There are several huge problems with going green regardless of what kind of company you are and the industry in which you operate. Among the biggest are trying to understand the choices you have and to estimate the net benefits (financial returns) so you can begin planning the green efforts. It is clear that companies like HP save millions of dollars on these efforts once they are in place. But most companies don't have the instrumentation in place that HP does and, particularly in this cash-strapped market, it's nearly impossible to fund that instrumentation on the hope that it will help you identify the opportunities you have and the path you should take.
The first estimate generally requires a massive amount of labor up front with no promise of any return on the costs of the estimate, let alone the cost of actually making the company greener. The poor executive has to promise benefits that might not exist and risk kissing a career goodbye if marketing or the CEO talks about going green, then discovers it isn't profitable to do it. In many ways, this is like any pre-technology effort anyplace, heavy labor up front and no consistent auditable, affordable path to assure the financial promises made will be achieved. It was only a matter of time before someone applied technology to the problem, and it is interesting that Al Gore had a major role in making it happen.
Hara: Green SaaS
If you have no metrics and still need to be auditable, you need highly accurate estimates of the ecosystem you are attempting to change. With estimates, you can look at a process, take the information you have from it, put it into the product and come up with both the real costs related to that process as well as the expected benefits from shifting it onto a greener path.
In-depth estimating is so critical because even if you are able to measure portions of the process, you have suppliers who also must be taken into account and getting them to instrument their process without massive co-funding is virtually impossible. If you are big and powerful and they depend on your business, you could try to force the issue, but you might also cause them to go bankrupt or flee the segment.
Backed by Kleiner Perkins, staffed by former Oracle and SAP employees, and personally approved by Al Gore, Hara is a SaaS implementation based heavily on an estimating tool and massive database surrounding green efforts learned from others. The combination offers a much lower cost up front, a product that can be updated and modified nearly instantly, and a process that is auditable and can take the company using it from not being able to spell green to being able to save substantial economic and natural resources.
But the big benefit is that it seems to take much of the risk out of the path. The system not only provides estimates that are achievable, but a time frame spelling out when they will be achieved. This allows companies to set resonable expectations, to prioritize projects that will provide the highest return in the least time and to set up a system that assures that these benefits can be demonstrated once the project is completed.
One of the most interesting aspects of this offering is that it is being released as a 2.0 product. Most companies go public with their offerings either before they are even close to a beta offering or once they are well into their beta. Hara waited until it actually had deployments and was ready to release its second-generation product. It is also fascinating that Coke is one of its reference accounts. Companies like Microsoft and IBM would kill for a reference account like Coke, but heavily marketed brands rarely will allow themselves to be references. The fact that Coke did speaks highly of this offering.
In the current environment, getting a green project through without a solid financial foundation is nearly impossible. Hara is the only product I've seen that seems to encompass the need to inexpensively come up with reasonable estimates of time to financial benefits and to assure work done can demonstrate the benefits promised. Most products I touch are really good at making promises and really lousy at ensuring they are met. Covering buyers' butts not only allows Hara to stand out in its class, but to stand out among all offerings. It makes this a product worth checking out if you are interested in increasing your company's bottom line and in going green in the process. In the end, it is nice to know that even in times when you have to focus on saving money, you can do so while improving the environment.