google-solar-installation.jpgSome environmentalists feel strongly that companies should reduce their impact on the environment because it’s the right thing to do – going green because it benefits the bottom line somehow doesn’t count. Personally (and paraphrasing Oleta Adams) I don’t care how you get there, just get there if you can.

Business events like the AeA soponsored, “How Does Going Green Affect the Bottom Line?” further the cause. Held on March 20th at UCLA, technology companies discussed their successes along the journey to sustainability, and shared lessons learned related to different areas of greening.

A few key takeaways for companies interested in going green:

Green Building – Alan Ball, QualComm: In QualComm’s experience, higher initial costs can be offset by good planning. Multiple revisions allow costs to get out of control. And QualComm should know, as they have built the largest LEED certified building in the US. This is key, as it is well known that green buildings save money in the long run, but many companies balk at perceived higher initial costs.

Solar Energy – Carrie Norton, Energy Innovations: EI Solutions is the solar provider for Google’s installation, the largest in the country, as seen in the photo above. In their experience, the economics of solar are improving as the consideration of externalities, including environmental benefits, are being brought into the equation. This appears to be the case, as more stories regarding large scale solar projects hit the news, like SoCal Edison’s plans for rooftop installations.

Business Drivers – Doug Hileman, Consultant: Hileman made the case that sustainability is being driven by many developments in the general business environment, including globalization, outsourcing, and regulations like Sarbanes-Oxley. The movement is also being driven by human resources concerns as companies fight for top talent: it’s been reported that 92% of workers want to work for an environmentally friendly company. Now that’s a figure no firm can ignore.

Branding – Tom Feegel, Brand Neutral: According to Tom, the key for branding a green product is moving consumers from the awareness phase through to the advantage phase, where people feel that they are part of the solution by using the product. This emotional tie is what branding is all about, and green products are certainly no exception.

Event sponsor AeA, the nation’s oldest technology trade association, serves its member companies by lobbying all levels of government, providing access to capital and business opportunities, and offering networking and business services. At this particular event, AeA did a good job pulling panelists from different industries. They did such a good job, in fact, that I would have liked to have heard much more on each panelists’ views and experience – the large number of panelists meant that each had very little time to speak and answer questions.

Overall, the sense in the room was that this whole sustainability thing is just getting started in our offices and boardrooms. People want to make a difference, and are working on gaining the knowledge needed to do so. That’s definitely a move in the right direction.

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