Thursday, October 3, 2013

Carbon Offsetting for Business - Who’s Leading the Way?

IBM Smart Planet
As the 2000s rolled into the 2010s and the Green Revolution gathered pace, pressure continued to mount on businesses to either become carbon neutral or reduce their footprint through emissions offsetting.

While some companies openly embraced the idea, others were so opposed to it that they lobbied fiercely against government carbon reduction schemes. One of the most prominent detractors was (and still is) mining magnate Gina Rinehart (Australia’s richest woman), who said in 2011 that the then Labor government’s carbon tax would “seriously undermine Australia’s competitiveness and increase costs across the board”.

At the opposite end of the scale, the IT industry has led the way in proactive carbon reduction initiatives, with Newsweek’s 2012 list of America’s most environmentally-friendly companies being dominated by computer manufacturers and software companies.

So beyond turning off a few lights, how exactly is IT leading the way in emissions reductions?

Using Bamboo for Packaging

Rather than destroy rainforests or use refined oil to produce packaging materials like cardboard and polystyrene, Dell instead uses bamboo. Not only does bamboo rapidly re-grow (up to 24 inches a day) without needing to be replanted, it is completely compostable. In addition, Dell grows bamboo for its packaging close to its production facilities, keeping fuel emissions from transporting it a minimal level.

Making Departments Accountable for Emissions
Last year, Microsoft announced it would be charging each of its departments a “carbon fee”. Each division of the business is now “financially responsible for the cost to offset their carbon emissions”, with the policy applying internationally to all of Microsoft’s business operations. Departments must now track emissions generated from air travel and electrical use, with the parent company using the carbon fees charged to fund reforestation and renewable energy schemes.

Prioritising Re-Use

In 2008, telecommunications giant Sprint Nextel outlined their 10 year sustainability plan, part of which is their pledge to collect 9 out of every 10 phones they sells for re-use. Saving millions of tonnes of carbon in manufacturing and freight emissions, the Kansas-based carrier incentivises its customers through a (maximum) $300 credit towards a new phone when they trade in their old device.

Embracing The Cloud
Environmental Business

Back in 2004, EMC decided to practice what it preaches, using its own technology to begin its “journey to the cloud”. The data storage provider now uses cloud-based technology to store information and automate processes, with 92% of its IT needs now “virtualized”. Not only has this saved the company millions of dollars in increased efficiency, it has also significantly reduced EMC’s carbon footprint.

Putting Waste Heat to Use

In 2008, IBM recognized that the water it uses to cool its servers could be reused for something useful. So in an environmentally smart step, they began trialling a system whereby the hot water produced in the server-cooling process would be used to heat 700 nearby homes. At the same time, IBM managed to reduce the servers’ energy consumption by 50%, meaning the data center now has a net positive energy effect. The efforts have not gone unnoticed, with the Environmental Protection Agency recently awarding IBM with its 2013 Climate Leadership Award.

About the Author

Scott Bampton is a digital marketing consultant for Microhire, an Australian event hire company that offsets energy used at its events through reforestation.

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