK and eWEEK Channel Insider. Prior to joining Ziff Davis, Sharon was Assistant Managing Editor for CRN, a weekly magazine for PC and technology resellers. Before joining CRN, Sharon was an Acquisitions Editor for The Coriolis Group and later, Editorial Director with Paraglyph Press, both in Scottsdale, AZ. She holds a BA in English from Drew University and lives in the Philadelphia suburbs with her significant other and two neurotic cats. When she's not reading or writing about technology, Sharon enjoys yoga, knitting, traveling and live music. Sharon can be reached at Sharon.Linsenbach@ziffdavisenterprise.com.

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