Big Blue has devised a consulting service to profit from corporate initiatives to "go green."
IBM on Monday detailed its "Green Sigma" consulting practice for reducing energy and water usage at businesses by using networked sensors and data analysis software.
It's based on the Lean Six Sigma management strategy that was originally designed to focus on operational efficiency and customer requirements.
The idea with Green Sigma is to do an accounting of a company's water and energy usage, both at its own facilities and also its supply chain partners. IBM is piloting the method at two of its own facilities and at two of its customers'.
By tracking usage numbers and taking conservation measures, IBM was able to significantly reduce consumption, saving $310 million. A work-at-home program, for example, eliminated 8 million gallons of gasoline.
Helping make businesses green is big business to IBM.
High energy and water costs are pushing companies to be more efficient. But there are other reasons for companies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or undertake corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives, said Dave Lubowe, global leader of IBM's operation strategy practice.
Many heavy polluters, such as utilities, anticipate climate regulations in the next five years. Meanwhile, consumers are demanding more eco-savvy products, according to a recent survey of CEOs, despite complaints over "greenwashing."
"Consumers are increasingly active and activist about where they put their money," said Lubowe, "Just giving money to charities (through CSR) isn't enough anymore."
IBM's consulting group will survey a company's operations and try to isolate areas that have the best potential for saving energy or water usage. The idea is to selectively put sensors on water pumps or machinery to measure usage data, then collect that data and present it on a dashboard.
At its Dublin, Ireland, operation, IBM was able to improve its energy efficiency by 20 percent.
Even though large manufacturers have sought to lower their energy use for years, Lubowe said he expects other efficiency consulting services to emerge, if only because of rising fuel and water costs.
"That means that not only is it the right thing to do, but it also makes economic sense. I think that's a really important trend," he said.