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Disclaimer

This is not advice. Items herein are general comments only and do not constitute or convey advice per se. The information contained in these articles is for guidance only and should not be relied upon without obtaining professional advice having regard to your direct circumstances.

 

Going green on the web

Small businesses do have a major impact on the environment. One SME that has moved beyond words into actions is the web hosting company ilisys that has brought “true carbon neutrality” to its 18,000 customer’s websites. In this article, the company’s business Development Director, Matt Mulligan, outlines how it is achieving its environmental goals.

In implementing any green initiative, management needs to understand that carbon neutrality is not achieved by the company, but rather its employees, assisted by the company

Although we share many emission issues such as office waste and staff travel with most businesses, we were unusual in that we are heavy consumers of power, requiring around 200,000 KWh of energy to power our servers and cooling systems in our data centre as well as our network infrastructure.

When ilisys made the commitment to become 100 per cent carbon neutral, the first thing we did was take all of our employees to see An Inconvenient Truth. That was December 2006. On January 1 2007, we switched our power supply to 100 per cent Natural Power – an accredited GreenPower product – powering our headquarters energy.

This was the easy bit, as all we had to do was commit to the slightly higher cost of renewable energy. The more difficult part was assessing the best ways in which to offset the carbon footprint of such things as office waste, staff travel to and from work, and our own interstate business travel.

When you start to look seriously at the options available to you, you really see how large the energy offset industry is. For ilisys, we selected carbonnetural.com.au, as they had been in the business of planting trees to offset emissions since the 1970s.

Between carbonnetural.com.au and NaturalPower we had been able to reactively address our general emission; however we realised that there were some proactive things we could undertake as well to further reduce our overall energy consumption. Our staff were keen to be involved so we asked members for their suggestions.

One thing we did was look at ways to run our data centre more efficiently so it would actually require less power to run. In our office, we made sure that we used energy efficient lighting and switched all our CRT monitors to low-power LCD displays. We now make sure all office appliances are turned off at the power point rather that in sleep mode where possible, and make sure the office heating/cooling system is set to appropriate temperatures and turned off at the end of the day.

Ilisys believes in a program of continuous improvement in all areas of its operation, and our green initiatives will be no exception. Now that we have tackled the issues nearest to us, we can start moving outwards looking for ever more ways to lessen our impact on the environment.

To do this we will be looking to our suppliers and, where possible, choosing product that have been manufactured using low energy inputs, or products from companies that, like us, offset their carbon footprint wherever possible.

What have we learnt from this exercise?

Here are the top five answers:
  1. it’s not that hard to make a significant difference
  2. you need buy-in from your employees- but that’s not hard to get, especially if you involved them from the start
  3. start with the things closest to your organisation and then work out
  4. work with established companies in the energy offset industry ; and
  5. let your customers know what you are doing.

This last point is potentially the most important…on two levels.

Firstly, you will be surprised how many customers will be spurred on to undertake similar energy-saving initiatives within their own companies and, secondly, you will be overwhelmed by their positive feedback. While ‘going green’ is a good thing to do for the future of the environment, it is also good from a business perspective as it improves the reputation and credibility of  your business – with great effects on your brand customer relations.

We’re in regular contact with our customer base, communicating with them about a range of interesting topics so when we emailed them about our green initiative, we did actually expect a warm reaction. But nothing prepared us for the response we received.

Responses started flooding in within minutes of sending out the emails – and there were hundreds of them. They ranged from standard congratulatory messages to highly emotional and energised responses. What it showed was that Australian businesses are ready, and willing, to take their own action on the environment, and many already have. 

My Business May 2008

 


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