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The MSP Alliance is making it possible for managed services providers and their customers to wear their Green IT bona fides on their sleeve.

The Chico, Calif., organization this week is introducing a Green IT certification that industry insiders are hailing as a good first step toward recognizing companies employing environmentally friendly practices.

To achieve certifications through the MSP Alliance’s Managed Services Accreditation Program, managed service providers affiliated with the organization answer a questionnaire about their green practices and those of their customers. The answers determine whether both provider and customer achieve the Green IT designation, but there is no verification by the alliance or a third party that the companies are actually meeting the necessary criteria.

“There is going to be no on-site audit by us,” says MSP Alliance President Charles Weaver.

The organization will rely on the honor system to hand out the Green IT designations. MSPs, however, risk losing the designation, their membership in the alliance, or both, if they are found to have misrepresented their qualifications.

“Many companies have begun to lay the foundation for a strong green authorization program, as MSP Alliance has just done, and as a first step it will help its members be better prepared to deliver green solutions,” says Tiffani Bova, vice president of research for indirect channel programs and sales strategies worldwide at research firm Gartner.

Bova co-authored a Gartner paper last spring suggesting the lack of an industrywide Green IT certification may hinder the efforts of small solution providers looking to sell green solutions. Subsequent research has indicated that technology buyers are ready for a green seal on the IT products and services they pay for.

“Our industry needs companies to step up and take responsibility for helping channel companies become more capable of building a green practice and helping customers become more environmentally friendly,” says Bova.

The MSP Alliance certification is based on achieving quantifiable standards such as reduction of power consumption in data centers and offices and the use of remote management systems. MSPs monitor and manage their clients’ IT environments over the Web, a practice that helps them reduce on-site customer visits, which in turn decreases carbon emissions from the vehicles they would use for those visits.

The alliance also takes into consideration MSPs’ use of virtualization technology and clean sources of power, such as wind and solar energy. Simple, yet effective, energy-conservation measures such as turning off computers after-hours and on weekends also are taken into consideration.

Weaver says that energy use by data centers gets a lot of attention because they consume so much electricity, but leaving PCs on at night and weekends also result in “horrific wastes of energy.”

The alliance, with membership of about 7,000 MSPs and vendors, is the first organization to introduce a certification for Green IT practices. Vendors such as IBM and Sun Microsystems have their own green certification programs, but until now there hasn’t been an industrywide vendor-neutral approach.

By launching its certification program now, the MSP Alliance has beaten the Computing Technology Industry Association to the punch. The Oakbrook Terrace, Ill.,?// trade organization has been exploring the concept of a Green IT certification, or accreditation, and the group’s CEO, Todd Thibodeaux, said in August he would make it a priority.

READ MORE: Are Solution Providers, VARs
and IT Consultants Ready for Environmental Certifications?

Thibodeaux credits the alliance with helping to raise awareness, and says he would welcome a chance to partner with the organization on future initiatives.

“It’s great they’re bringing visibility to the issue as is CompTIA,” he says. “The IT industry will be facing many environmental challenges in the future and it will take the combined efforts of many groups.”

Thibodeaux says CompTIA would handle Green IT accreditation the same as with its new Security TrustMark: Companies would participate in a phone interview, and if they qualify, their names are thrown into a pool for possible audit. Not all companies with the TrustMark seal will get audited but some will, and that possibility should keep them honest.

READ MORE: TrustMark Puts Seal on Security Practices

The MSP Alliance plans to formally introduce its certification program to its members during its conference next week  in Las Vegas. The group also is looking to get wider recognition for the program, says Weaver.

“We are already working with different government agencies to recognize this,” he says, adding the Environmental Protection Agency is among them.