Putting a Dollar Figure on Green

Apparently our corporate “greenness” is going to be measured by the size of our investment in the environment. Bank of America came out first with a $20B commitment, but was soon out-greened by Citibank at $50B. Most recently, IBM came out at $1B.

So what do these numbers mean? Is IBM really 50 times “less green” than Citibank, and 20 times less than BofA?

Obviously not, but apparently that’s the conclusion that their marketing department is begging us to make. I know for a fact that they have some really good programs going on, but some marketing person decided that their press release would somehow be more interesting if it had said $1B. Details behind all of these large dollar figures are vague, with key assumptions and allocations unstated, so comparing them is silly. Why throw it out there if you aren’t going to back it up and you don’t want people to use it as a yardstick of goodness? Maybe that’s why IBM’s environment group doesn’t have a link to this release.

The world is already getting savvy about green marketing, and even companies with a good story to tell, like IBM, can hurt themselves when someone tries to tell a “bigger story”. Fun “who’s greener than who” articles like this one are starting to crop up.

At Sun we’re trying hard to stick to the facts, and I think we’re succeeding most of the time. We debate a lot about specific words and phrases, and worry that our message won’t break through. Its tricky today and its going to get trickier. Its important to us that people see what we’re up to, and we hope that it helps us in the marketplace, but also that others can learn from what we’ve done.

Recently we got some nice indirect feedback from a post in Green Wombat about our work with JavaOne - it’s good to know that a stunt-free press release can still get some attention.