Users Have Doubts Over Green Outsourcing

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The recession has dampened end users’ enthusiasm for “green” IT outsourcing contracts

This year’s Black Book Green Outsourcing Survey has found a mix of positive and disappointing results on the part of both suppliers and users, driven largely by the impact of recession.

Half of 1,338 end user companies responding to the 2009 global survey said they considered green criteria during their IT procurement process, and four out of five had recycling programmes.

And ‘green’ initiatives had secured a major role in the IT outsourcing decision-making and vendor selection process, with many competing suppliers peddling green credentials.

But, with nearly 90 per cent of buyer chief information officers (CIOs) and executives confused by what was needed to fulfil green criteria and what is fluff, most noted that there were no funds budgeted in 2009 or 2010 to pay more for outsourcing suppliers’ green add-ons.

In fact, energy costs and the reputational impact of not having a sustainability programme emerged as the ongoing drivers for choosing an outsourcing vendor with green options, rather than true environmental concern.

Nearly all chief information officers polled (98 per cent) said sustainability efforts were driven by customer demand, which was up 4 per cent from last year. While 85 per cent of executives said the price of energy was more responsible for outsourcing demand than their green credentials.

Overall, the survey also revealed doubt about the comprehensive and impact quality of outsourcing green programmes. But without standards to measure outcomes and energy prices remaining high, 87 per cent said they were taking “mostly passive” approach to monitoring vendors, as long as costs are stabilised and a green programme is drafted.

And the prevailing expectation among the majority of respondents (89 per cent) was that outsourcers would deliver green efforts as value add-ons only, which was up 7 per cent from last year.

Despite this seeming cynicism, 92 per cent of respondents believed the vendors who have initiated green options for clients in the economic downturn will have mature products and services that would be in the highest demand between 2010 and 2011.

David Tebbutt, programme director at Freeform Dynamics said he was not surprised that the appetite for taking on greener IT outsourcing services had dropped. He observed this reflected a maturing attitude of pragmatism towards green IT initiatives, characterised by the realisation that “companies can save money on energy bills and enhance their reputation with their sourcing and behavioural activities”.

“So, while green is dropping as a primary driver, I think it’s very much a by-product [of corporate responsibilities and buying trends],” he added.