More than the bottom line

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This article appeared in the 17 March, 2008 issue of CRN magazine.

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More than the bottom line
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Andrew Baker Business Partner Executive, IBM Australia

We’ve heard so much talk over the past couple of years from all types of industries worldwide, about the need to reduce our collective impact on
the environment.

The IT industry is no exception. In fact, it churns out similar levels of greenhouse gas emissions to the airline industry and accounts for about two percent of global emissions, according to Gartner.

However, the IT industry also has a unique opportunity to contribute significantly to the Green solution. Almost every change businesses make in response to climate change will require enabling technology. Technology will be key to supporting flexibility and responsiveness, helping to track and report on carbon emissions, and developing smart solutions to adapt existing products and services for a carbon-constrained economy.

Companies are investigating and adopting Green strategies for a range of reasons. Cost savings are driving change at the moment, but environmental concerns will drive more in the near future.

Active environmental policies offer other benefits to business too, most notably attracting and retaining staff in the current skills-constrained climate.

Is helping the environment a high priority?

Results from an IBM survey of 120 Australian small and medium businesses found that while more than half (55 percent) of Australian SMBs surveyed have an environmental policy in place, so far only 33 percent have made changes to their business operation to reduce energy costs during the past year or plan to during 2008.

This demonstrates that businesses have the right intentions – being Green is important to them – but they need to follow though. If they don’t, the business could not only suffer on an economic and environmental level, but could risk losing staff (and potential staff) who care about Green initiatives to companies taking an active approach.

Change for the better

When talking about Green, we often forget about employees or technology users inside businesses. In my view, one trend is clear: we are in the midst of a skills shortage. Employers need to compete to gain and retain skilled workers. In order to do this employers need to run companies that are attractive to employees.

The CEO may not get out of bed in the morning thinking about how he or she can change the business to benefit the environment. Younger employees, however, are more likely to have stronger opinions on the issue. The new generation of workers want to see employers make changes; they want to see more than a good pay packet.

In fact, many companies have seen the benefits of corporate responsibility: according to an IBM study released this month, companies said placing corporate social responsibility (CSR) at the core of their business strategy will make them more competitive and able to attract the best talent.
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