Sustainability becoming a 'must have' for IT services

Here's another sign that more corporations and organizations view sustainability as a competitive necessity and not just a public relations afterthought: According to a new survey released Friday by IT service company Rackspace (NYSE:RAX), nearly three-quarters of respondents believe that -- when there’s an equal choice -- sustainability gives a service provider an edge over its counterparts.

Even more interestingly, less than a third of respondents said that cost took precedence over greener options. Overall, 72 percent of U.S. survey participants -- and 80 percent of international respondents -- felt that “greener is better.”

The company randomly selected 2,000 of its customers for the 2012 Green Survey, and got responses from more than 230 people in 24 countries. The survey shows that Rackspace's customers “not only embrace a holistic view of sustainability around the world, but are paying attention to how selecting solid partners as part of their supply chain makes good business sense,” the company said.

“We see sustainability expanding from a ‘nice to have’ to a ‘need to have“ as companies understand that selecting solid partners as part of their supply chain translates into lower risk, more efficiency and more reward,’” said Melissa Gray, Rackspace’s director of sustainability, in a press release.

That ‘need to have’ sustainability factor has become an important and ongoing theme for some major corporations as they work to determine the environmental impact of their supply chains -- and not just in IT services.

The world's largest retailer, Walmart (NYSE: WMT), is working to eliminate 20 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions from its supply chain by the end of 2015, for example. When it released its 2012 Global Responsibility Report earlier this month, Walmart said it had eliminated more than 120,000 metric tons of emissions thus far -- meaning that it still has a long way to go, although it has projects to eliminate 16 million metric tons in the works -- and was expanding its supplier scorecard program to gain better understanding and control over its supply chain's impact. “One lesson is that our size and scale can work for us — and against us,” Walmart CEO Michael Duke said in the report’s introduction.

But for better or worse, that focus on supply chain sustainability by Walmart and other corporations is already having a ripple effect across large swaths of the global economy. Fallout from the widespread environmental and labor law scandals in China, for example, is prompting more supply chain transparency from the PRC’s enormous apparel industry. And some companies like Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) have gone the extra mile, considering the greenness and sustainability of materials used in its buildings, furniture and equipment as part of its purchasing decisions and vendor selection.

More corporations are likely to jump on board as some work to track Scope 3 emissions, which include all of the emissions produced in their value chains. In its survey, Rackspace concludes that sustainability has many global backers and is gaining support, “regardless of geography or company size.”

Photo of traditional piggy bank by Kellis via Shutterstock.