The trend toward "green IT" or green security can be thought of from two perspectives: emotional and economic.
On the emotional side, eco-friendly business practices make consumers feel good because the products they buy cause less environmental impact than their non eco-friendly counterparts. Reducing our carbon footprint is good for the planet. Not destroying the planet when manufacturing, using or disposing of a product is great.
When people recycle, adopt habits that lessen pollution or energy consumption, or vote with their wallet by purchasing eco-friendly products, it should not come as a great surprise that we'll see that practice spill over into IT and security. All areas of life will trend towards this behavior -- from the home to cars to data centers – and we've come to expect that our suppliers will do the same.
It's clear that power consumption in electronic devices is a huge problem. Power and cooling are real issues in data centers, so if a company can design products that use less power and require less cooling, the savings can help offset costs for customers. That's good.
However, most companies are not going green out of the goodness of their hearts. This is the economic perspective on green security.
The reality is that many compliance initiatives like the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) directive are not optional. The real impetus for most companies' efforts in the green security space is often monetary, and there are lots of regulatory pressures – such as RoHS, the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment directive or the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design directive -- making these initiatives stick. As a matter of business, a company must comply with these regulations if they expect to sell their wares in certain markets. Further, businesses are often issued credits and offset credits for the money they spend in making their products more environmentally friendly.
Is green security a fad? The answer is "sort of." In the U.S. and the E.U., one might argue that we spend a lot of time trying to improve our relationship with the planet because we are made to, not because we want to. Often it costs more money to make "green" products, and those costs are passed along to consumers somewhere down the line.
So, when a company invests money in greener products, trying to capitalize on the environmental trends and differentiate themselves from their competitors, this seems to be a viable marketing strategy. More power (sorry for the pun) to them. If customers in the security industry truly start voting with their wallets by only buying eco-friendly, green security products, that can't be a bad thing, right?
All companies should strive to deliver products that are eco-friendly. In the long term, this "fad" will become table stakes if a company expects to compete for a share of wallet against competitors who have embraced these practices. Otherwise, the laggards will be faced with a very real inconvenient truth.
This was first published in January 2008