The chairman of Intel recently sat down for an interview with a reporter, and one of the themes discussed was the issue of “social responsibility,” or the belief that corporations should push initiatives that improve society at large in addition to those that simply add to the company’s bottom line. Intel is working with the United Nations to reduce the global digital divide, or the gap between the people who have Internet access and those who do not. In addition, Intel believes that the Internet can help to reduce poverty by spreading education to places that are currently deficient in that department. These moves are definitely in the interest of Intel’s bottom line in the long term, as more educated Internet users mean more potential customers, but Intel seems to be approaching these moves more as a way to give back to society rather than a way to increase profits.

For Intel, the business side of doing good (

IBM is also doing some good on the social responsibility front, developing software for companies that embrace the concept of “micro loans,” or small business loans of less than $35,000 (often as little as $100) made to people who do not otherwise qualify. Micro loans made the news last year when a pioneer of the practice was given the Nobel Peace Prize for making such loans to tens of thousands of poverty stricken people, mostly in Africa.

Going along with this theme, Gartner research has listed “Green IT” as the number one strategic technology for 2008, and a Rackspace survey has amplified that position, finding…

  • Thirty-eight percent of respondents think potential carbon taxes or environmental regulation will somewhat impact their business
  • Thirty-six percent think potential carbon taxes or environmental regulation will have no impact on their business
  • Nine percent of respondents have chosen to go green because of regulatory reasons today or in the future
  • Fifty-two percent would pay 5-10% more to work with a green vendor rather than other market offerings
  • Fifty-one percent are willing to sacrifice 5-10% of server performance for lower carbon emissions
  • Seventy-five percent would choose a green vendor over a non-green vendor if the prices were the same

Micro finance ignored (Market Watch)

Gartner’s Top 10 for 2008 – Outlook Virtual and Green (InfoWorld)

I actually believe in a balance between environmental and economic concerns, but there is no doubting that environmental issues will play an increasing role in IT over the next few years. I do believe that companies have a responsibility to give back to the society that has given them the profits and growth they have enjoyed, but I do not believe that they should be mandated or regulated by the government. Does your company make attempts to be environmentally friendly or exhibit social responsibility?