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Best Practices for New Wave of Green Certifications at Tech Firms

<p>More and more, non-manufacturing tech companies are seeking certification of their operations and products under the international standard for environmental management systems. Executives at Blue Coat Systems talk about how the firm's headquarters attained certification in half the time it usually takes.</p>

The past year has seen a surge in non-manufacturing technology firms certifying to the ISO 14001 standard for environmental management systems. This surge is emblematic of the changing environmental regulatory landscape; previously, only manufacturers and their component suppliers felt compelled to certify.

Blue Coat Systems’ recent ISO 14001 certification is a good example of the new wave of certifying, non-manufacturing technology companies. In early 2010 Blue Coat, which designs and outsources the manufacturing of WAN-optimization and network-security systems, sought to attain certification to raise awareness about the company’s environmental responsiveness.

Blue Coat did so in “half the time” of many other companies, according to Lead Auditor Manuel Rodriguez of auditing firm TÜV SÜD America Inc. We talked to Blue Coat Senior VP of Corporate Operations David Cox and Environmental Manager  Paris Dieker to find out how they did it:

As a technology company, why did you decide to get certified to ISO 14001 when all of your contract manufacturers were already ISO 14001 certified?

Cox: More and more of our customers care about the environmental impact of their strategic suppliers. This certification demonstrates to these customers that Blue Coat Systems is dedicated to reducing the environmental footprint of our products and operations and affirms the environmental stewardship of our employees.

Your Sunnyvale, Calif., headquarters facility was certified, according to your auditor, in half the time it takes most companies. How did you do it?

Cox: The rapid certification process reflects the forward-thinking success of our company’s environmental sustainability initiative, BluePlanet, which we commenced more than two years before the certification audit. Our BluePlanet program, led by a multifunctional, multiregional team, continues to reduce the environmental impact of our company and products in numerous areas applicable to ISO 14001 certification.

What benefits have you seen thus far from your BluePlanet initiative?

Cox: Since its inception, BluePlanet has helped Blue Coat to reduce its operational costs by approximately US$3.3 million and reduce CO2-equivalent emissions by approximately 3,000 metric tons. This equals a year-over-year reduction of 4 percent per employee. From a business standpoint, we’re eliminating inefficiencies and reducing or avoiding costs, while at the same time implementing best practices and world-class processes to continuously lower the company’s impact on the environment. It’s a win-win situation.

What would you say were the most significant factors that contributed to your rapid ISO 14001 certification?

Dieker: I would say there were several factors -- having a significant head start on environmental management via our BluePlanet program, strong executive commitment and follow-through, effective corporate communication systems, and we selected an experienced ISO14001 registrar who knew our industry, gave us useful feedback, and was a helpful resource in the process.

Having BluePlanet in place provided a strong foundation for building an ISO 14001 compliant environmental management system (EMS). Our commitment to this certification came from the executive level and engaged employees at all levels.  Finally, we used our existing, effective corporate communication channels to generate buy-in and cooperation among employees.

What other benefits do you see to the certification process?

Dieker: A well-implemented environmental management system will pay for itself and incites constant vigilance in the areas of waste reduction, pollution prevention and regulatory compliance. It inspires employees to consider the environmental costs of their activities.

Where does Blue Coat’s BluePlanet initiative go from here?

Cox: We are managing toward five-year goals for further conservation of resources in our operations and products. We are also quantifying how our products help our customers reduce their environmental footprint through achieving greater efficiency from fewer hardware systems, accessing our solutions in the cloud, and enabling more efficient employee-to-employee collaboration to reduce the cost and emissions of business travel. Finally, the lifecycle analyses we are conducting on successive generations our products will guide us to ensure that we are continuing to achieve efficiencies in materials, shipping, and power -- for the benefit of profit and planet.

Image courtesy of Blue Coat via Technology Forecasters Inc.

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