Done properly, going green means lower costs, not higher, says Dave Cox, operations chief at Blue Coat and the man driving the company’s BluePlanet eco-programme
Dave Cox has the fervour and bright eyes of a convert – as the senior VP in charge of operations at network security company Blue Coat Systems, he is a convert to a new corporate operating philosophy that he calls ‘lean-and-green’.
Blue Coat makes appliances to streamline, balance and filter network traffic, promising to protect companies and cut their network budget. It also plans to reduce its own carbon dioxide emissions by 3000 tons a year in an 18-month-old BluePlanet environmental initiative. Equally importantly, the programme should also save $5 million dollars a year in overheads and other costs.
Cox says that while the company knew it needed to do something – if only to meets the demands of regulations including the EU WEEE Directive and RoHS Directive – the idea that going green could also make it more efficient and save money seemed pretty unbelievable at first.
“When we embarked on this I was leery,” he admits. “I said yes we could do it, but isn’t it just a cost? Isn’t it money we could spend elsewhere?
“But a consultant convinced me to try bringing people together for multidisciplinary workshops, and I was blown away by a hardware engineer realising that while he had been designing for ease of assembly, he could also make the product easier to disassemble, and therefore easier to recycle.
“That convinced me to try focus groups around the company, and ask people how important the environment is to them. We’d meet with 10, and two or three would say, ‘If you start an environmental initiative, I want to be part of it.'”
One of BluePlanet’s first fruits is a recycling service: customers upgrading from an older Blue Coat device to a newer model are invited to ship the old one back for free, where its parts will be reused or recycled. Not only could this reduce the waste sent to landfill by as much as 90 percent, but the reuse element will generate operational savings of up to $750,000 a year, the company claims.
“We have to do take-back from a regulatory perspective, but we could have outsourced it, for example,” Cox notes. “Now we are able to refurbish returned parts and use them for repairs and replacements – it avoids us having to buy end-of-life components.”
Key to Blue Coat’s new lean-and-green operating model is the use of multidisciplinary groups to build strong connections between departments, sites and business functions that had formerly become hierarchical and siloed, Cox says .
While these collaborative groups are initially built on people’s concern for the environment, they are also racking up all sorts of financial benefits.