Environment Becomes Priority in Tech Buying Decisions

By Pedro Pereira  |  Posted 2008-09-10

Businesses and consumers are becoming more attuned to environmental concerns when making technology purchases, and they crave leadership on the issue from IT vendors, according to a new study.

The study by market research firm Hansa GCR provides clear evidence that green IT buying decisions are no longer just about cutting energy costs, which has been primarily the case in the past. Social responsibility and concern for the environment are playing a bigger role.

"It really has been pretty amazing to see this kind of shift taking place," says Paul Schwarz, Ph.D., who led the study and is vice president of sustainability research and green market insights at Hansa GCR. "Awareness is much higher now."

For solution providers, increased interest in green IT from buyers means providers ought to be evaluating how much of an impact the products they sell and the processes they use to deliver services have on the environment.

The study’s consumer results also send a signal to the channel that going green may move from option to requirement at some point in the future, as Gartner has predicted in its own assessment of green attitudes in the market.

Are solution providers, VARs and IT consultants ready for environmental certifications?

Recent technology trends in the business world, such as social networking, have resulted from pressure by employees who first used the technology at home. With that in mind, it stands to reason that consumers who take the environment into consideration when buying technology at home will want the same in the office. And if office buyers respond, they will in turn pressure their suppliers–the solution providers and IT vendors–to be green.

Already, says Schwarz, consumers express modest to high interest--7.3 on a scale of 0 to 10–in having third parties certify as green the products they buy.

One option for them is to visit epeat.net, which contains rankings on products based on 51 criteria.

Is that PC green enough?

The desire for a third-party green stamp also lends credence to an idea being discussed in the industry about instituting a certification, or accreditation, for solution providers that sell products and use processes that conform with environmental standards.

Hansa GCR found that 92 percent of 1,200 consumers in households of at least $50,000 indicated the environment is a factor in buying technology products. Sixty-four percent of those consumers said the environment is a primary consideration in buying decisions.

Meanwhile, 64 percent of business decision makers agree that being perceived as green helps their company brand.


But while businesses and consumers become more ecologically minded in their tech buying, they have trouble identifying IT vendors they perceive as green, says Schwarz.

Asked to name vendors with green products, more than 40 percent of respondents went blank. When prodded, study participants named Dell, then Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft, Schwarz says.

The response indicates that no clear green technology leader has emerged as of yet, and vendors need to do a better job of articulating their positions.

"I think that is the most interesting result," Schwarz says. "The great takeaway from this is there is a loss of opportunity for technology companies."

It isn’t that vendors are necessarily shirking their green responsibilities. Just about every big-name vendor, including Dell, IBM, HP, Intel and AMD, in recent years has invested in reducing the power consumption by their products. Efforts are also underway across the industry to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and use renewable materials.

For instance, this week managed services platform vendor Level Platforms published a white paper encouraging solution providers to use its remote monitoring and management software to make their customers’ IT environments greener.

Not only do managed services providers reduce the emissions and costs associated by cutting travel to customer sites, but they can also use the software to run inventories and reports on old equipment, such as cathode-ray tube monitors and inefficient servers and power supplies, to recommend replacing them with more efficient technology.

Hansa GCR surveyed 300 midsize businesses and 300 enterprise companies for its study on green IT attitudes. Respondents were decision makers for purchases of items such as desktop and laptop computers, servers and networking hardware.

The study found that 58 percent of businesses are making an effort to reduce waste related to printing, though only 14 percent have moved to implement more comprehensive sustainability plans.

Forty-nine percent said their company has set as a priority minimizing their environmental impact and set specific performance goals to achieve that. Fifty-four percent they already are buying greener IT products or services, and 88 that have bought green in the past 18 months say doing so has saved them money on energy.