Verizon certainly isn't alone here. Tech heavyweights such as HP, IBM, Xerox, and Dell have saddled suppliers with various environmental requirements pertaining to cutting energy consumption, conserving water, and responsibly disposing of e-waste. Wal-Mart, too, made headlines a while back when it announced it would work to track and reduce the energy consumed and carbon emissions produced by its suppliers.
Hardware suppliers also have to continually hone their products to meet rigorous demands of government clients. The federal government, as well as some state and city governments, require agencies and departments to purchase only end-user hardware that meets EPEAT criteria.
This trend will undoubtedly continue into 2010 and beyond. As companies strive to embrace greener practices, whether for the sake of cutting costs or doing their part to reduce GHGs, they'll apply greater pressure on suppliers to help achieve those goals. The benefits to the purchasing companies are evident: They get to meet environmental objectives while saving on operating expenses. Those benefits will reach other organizations as green features -- for example, high-efficiency power supplies -- become the norm, rather than premiums you have to pay extra for.
As for the suppliers who bear the burden of meeting these various demands, which require upfront investments in research and development, new inventory, training, and tools for measuring carbon emissions, well, they have their work cut out for them. But that's the nature of the business world: Either you evolve or you face extinction. The companies that evolve -- those that embrace the greener business practices (which tend to translate to cutting costs) and that develop the greener products -- are the ones that will thrive. Those that can't -- or won't -- do it, well, they may just fail.
The bottom line here: Companies that are resting on their laurels waiting for the feds to roll out carbon regulations and other environmental laws before they take any action should talk to their customers and competitors. Plenty of customers are already expecting greener products and practices, whether to meet internal CSR or cost-cutting objectives or to suit the requirements of customers further up the supply chain. Further, your competitors could very well be ahead of the game, benefitting from more business and lower long-term operating expenses from embracing greener practices.