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To green or not to green –technology companies begin to measure returns on environmental investments

To green or not to green – technology companies begin to measure returns on environmental investments, notes Frost & Sullivan

LONDON – 20 January, 2010 – While many argue that the economic downturn has caused companies to push the ‘green agenda’ down the priority list, a recent study by Frost & Sullivan reveals that companies in the ICT sector are actually paying more attention to environmental initiatives – to save cost and improve competitive differentiation as well as enforce brand loyalty. However, given the tighter budgets and higher stakeholder expectations, such initiatives need to demonstrate a positive ROI.

In its third annual edition, Frost & Sullivan's study (, Sustainability in Telecoms: Return on Environmental Investments, focuses on a selection of companies that have adopted a longer term, measurable and sustainable way of doing business. In the 2008-year study, we highlighted the multi-stakeholder relationship, provided case studies of eight leading European telecommunication service providers and reviewed key vendor initiatives. In this study, we identify further best practices and discuss measures for returns on eco-investments.

While the first section of this study profiles certain service providers (British Telecom, France Telecom, Telefonica and Swisscom) and vendors (Alcatel-Lucent, IBM, NSN, Ericsson and Huawei) based on their notable efforts in the sustainability space, the second section discusses positive versus negative environmental investments and reflects on the fraught notion of conflicting commercial versus environmental priorities.

It is encouraging that most of the companies that participated in the research have started to develop their own frameworks and even gone ahead to seek accreditation from various industry bodies. Unfortunately, none of the companies interviewed were willing to share the measurement models used.

“IBM seems to be the most advanced in its measurements of environmental investments while British Telecom should finalize its ROI models for a range of solutions in the run up to the 2012 Olympics,” says Frost & Sullivan Principal Analyst Sharifah Amirah. “In the longer term, social and environmental investments will start to feature in a company’s financial statements/audited reports, similar to the triple bottom line accounting approach.”

However, even companies with very advanced environmental strategies are only just beginning to develop measurement frameworks for their green investment. The reasons behind this include the lack of standard measures, the difficulty in measuring non-tangible benefits, and the fact that eco investments tend to be perceived either as a marketing or corporate social responsibility (CSR) exercise.

Further, greater scrutiny over environmental investments does not necessarily suggest that companies will only invest in initiatives that demonstrate positive returns. Nonetheless, at the company level, greater commitment and concrete initiatives need to take place. Given the growing need to justify these investments, formal measurements too have to be designed, standardised and adopted.

“The amount of environmental investments in the ICT sector should at least double in the next 2-3 years,” says Amirah. “Despite the lack of concrete frameworks at the 2009 Copenhagen summit, individual governments, stakeholder and consumer pressure will continue to drive businesses to adopt more sustainable operations.”

In fact, a cross vertical enterprise survey conducted by Frost & Sullivan at the end of 2008 revealed that close to 600 business leaders expected to increase their environmental investments by 67 percent over 2009-2010. A majority of them saw it not only as an ethical obligation but also as being critical to growth.

If you are interested more information on this study, please send an e-mail to Joanna Lewandowska, Corporate Communications, at, with your full name, company name, title, telephone number, company e-mail address, company website, city, state and country.

Sustainability in Telecoms: Return on Environmental Investments is a part of the Market Insights - Mobile Communications subscription, which also includes research on U.S. Mobile Financial Services, Global Mobile VoIP Market, North American Mobile Messaging Markets, E-Healthcare in Western Europe, among others. These Market Insights are part of Frost & Sullivan Growth Partnership Service.

About Frost & Sullivan
Frost & Sullivan, the Growth Partnership Company, enables clients to accelerate growth and achieve best-in-class positions in growth, innovation and leadership. The company's Growth Partnership Service provides the CEO and the CEO's Growth Team with disciplined research and best-practice models to drive the generation, evaluation, and implementation of powerful growth strategies. Frost & Sullivan leverages over 45 years of experience in partnering with Global 1000 companies, emerging businesses and the investment community from 40 offices on six continents. To join our Growth Partnership, please visit

Joanna Lewandowska
Corporate Communications – Europe
P: +48 22 390 41 46

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Frost & Sullivan
+48 22 390 41 46

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