Some of the loud buzz around environmental sustainability of the last decade has died down, but its importance for many customers remains. Being “green” has also continued to evolve-with many saying IT can play a major role. In the wake of recession, customers are now looking for solution providers who can help them be more efficient and save money, while simultaneously cutting carbon, reducing wasteful manufacturing and landfill.
CDN once again honours our pick of 10 solution providers working hard to meet that challenge and bring to their customers the benefits of being lean and green.
When Atum Corp. was founded in 2000 a lack of green initiatives existed in the IT industry, particularly with hosting providers, professes John Posan, the firm’s business development director.
“We recognized that as being a large problem,” Posan said. “We wanted to be the pioneers and really start to promote some awareness about what IT can do.”
The Toronto-based (Virtual Private Server) VPS hosting provider sees immediate environmental benefits as inherent in its virtualized business model. Increased server utilization means less hardware manufactured, means less hardware disposed. Recycling partners are used to ensure that what hardware is disposed of is done in an environmentally-friendly fashion.
A member of Green Enterprise Ontario, Atum is an outspoken proponent of green practices and embraces the cloud to reduce waste around the office. Atum had been pushing to have their data centre provider increase its own environmental efficiency, which Posan says is now 30 per cent more energy efficient.
“This was a huge decision for us, because we were considering possibly even moving providers, since we truly cared about having a data centre that was green due to the amount of power data centres draw.”
At the heart of Broadview Networks‘ green efforts is an efficient data centre and focus on environmentally sound partners.
“We try to find good technologies or partners that are offering green IT solutions,” says Michael Orloff, president of the Winnipeg-based IT consulting firm. Broadview recently partnered with GreenBytes to offer its energy-efficient storage technology, and Orloff calls Dell a major significant because of its product’s energy-efficient properties.
As well as using virtualization to reduce energy consumption in its own data centre, Broadview is embracing the cloud to reduce redundant on-premise equipment, and working to reduce waste through measures like paperless invoicing, online documentation and electronic payment of vendors. Orloff notes that to promote environmentally-friendly operations with its customers started by righting its own ship.
While green IT isn’t at the crux of most sales, it’s something Orloff is proud of.
“It’s not a huge differentiator, but it’s something we promote and it’s a great value add. Sometimes it saves the customer money, sometimes it doesn’t, but most of the customers we deal with going green is on their mind too.”
Compugen in 2010 turned a life-cycle view of IT infrastructure into a unique opportunity to drive environmental initiatives and corporate social responsibility.
Compugen Finance Inc., the company’s financial arm, launched recently the Green4Good program that at its heart is an IT asset disposition program to effectively eliminate the waste from disposal of end-of-life IT assets by diverting 90 per cent of IT assets-once scrubbed-back through the resale channel, and recycling the remaining 10 per cent. Profits from those sales can then be turned around through the program and donated to charity.
“For the most part it’s found money for [the customers],” says Robin Stroud, director of Green4Good at Compugen Finance. The program is tracking well towards its goals of raising $1 million for charities this year, signing on 25 new partners and diverting virtually all hardware from landfill through resale and recycling.
Stroud attributes the program’s success to the firm’s own belief in its merits. It serves the key concerns of clients’ sensitivity around proprietary information and supply chain transparency, he says.
“But it also helps them understand that their stakeholders are demanding, more than ever before, a strong commitment to sustainability and a meaningful social cause. This is a unique program that is the embodiment of both.”
For Brampton, Ont.-headquartered IT Weapons Inc. promoting “green” is just part of its emphasis on efficiency.
“At the end of the day what businesses want most is a low total cost of ownership for their technology, and it just so happens that when it comes to electronic things-computing devices-is you also end up spending less on power consumption, which, in turn, reduces CO2 emissions and all those real nice green things,” says Jeremy MacBean, director of business development.
This “natural evolution” of its business model toward greater environmental efficiency by squeezing efficiency out of data centre operations through virtualization has nonetheless afforded some notable green IT accomplishments. MacBean estimates that through hosting approximately 700 virtualized servers in its data centre, 42,000 kg of CO2 emissions have been prevented.
“And that’s just the ones virtualized in our own data centre. It’s not counting the customers who we’ve done the virtualization work on their data centres.”
In the past year, IT Weapons has been ramping up encourage and help its customers engage with power providers to receive rebates by showing measureable reduction in energy consumption, going so far as to filling out the applications.
Toronto-based IT consultancy Jolera made a very conscious decision a few years back to have environmentally-sound operations permeate through its business. It did this in both big and small measures: consolidating all servers into a virtualized cloud environment to reduce air conditioning and cooling needs; converting to electronic forms to reduce printing; relocating to a location more central to clients to reduce travel, even issuing staff public transit passes.
On the customer facing side Jolera is providing counsel that not just evangelizes, but also demonstrates green IT benefits, says Alex Shan, CEO. “It shows them what’s possible. If we can do it for ourselves, it’s a pretty good venture of a guess that we can also propose our clients to do the same things.”
