Brad Fry, environmental standards compliance engineer at Canadian computer manufacturer MDG, noted that there are, for now, higher costs associated with designing and certifying greener products. "There are some moderate product cost increases but no significant extra labor costs incurred in the production process for a greener computer. However there will be a one-time increase during the product design phase for engineering and certification costs to ensure quality and technical standards are met."
Ultimately, though, he expects prices for green wares to drop: "As demand for more environmentally friendly computers increases, the volumes sold are increasing, and therefore, the extra engineering costs become less significant and the product costs differences will continue to diminish."
Worth the price
Even if companies do pay a slightly higher sticker price for a green product, its energy efficiency, longer life, and other green-oriented benefits often more than make up for the cost. The Green Electronics Council says, "manufacturers and purchasers will actually save almost four billion dollars (US $3,660,553,851) over the life of the EPEAT products sold in 2007, primarily from reductions in energy use."
Attesting to this fact is Kaiser Permanente. The company purchased 55,271 desktop computers, 57,165 monitors, and more than 9,600 laptop computers registered with EPEAT between October 2006 and 2007. Laurie Spoon, executive consultant, procurement and supply, says the health-care organization hasn't found that it pays a premium for purchasing green computer products, especially when taking into account the total cost of ownership, including energy consumption, repair and maintenance costs, operational costs, replacement of components, and the like.
"Of all the successfully implemented environmental initiatives in Procurement and Supply, almost all were cost-neutral or delivered cost savings when total cost was considered," she says. "For example, the EPA calculated that for the purchases Kaiser made [between] July of 2006 through approximately the middle of 2007, we achieved $4.7 million in savings by purchasing EPEAT-registered desktop computers, monitors, and notebook computers, mainly through reduced energy usage."
The City of San Francisco has had similar experiences, according to Chris Geiger, manager of green purchasing and integrated pest management programs for the city's Department of the Environment. San Francisco has an ordinance requiring city departments to buy green products, and establishes a prioritization and standard-setting procedure. "[M]any of our departments do pay extra for certain green products. The extra expense is usually justified by considering the long-term costs of health care, maintenance, etc., and also considering the life-cycle impacts of the products on the environment."