Technology vendor Hewlett-Packard is investing heavily in environmental and green programs, from its manufacturing process to end-of-life recycling. But an analyst says in the end there’s only one green corporate IT buyers are really concerned with: Money.

During a recent media tour of its Dublin Inkjet Manufacturing Organization in Dublin, Ireland, HP officials went to great lengths to stress the company’s green credentials, and all that the vendor is doing to reduce the ecological footprint of the products it produces.

John Hayes, HP’s EMEA compliance manager, said HP’s environmental commitment starts at the beginning of the product lifecycle. Each product has an environmental steward watching to ensure environmental standards are followed, and the design process itself is focused on lifecycle responsibility, energy efficiency, materials innovation and design for recyclability.

Hayes said HP’s packaging now contains up to 90 per cent recycled content.

Hayes also noted that the parts in an HP LaserJet cartridge have been reduced by 53 per cent since 1992, making it easier to recycle. He added that printers are now even made out of environmentally-friendly materials, such as corn starch. “The best thing is, if you get really desperate, you can boil it down,” he joked.

HP also emphasized its commitment to environmentally friendly manufacturing and disposal processes and reducing the problem of e-waste, highlighted by its HP Planet Partners program. Now available in 42 countries, the program sees HP provide a box for used cartridges to its enterprise customers. When the box is filled with spent cartridges HP will come pick it up for recycling, free of charge.

“It has to be easy to use,” said Hayes. “We’ve done a lot of work on these programs, and if it’s in any way awkward, nine out of 10 times they’ll toss it in the (garbage) bin.”

HP will also take back computer equipment from any vendor for recycling free of charge, will shortly be adding batteries to its recycling program in Canada, and is also rolling-out its PurchaseEdge program this fall after a successful pilot.

The program sees companies that return items to HP for proper recycling receiving points toward the purchase of HP products. On average, HP said that in Canada, 15 to 16 per cent of its shipments are now being returned to the company for proper recycling.

“[Customers] like the fact they’re participating in an environmental program and that we’re rewarding them for participating, so it’s a really positive thing,” said Gary Drysdale, vice-president, sales and marketing, HP Supplies for HP Canada.

Mike Oreskovic, category business manager, LaserJet print cartridges with HP Canada, added that a vendor’s environmental pedigree is now very much an issue when companies make buying decisions. He said companies are looking to minimize their ecological footprint and be good corporate citizens, and for many public and private sector tenders, having a strong “environmental story” to tell has become mandatory.

“You really have to have a story to tell or at the end of the day you’re not going to be considered for the tender,” said Oreskovic. “It’s now part of the checklist: What’s you’re story around the environment? There is a really tangible part of tenders these days around the environment.”

While companies are concerned about the environment, it’s unclear just how much of a factor it plays in their buying decisions. Warren Shiau, lead IT analyst with The Strategic Counsel in Toronto, said some companies might be sensitive to environmental issues, particularly energy consumption.

However, he said a vendor’s environmental practices are unlikely to be a deal-breaker for most companies.

“Maybe as a personal consumer I might buy an HP PC instead because [the environment] is something that’s important to me,” said Shiau. “But at a corporate level, I don’t know about that yet.”

The benefit for companies like HP, said Shiau, is one of perception. Being seen as a good corporate citizen will make companies feel better about doing business with them.

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