Canadian execs have yet to define green strategy

Two recent surveys have revealed that while environmental issues have been taking centre stage in the public eye lately, most Canadian business leaders have yet to clearly define a green energy strategy.

While eighty-eight per cent of Canadian C-level corporate officers do keep abreast with climate change and global warming issues, about 62 per cent of the Canadian firms surveyed do not have a plan for conserving energy and reducing its environmental footprint, a study by research firm Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates found.

The survey polled 420 senior executives in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and China. The cross-industry survey, conducted from March 19 to April 20, was commissioned by public relations firm Hill and Knowlton of Toronto.

The executives questioned over the phone or in face-to-face interviews are decision makers involved in IT purchases for companies with revenues of $100 million or more.

The survey revealed 86 per cent of respondents in China, 82 per cent in the U.K. and 77 per cent in the U.S. are “closely following the issue of global warming.”

More than half the executives said they believe greenhouse gases contribute to global warming. About 55 per cent said environmentally friendly technologies can help reduce harmful emissions.

But 77 per cent in China, 67 per cent in the U.S. and 51 per cent in the U.K., said their companies do not have an energy strategy.

Only 35 per cent of the executives polled said their company has a specific person designated to handle energy and environmental issues.

Respondents in the U.K (80 per cent), Canada (84 per cent), China (87 per cent), and the U.S. (66 per cent) agree there is an emerging need for the post of a chief energy officer (CEnO) – a person who could implement environmentally friend business strategies.

One Canadian IT industry analyst says executive inaction is possibly due to a perceived lack of compelling reasons to initiate any green strategy.

“There appears to be a feeling among corporate executives that the threat of global warming and climate change is not real,” according to David Senf, manager of software research at Toronto-based analyst firm IDC Canada Inc.

He says companies are probably held back by the perception that the cost of implementing sustainable strategies outweighs the benefits.

In a recent survey of 200 Canadian IT and business managers, IDC found a significant number of executives “still have their heads in the sand” on the issue of global warming.

When asked if they agreed global warming and climate change is real and affecting the planet, about 40 per cent answered they “strongly agreed” and 30 per cent said they “agreed”.

Another 16 per cent were spread in categories between the two answers, but Senf notes that 14 per cent didn’t believe global warming and climate change were real issues, or had an affect on the planet.

Asked when they thought environmental changes would negatively affect their businesses:

– 27 per cent said 10 or more years from now;

– 17 per cent, six to10 years;

– 24 per cent, three to five years;

– Eight per cent, one to two years;

– Five per cent, 12 months; and

– 19 per cent, “never”

“Canadian organizations don’t feel this is an immediate issue they should deal with,” says Senf.

The IDC Canada survey findings on corporate inaction, mirror those of the Penn, Schoen and Berland poll. Senf said 33 per cent of respondents to the IDC poll indicated their company was “not at all involved” in any program to reduce global warming and climate change.

About 28 per cent said they were “slightly involved”; four per cent answered “extremely involved”; and nine per cent were “significantly involved”.

The respondents, however, revealed some corporate conscience as 31 per cent conceded their companies “should be extremely involved” in developing green initiatives.

Environmental concerns, apparently do not figure highly in deliberations concerning IT expenditures.

IDC found 24 per cent of Canadian firms believe environmental issues are “not important” to their IT purchases; 26 six per cent said they are “slightly important;” 27 per cent “important;” 18 per cent, “significantly important;” and five per cent, “extremely important.”

Senf says it’s possible that companies view IT purchases as just one of the many factors affecting the environment.

He says at least 60 per cent of the respondents were involved in recycling electronic components, 65 per cent power saving PCs and computer screens, 49 per cent encouraged employees keep equipment on “sleep mode” when not in use, 47 per cent chose low energy consuming servers and back end equipment, and 39 per cent offered work-from-home options.

“The numbers reveal most energy-related initiatives are PC-centered. It seems the messages from server vendors are missing their mark half the time,” says Senf.

By their numbers alone, corporate PCs consume a massive amount of power, but companies can also reduce energy consumption by purchasing more efficient servers and data centre hardware, according to another observer.

“Top level executives are beginning to realize the need for an energy strategy because it’s hitting them in the pocket,” says Nauman Haque, analyst, Info-Tech Research Group Inc., London, Ont. “Companies are now spending three times as much they did three years ago in powering and cooling data centres.”

Haque said there is an increasing need for data centres that run cooler and require less power.

Waste and cost reduction as well as “customer goodwill” towards environmentally conscious corporations will drive interest in green initiatives, says Haque.

Despite the numbers, Senf says the IDC survey revealed a positive angle.

Corporate executives appear to have no shortage of ideas for launching a green project. When asked how their companies can contribute to reducing its impact on the environment, respondents offered suggestions such as: using flat screen monitors, employing recycling programs, deploying lighting controls, implementing server consolidation and even trading in “green credits” similar to the emission credits of the Kyoto Accord.

“Perhaps all we need now is to convert understanding into action,” Senf says.

Related content:

Finding perspective amidst IT’s green agenda

Green computing: tips, tricks and energy cost-cutters

Climate for change: Ten ways to greener highways

Procurement for Public Servants 101

Clinton’s new carbon tracker aims to cut Toronto smog

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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