The Case For Greener IT Procurement

You can’t read an issue of BusinessWeek, The Wall Street Journal or other major business publications without reading about “green IT.” The same goes for IT-oriented outlets like Cnet, InformationWeek and eWeek.

The industry has come to realize that not only is consuming less energy good for the environment but it is also good for your company’s bottom line. But how do you select an IT vendor while keeping an eye on these issues?

Dell recently commissioned Forrester Research to produce a study devoted to helping IT organizations improve one of their cornerstone processes — IT procurement. They researched and analyzed the state of green IT procurement, focusing on criteria to evaluate suppliers’ overall sustainability policies and practices. While Forrester drew upon their years of extensive research in green IT, they also conducted 30 in-depth interviews with industry consortia, environmental NGOs, and a several internal stakeholders at Dell. Additionally, they conducted in-depth interviews with enterprise-class customers in North America and Europe (note that none of these companies were identified or selected by Dell and are not necessarily Dell customers.). Forrester spoke with IT practitioners at these organizations to understand if and how they are incorporating green criteria into their evaluations and selections of IT systems and IT suppliers.

The study shows that IT procurement will be a significant point of leverage for companies looking to improve the sustainability of their computing infrastructures. Forrester points out in the study that “Buyers struggle with this in part because there are no standard metrics and decision criteria that enable IT organizations to assess the green credentials of IT vendors.”

From the report, I’ve pulled five suggestions on how companies can structure their request-for-proposal (RFP) documents. The report goes into great detail on suggested weighting for each of these areas and how to assess them.

  1. Corporate environmental governance. These criteria are designed to illuminate a tech vendor’s overall commitment to sustainability by examining its goals and the broad processes it has in place for measuring and reporting progress toward those goals.
  2. Corporate operations. These criteria focus on how aggressively a supplier is tackling the environmental impact of its own internal facilities and operations.
  3. Supply chain. This includes a couple of crucial criteria that examine how a vendor is managing the environmental practices of its suppliers.
  4. Stakeholder engagement. These criteria look at how proactive and participatory a vendor’s environmental programs are. They ask about a company’s engagement with important stakeholders, including customers, employees, and the rest of the IT industry.
  5. Design for environment. This section focuses on how the supplier translates its sustainability practices into the products and services that it delivers to customers.

You can read a summary of the report here or if you’d like to download as a .pdf to send to your procurement teams, click here.

About the Author: Bruce Eric