While I applaud any company's attempt to be environmentally responsible and implement "green" projects, I remain skeptical of long-term commitments to green initiatives that don't decrease costs, fatten the bottom line, or polish the organization's image.
Among the projects that can decrease costs I put virtualization, using SaaS suppliers, and facilities management, including datacenter redesign.
Increasing the bottom line by way of a green project is far more difficult. However, many global companies are now noticing that "green efforts" are showing up on RFPs. As an example, I'll cite the European Union Emission Trading Scheme later in this blog.
Unfortunately, in the US it is pretty easy for a company to put a green spin on its image without doing anything more than paying for it.
How to buy a get out of eco-jail free card
If you buy enough RECs (renewable energy credits), you can actually claim your company has a "zero carbon footprint" without doing anything more than paying for the indulgence. REC buyers and sellers call these credits "certificates"; I call them "Get out of eco-jail cards."
RECs, according to Wikipedia, are "tradable environmental commodities in the U.S. which represent proof that 1 megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity was generated from an eligible renewable energy source."
Such sources include solar power, wind power, hydroelectricity, micro hydro, biomass, and biofuels.
But these energy sources do not have to be actually used by your company. You can keep burning all the coal and oil you like.
At best, you are paying for someone else to invest in these sources. At worst, your company is paying a middleman who, in theory, is investing in other companies that are investing in renewable energy. Simple isn't it?
In other words, your company buys certificates from a company such as Native Energy, a company that claims to invest in renewable energy. In return for the payoff, you get to say your company has purchased renewable energy when all you have actually done is buy a certificate to display on the wall at headquarters. I'm sure there is also a logo like the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval that you can stick in the corner of every ad you run.
Proponents claim the payments give companies that do produce renewable energy a spiff or a subsidy to create more electricity from these green energy sources.