EcoPurchasing

This page is designed to make it easier for consumers–both individual and institutional–to purchase greener IT products, and encourage companies that make those products to green their global supply chains.

Guide for Institutional IT Purchasers

As we buy more and more IT products, our responsibility grows to make sure that (a) we are responsible in our own purchasing decisions and (b) we do all that we can to encourage the companies that we buy from to act in more environmentally and socially responsible ways.

One of the best ways that institutions can do this is by (a) ensuring that the products they buy are environmentally responsible (see Guide for Individual Consumers below), and (b) sending letters to and having conversations with their IT suppliers indicating that they are concerned with purchasing environmentally responsible products with green supply chains. Click here for sample letter.

We recommend beginning conversations with suppliers using a positive tone. Suppliers are often very willing to do what they can to improve their own supply chains when given the information about how to do so.

For a more detailed explanation of “How your next IT purchase can help save the world!” See the following video of a presentation made recently at the annual NERCOMP (Northeast Regional Computing Program) conference.

http://educause.mediasite.com/mediasite/Play/6ef7db6321fc49779f2f96265d3fbfef1d

Guide for Individual Purchasers

Have you ever wondered how to buy the most sustainable IT products? With companies espousing environmental responsibility and so much conflicting information from ranking systems, how is the consumer to choose? Do not fear! We have answers. Let’s get into the basics.

We examined four of the most common and established ranking systems for IT suppliers: the Carbon Disclosure Project, EPEAT, Greenpeace, and Institute for Public and Environmental Affairs (IPE). CDP collects greenhouse gas emissions data from Fortune 500 companies who choose to quantify and disclose emissions. EPEAT ranks companies based on their ability to meet a host of environmental criteria regarding production, use, and disposal. EPEAT doesn’t seem to use GHG emissions as criteria, so we can use the database in conjunction with the CDP. Greenpeace’s Cooler Guide to Electronics is the synthesis of non-carbon and carbon-based sustainability standards.

IPE offers a searchable database of Chinese companies’ environmental compliance data, and their Green Choice Alliance has developed a ranking of IT companies that focuses more on transparency and green supply chain management than specific production or product criteria.

Take 15 different companies, graph their scores CDP, EPEAT, and Greenpeace, and we get this:

(Click to enlarge.)

The first thing that pops out at an objective interpreter is the harsh divide between Greenpeace and the others. Greenpeace can afford to be more critical in performance interpretation. They also seem to weigh GHG reduction plans heavily. For the first several companies, the Greenpeace ranking resides mostly between the two scores, which makes sense. For Panasonic, Sony, and Toshiba, however, the results are truly puzzling. Most of these corporations’ climate plans are too weak for Greenpeace’s taste. Furthermore, by either not advocating for or campaigning against energy efficiency companies fall victim to harsh grading.

In terms of long-term sustainability, we think Greenpeace mostly gets it right. By examining life-cycle emissions and waste by-products, Greenpeace does well synthesizing existing data. Not to say you can’t go wrong by purchasing an EPEAT gold product–in fact EPEAT serves as a useful guide given its limitations.

For more information about an IT company’s supply chain you should examine the information offered by IPE.  IPE’s Green Choice Alliance has contacted 31 different IT companies to encourage them to develop more sophisticated green supply chain management systems, especially with respect to their operations in China.  Their ranking of those companies is as follows (click here for the full report).

IPE: Ranked List of IT Companies

(Click to enlarge.)

Taking an extra few minutes to research the environmental impact of your next IT purchase, both in terms of the product itself as well as the supply chain that creates it, can help create an environmental “race to the top” as global companies begin to develop more environmentally friendly technologies.

Please visit our blog and leave comments about how we can improve our guides.