Burt's Bees

Employee pay is partially tied to reductions in energy use, water consumption and waste.

Without even knowing its mission statement -- to be "the greenest personal care company on earth" -- you might expect the people at Burt's Bees Inc. to be environmental activists. After all, the quirky company with the bearded man on its labels is proud to proclaim that its products are made from 99% natural ingredients.

However, the company formalized that image in 2006 when it adopted an operating philosophy devoted to what it calls The Greater Good, under which it set Earth-friendly goals and started documenting its progress toward them in an annual report. By 2020, Burt's Bees plans to be carbon-free and operating on 100% renewable energy; it also plans to deposit no waste in landfills and have all its facilities LEED-certified.

It's so serious about these goals that it has tied employees' incentive pay not only to sales and profits, but also to a sustainability metric that measures reductions in waste output and energy and water use, as well as participation in community outreach activities.

"That separates the few from the many pursuing green," says Christopher Mines, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc. "Companies tend to focus on having the most energy-efficient gear or EPEAT-compatible desktops, and they miss the process and behavioral things you have to do as well, like changing performance standards and incentive structures to reflect overall greenness."

Just the same, IT plays a big part in achieving those goals at Burt's Bees. For instance, a move to virtualization has eliminated the need to purchase 31 servers, and that, along with reduced cooling requirements, cut energy consumption by 180,000 kilowatt-hours per year -- enough to power 10 three-bedroom houses, according to Ted Hein, director of information services.

And as part of a move to a storage-area network, IT used data de-duplication and thin provisioning, reclaiming more than 350GB of storage space for every terabyte of storage it moved. It also reused old server-attached storage as a virtual tape library, drastically reducing tape consumption and off-site storage expenses, Hein says. Next, he's evaluating a switch to thin clients.

Burt's Bees has additional plans in place to meet its green goals. For example, it hopes to find a way to use the hot air generated by the data center to heat its buildings, and it's researching more-efficient cooling systems that use ozone-free coolant.

Brandel is a Computerworld contributing writer. Contact her at marybrandel@verizon.net.

Next: No. 11: Marriott lowers AC temperatures in the data center by 10%

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