Eco-Advantage Blog

December 4, 2006 | Andrew Winston | Jump to: Comments (0) | Post A Comment

Avalanche of Green Business Units in Tech Land (IBM, Panasonic, HP)

In the last few weeks, three tech giants have announced very similar concepts: the launching of new companies or divisions to serve environmental markets…

  • Panasonic Home and Environment Company will develop products to help consumers improve energy efficiency and air quality in homes. Oddly, the company has so far only launched a website devoted to a pretty un-sexy first product, an Energy Star air venting system.

  • IBM declared that it would spend $100 million over the next few years on new innovation initiatives, including one called “Big Green Innovations” (playing off the long-standing Big Blue branding). The company will focus on “applying the company’s advanced expertise and technologies to emerging environmental opportunities.” See the press release here. Internal documents show that this initiative is a long-term “blue sky” activity, but IBM has identified a few product areas: advanced water modeling, water filtration via nanotechnology, and efficient solar power systems. Sounds geeky, but these choices are quite savvy — they aim squarely at our biggest environmental challenges (and thus largest opportunities): climate change, energy, water availability, and water quality. I assume (and hope) that IBM will find a much catchier way to talk about all this when they’re ready to go to market.

  • HP, according to the Wall Street Journal last week, is “starting a business to help cool computer rooms, based on technology it says can cut companies’ energy costs by 25% to 45%.”

All of these stories are perfect examples of value chain thinking, which is a big theme in Green to Gold. These companies have identified large opportunities to help customers reduce their environmental burden. It’s exactly why GE rolled out its ecomagination products and campaign last year.

But isn’t this rush to launch new divisions eerily reminiscent of the Internet era. When I worked in an “incubator” (remember those?), we helped companies launch new web divisions with the intention of taking them public. We all know how that one played out. Thankfully, this green wave has a very different feel from the tech bubble — it’s being taken on soberly by careful, serious companies, and the new divisions indicate a focus, not a rush to IPO. The avalanche of options to satisfy new markets is a great sign for buyers and consumers — and it’s very unlikely to stop.


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