Major IT firms Dell, Intel, Aricent, HCL Technologies, Wipro, Lenovo, Nokia and Tulip Telecom, among others, have realised that "going green" is profitable business.
Not only does it require a low initial investment but it also earns them brownie points for helping in reducing e-waste.
While an estimated 330,000 tonnes of e-waste is generated in India, about 50,000 tonnes is imported or dumped in the country. Only 40 per cent of India's total e-waste is recycled, and the rest is left in storehouses due to an inefficient collection system.
Analysts estimate that companies typically invest between 5-10 per cent of their IT budgets on 'eco-friendly' IT processes. For instance, firms have started consolidating datacentres, using power-management tools to increase the life of batteries and reduce energy bills, replacing old and energy-consuming CRT monitors with the energy-efficient LCD panels and recycling personal computers.
However, the returns are high. Consider this. Aztecsoft, which invests around Rs 600,000 per annum on its green projects, will save a lot of money by conducting energy audits on its air-conditioning systems that consume nearly 50 per cent of its energy budget.
Nokia, too, has redesigned its packaging to cut back on costs and paper wastage. "We have started creating smaller packaging that uses 54 per cent less materials," says Devinder Kishore, director (marketing), Nokia India. By 2007-end, Nokia shipped 250 million phones using this compact packaging, resulting in 5,000 fewer trucks being needed to distribute products around the world and creating financial savings of up to Rs 6,560 crore (Rs 65.6 billion). Nokia accessory packaging has been trimmed to use 60 per cent less plastic while the cardboard in packaging has been made thinner.
Aricent will also soon come out with a company-wide policy on e-waste and proper disposal of its technology assets. "Aricent is signing up vendors that are authorised to dispose the equipment in a manner that is eco-friendly," says Anil Veer, director, Aricent.
Collaboration tools, like telepresence and video-conferencing, are known to save millions of dollars for companies by way of reduced travel costs and increase in the speed of making business decisions.
For instance, Cisco's 'Carbon to Collaboration' initiative - a $20 million (around Rs 84 crore) investment in collaborative technologies - aims to reduce the need for physical travel at Cisco. "Cisco is committed to reduce carbon emissions by 10 per cent, starting with sharp reductions in the company's air travel in 2008," says a Cisco company spokesperson.
Over the past 20 years, Intel, too, has invested more than $100 million (around Rs 420 crore) in water conservation programmes at its facilities all over the globe. As a result of these efforts, Intel reclaims more than 3 billion gallons of wastewater annually instead of tapping into precious fresh-water sources.
"Faced with an economic downturn, many organisations, which had earlier cut back on soft programmes - such as green efforts - as a cost-saving measure, are now pursuing these low-risk initiatives as they often provide quick returns and are especially attractive in a cost-cutting environment," posits Steve Kleynhans, research vice-president, Gartner.
"Green PC initiatives typically do not add significantly to ongoing operational costs and the small upfront costs associated with them are usually easily recovered 12 to 18 months after the programme begins," he adds.
Lenovo, for instance, boasts it is the only company to have its monitors, laptops and personal computers 'Gold Rated', according to the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool standards, which entails eliminating environmentally-harmful material, energy conservation, performance and longevity, having batteries that are free of lead and low levels of mercury in light sources.
Homegrown companies like Wipro, too, are all for green products. The company, last year, launched a greenware range of desktops and laptops fully compliant as per the Restriction of Hazardous Substances directive. HCL, on the other hand, has set its sights on reducing electrical usage by 4 per cent and paper usage by 25 per cent.
On the user side, the demand for more environmentally-safe products is adding to the urgency, opine analysts. Anil Philip, executive director (transaction business), Lenovo India, says: "Lenovo has recently reinvigorated the desktop PC space with its most environmentally-responsible desktop ever - the ThinkCentre A61e. This is the company's most compact and most energy-efficient full-functioning enterprise PC to run on only 45 watts of energy." Lenovo anticipates that using the ThinkCentre A61e desktop, a user would be able to cut costs by around Rs 800 per year.
Realising that customers are looking for energy-efficient devices, HP will add an auto-off functionality into its printers by 2009. It has also introduced the company's first printer made almost entirely from recycled plastics. Around 83 per cent of the HP Deskjet D2545's total plastic weight is made from recycled plastics and runs on HP ink cartridges moulded from recycled plastic resins.
It will now display an "Eco Highlights" label on its product packaging that provides the environmental attributes of the product, and hopes "to improve the energy efficiency of its ink and laser printers by 40 per cent by 2011 along with three-fold increase in the use of recycled materials in its printers by 2010".