It’s that time of year again! No not tax season -- it’s time to get outside (okay, you can bring your iPad) and celebrate Earth Day! Every April we see a little logo flash at the bottom of our TV screens and on websites touting how that particular company or network is "being green" and how you should be, too. Unfortunately, for the vendors and channel partners who actually have a good environmental sustainability record, this is a time when all their hard work is ignored, thanks to the onslaught of "greenwashing."

At Channel Maven Consulting we fancy ourselves green. We have recycling and composting in our office building, we turn off all of our power strips at night, and many of our team members bike or walk to the office on a regular basis. But there is only so much we can do. So to help cut through this year’s Earth Day greenwashing, we’d like to discuss two real sustainability movements in the channel: moving to the (green) cloud and supply-side sustainability.

Green Cloud

The cloud is booming in 2012 and many think it is a greener option for companies, so what does a green cloud offer?

First, the cloud allows for lower on-site power consumption and less material hardware and packaging. While the onsite data center/server environment does exist somewhere, the added burden of having highly available power supplies with backup diesel generators at every location requires a lot of energy to both produce power and maintain these items. In addition, all of the hardware (servers, storage devises, networking equipment, etc.) requires packaging and shipping to get to the individual locations.

Second, the support services for the cloud environment all are in one location. With growing markets in China and India, many companies deploy their own IT teams for onsite server implementations, which means a lot of travel (and wasted fuel). Using the cloud, however, cuts down on that travel.

Finally, many cloud providers are using innovative cooling and energy management practices, which not only keep your data secure but also reduce overall energy consumption for a green and safe cloud solution. It’s important to know the energy management and sustainability policy of your cloud provider.

EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC) is a prime example of a company that has jumped into the green cloud. After realizing how much energy its five data centers used, EMC began the move to a virtualized IT infrastructure in 2004 and will complete the move this year. EMC’s cloud move reduced energy consumption by 34 percent. But the company isn’t stopping with the cloud: It offers its employees flexible working to reduce commuting costs and is designing new buildings with energy efficiency in mind.

Supply Chain Sustainability

In the globalized channel, more and more focus is placed on supply-side sustainability. One way to integrate sustainability into your supply chain is to know what elements you should look out for in your manufacturing facilities. Keep note of rare elements including Neodyminum, primarily mined in China, which is used in lasers, microphones, headphones and hard disks. Industry initiatives from the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC) have focused on responsible sourcing to promote a more sustainable supply chain. We are happy to see so many of the vendors we work with have joined EICC and are committed to improving the social and environmental sustainability of the global electronics supply chain.

CA Technologies (NASDAQ: CA) has jumped to a leadership position in IT sustainability, focusing not only on greening in house, but also forcing sustainability up its supply chain. CA offers flexible working for its employees, which saves on commuting costs; builds green with LEED-certified buildings; and for Earth Day 2012 CA employees across the country have volunteered with environmental efforts, including the Coonemara Meadow Land Preserve in Allen, Texas, and the Eureka Springs Park in Tampa, Fla.

On the supply-side, CA promotes its sustainability mission upstream by demanding that its suppliers maintain sustainability standards through a monthly screening.

Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ) is another great example of expanding an environmental policy beyond its own brick and mortar (although its brick and mortar are often LEED-certified). HP extends its strict environmental, health and safety management system to every company it acquires. HP makes a practice of setting annual environmental goals and achieving them! This is a best practice we hope to see implemented in every IT company.

Of course, no blog post on green IT can be complete without mentioning the frontrunner, IBM (NYSE: IBM). With an environmental policy that spans more than 40 years, IBM has an institutional memory that is deeply embedded in environmental sustainability. IBM’s practice of implementing proactive environmental policy before regulation and still pulling a profit is a testament to companies being able to do well by doing good. Keep up the great work, IBM!

We are happy to see so many industry leaders stepping up their green initiatives and can’t wait to see even more improvements by Earth Day 2013!