High Tech Hopes Power Conservation Delivers Green

Last Updated Jul 25, 2008 12:20 PM EDT

WindmillsLately it seems that every third high tech company has been going on about how it can help customers save money in energy, improve the environment, and otherwise save the world. In just the last couple of weeks I've heard from a number of entities pitching their particular green spin: My little non-scientific survey of my in basket (and, frankly, circular file) suggested a few things. Some companies have new technologies, like the capacitor materials, that in concept at least are very smart and perfectly tailored for the times.

There are businesses that look as though they are successfully adapting what they already do and finding a natural "green" hook, but one that has a clear and practical benefits for customers, like lowering data center power costs (though the real test would be whether the lowered costs more than offset the more expensive types of storage).

But the approach that will prove to be trouble is when a company wants to add a "green" veneer. It's too bad that they're taking this route, because not only will virtually no one buy into the claims, but when too many companies indulge, they create a general white noise that gets customers and prospects to tune out, making things more difficult for the firms that do have something to offer. (See, for instance, BNET retail blogger Lisa Everitt's recent coverage of "never-greens.")

What comes to mind are the idiocies I remember hearing from companies that try to reposition themselves to take advantage of whatever the latest technology fad is, literally tagging themselves in turn as supply chain, ERP, CRM, and now Web 2.0. If you have to keep changing your identity, it's of little use, because the customers still remember that last one. This is a reason, except for very rare cases, that I think high tech businesses should use the green label gingerly, and only as a secondary support after other benefits.

Oh, one last observation: If your organization feel obligated to point out how cool it is, it isn't.

Focus on Finance image via morguefile.com user RoganJosh, use by permission

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    Erik Sherman is a widely published writer and editor who also does select ghosting and corporate work. The views expressed in this column belong to Sherman and do not represent the views of CBS Interactive. Follow him on Twitter at @ErikSherman or on Facebook.