Software vendor CA (which everyone still keeps mistakenly calling “Computer Associates”) is amongst those which have more recently found their inner verdancy. The NYC headquartered software vendor hopes to brings its expertise in IT and enterprise governance to the world of “sustainability”.
CA has, in fact, been prominent through its lack of action toward “green IT”, especially compared to those vendors which the company considers its natural competitors such as HP, IBM and BMC. All three of those vendors have long had a noticeable greenness to their marketing messages, both for existing products which have newly found their environmental benefits and in proposed new products. All three have highlighted the potential electricity savings that may arise from better server and desktop management. Meanwhile HP and IBM have focused (and delivered on) power efficient versions of their hardware, and OS virtualisation capabilities that are positioned to improve the electricity to performance figures of Wintel servers. HP and IBM also regularly touts solid credentials with regard to the greening of data centres. HP is a player in the tele-presence market, which it positions as an alternative to business related flying. Even Oracle, with which CA competes with gusto in the Identity Management arena, has managed some green messaging related to its database technology.
In fact, CA has been quietly getting on with a few things, choosing to find its way forward by first focusing on getting its own environmental house in order. The company has reported under the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP4, CDP5 and CDP6) and has made measureable gains in lowering its own greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, as well as focusing on the total ecological footprint of the company’s operations.
It does have a long way to go, as do almost all IT vendors. CA’s sales, marketing and executive staff still travel by plane as a standard part of their business routine, though the use of video conferencing is reported to be increasing. The company still operates an executive jet, and the CEO, John Swainson, is reported to still fly back and forth between his home in Connecticut and the corporate offices on Long Island and in Manhattan. The large carbon footprint and consumptive lifestyles of the average high flying software sales person is still encouraged by all vendors as par for the course. Gone for CA, however, are a multitude of wasteful day-to-day activities. From paper waste through electricity and water usage the company has reviewed its position and trimmed away excess.
Along the way, CA has learned just how potentially complex the execution of a corporate-wide Sustainability Strategy is, especially one that is being introduced into a multinational company. Such strategies require the balancing of a lot of simultaneously spinning plates. Not only do corporate sustainability strategies touch many areas of the business, they also weave into existing operational and governance practices. Purchasing, contract management, supply chain logistics, sales operations, product planning, and marketing—just to list a few areas of not insignificant strategic importance—are all processes that are swept into sustainability planning.
Sustainability strategies also involve a lot of stakeholders. For a start; due to their scope, management of the strategy is usually “by committee”. Steering groups are common that include heads of department from all areas of the business. In the (current) absence of firm regulatory requirements for broad sustainability efforts, such strategies are also motivated and influenced by a range of factors from green PR, through cost savings to an actual desire to reduce GHG emissions. All this calls for the tracking of a broad range of metrics that measure the performance a company’s green efforts.
It is likely that effective green governance will become a major area of concern and effort for the coming years. CA is taking the knowledge it has gained and is now embedding that into its products, focusing foremost on enabling companies to more effectively understand and manage the overall portfolio of sustainability related projects and initiatives. Meanwhile, expect to see the vendor sprinkle a little green sparkle on its desktop and data centre management product lines.
CA’s inside-outward approach may arguably lose it traction in a fast moving market. At the same time the cautious approach is also a little less cynical than the arguably out and out green-marketing approach taken by many of its competitors.
CA must put no small effort toward communicating its newly minted green credentials in order to make up lost ground. Seeing as it has taken the approach of “walking the walk” before talking up its efforts, it must do more to reduce its own footprint. Perhaps we will see its executive jet appear on eBay soon.
In the meantime its focus on getting its own house in order should win it respect amongst buyers, while its recognition of the need for effective “green governance” should play well for it in the longer term. As always, existing and potential customers should continue to challenge the vendor to continue to improve its green credentials.
A note of disclosure: the author worked for CA from 1996 to 2007. He currently holds no financial interest in the company.