Shan said that over the past two years, the economy has been pushing frugality from businesses, and what was in 2009 a bigger push in the market for green solutions for the sake of the environment alone has given way to solutions that solve both cost cutting and carbon reductions, for example enterprise virtualization. In addition, Jolera’s customers are becoming increasingly interested in virtual desktop solutions, which Shan suggests can extend the average lifespan of a desktop from two to five years out to as much as seven to 10 years, cutting landfill waste.
LaserNetworks of Oakville, Ont. has been encouraging “green” practices from its customers since the day it was founded nearly 25 years ago, says company president Brian Stevenson.
The company uses an advanced tracking and reporting software to help maximize the life of customer’s existing printer fleet, helping to weigh the right time for an upgrade to newer lower-energy printers with the significant carbon cost of production. It offers customers environmentally-friendly Reflexion toner cartridges that Stevenson notes have been found to provide greater than 50 per cent reduction in carbon emissions, acidification emissions and global warming emissions.
LaserNetworks’ distribution system prevents approximately 100,000 litres of oil from entering the environment and redirects over 250 tons of waste from landfill, without compromising any printer warranties, Stevenson says.
But recently, he says the company has been moving further and further in efforts to help create for its customers’ efficient workflow, print management and electronic document use to reduce paper use.
“It’s an exciting time to be in the print industry. A lot of innovation is moving the managed print services market forward,” he says. “Our business is adapting to helping manage documents whether they are on paper or electronic, and I think that’s an excellent result both for customers and the environment.”
Alec Milne, president of Ottawa-based PrintersPlus says its green efforts have beefed up considerably in the past few years.
“Our green initiative is probably five times what it was in 2009. It’s gone from ‘yes, we like to talk about this, to ‘we have got to talk about this.’”
Milne is outspoken around toner cartridge reuse and recycling. He says his company sees about 25 per cent of its approximately 1,600 skids of toner cartridges sold to government annually returned. While other recycling methods might be being used, more education and awareness is needed.
“An increased focus on recycling is going to be paramount this year when marketing to our government customers,” said Milne. “Consumables like toner are big contributors to the technology waste seen in landfills and so our goal is to increase our recycled returns by at least 10 per cent this year.”
PrintersPlus launched a program last month that donates $1 from every online public sector transaction to The David Suzuki Foundation. A second program is underway and is also focused on raising the awareness around the importance of toner recycling within public sector institutions.
Softchoice has for years been promoting the advantages of green IT practices to its customers; however, recently the discussion has moved from reducing the impact of technology to how to leverage IT to drive overall sustainability.
“When we first started it was all around efficiency, and we were throwing around the stat that two per cent of carbon emissions are related to IT,” said Melissa Alvares, sustainability programs manager at Softchoice. “Then we started to realize there’s the 98 per cent of the rest of the carbon emissions out there and technology has a huge role to play in that.”
The company offers an EcoTech Assessment, a free hour-long assessment and recommendation tool on ways enterprises can build green momentum. In addition, it has developed a Web portal and its own monthly industry newsletter to demonstrate how organizations can find ways to reduce carbon footprint through technology.
Softchoice has also been encouraging customers to take advantage of green rebates and assisting with the process, and offering green products and services under its EcoTech solutions banner. Alvares notes, though, it’s not enough to be green simply for green’s sake.“
If it’s going to survive as a business strategy it has to be tied to business benefits.”
Sustainable business practices require a holistic approach, says Aaron Brooks, manager of Unis Lumin‘s recently announced innovation office. Too often, Brooks says, green efforts rest in different silos of IT, facilities and green assessment organizations.
In order to promote green IT as part of the best practices promoted through its innovation office, Unis Lumin has had to more heavily engage and streamline its own sustainable activities. Evangelizing can only be done from an “authentic” green position, Brooks suggests, and thinking outside the IT box.
“Look at all the wonderful things you can do with cloud and virtualization, unified communications and video. We are inundated with technologies to make your company more streamlined and efficient,” he says. “But what the IT industry does a poor job of is to think outside IT to see the benefits of being environmentally friendly.”
Brooks says Unis Lumin is educating to help keep up with the radically, and rapidly, changing energy management standards, rebates and technologies. Internally it is assessing all five of its offices and deploying tools to measure real-time energy consumption.
“The key piece to success is to understand that being sustainable is not just about spending money. It’s about managing risk and finding opportunities for your business to grow.”
Being green is good, but measuring and communicating those efforts is essential.That’s why Toronto-based IT services company Navantis created a unique communications and collaboration solution, Green Meeting, which not only helps reduces carbon emissions through reducing travel, but captures both the cost and carbon savings.
“Everyone understands if you don’t take a flight you reduce carbon, but how much?” says Mark Hickson, unified communications practice lead at Navantis. “How do you roll that up and capture it, and then, ultimately, take that innovation and promote in a healthy way to promote that behaviour?”
To do that in an eco-friendly way, Navantis has recently launched a cloud version of its solution, as well as social media integration. Customers can set automated tweets and status messages updating followers of their meeting and the emissions avoided.
“We really make it a point of recognizing the importance of evangelizing and promoting back to the end users.”