Dell is making a bid to become the greenest IT company by reducing its greenhouse emissions, but has set itself easier targets than its rivals.

Dell has promised to reduce the carbon emissions of its entire global supply chain by 15 percent by 2012, and encourage users to sign up to have trees planted - that will offset carbon emissions generated in the production and use of Dell products. HP and Sun, however, have promised a 20 percent reduction, to be reached in the same time or less.

The green moves are part of a campaign to fight back after recent poor results led to the resignation of CEO Kevin Rollins and the re-instatement of founder Michael Dell in the role. They include:-

  • Preferring green suppliers over non-green ones
  • Reducing the carbon intensity of Dell's global operations by 15 percent by 2012
  • Extending its " Plant a Tree for Me" programme to Europe, allowing computer users to offset the emissions associated with the electricity their computers use
  • Asking customers for their ideas in building the "greenest PC on the planet" via Dell's IdeaStorm website

Despite Dell's big talk, other companies are talking bigger. HP and Sun have committed to cut its greenhouse emissions by 20 percent before 2010 and 2012 respectively. IBM, meanwhile, is spending $1 billion a year on green technologies in its Project Big Green. There is some evidence users want greener IT.

Dell has already joined the Green Grid Consortium, which also includes Microsoft, IBM, HP, Sun, AMD and Intel.

Michael Dell said: "Our goal is simple and clear. We'll take the lead in setting an environmental standard for our industry that will reflect our partnership with, and direct feedback from, our customers, suppliers and stakeholders, and we intend to maintain that leadership. ... Dell will do its part to protect the Earth's climate, from providing energy-efficient IT products, to using environmentally responsible practices we hope others will embrace." He went to say that today we are all in the re-generation generation.

Dell's suppliers will be required to provide quarterly statements of their carbon emissions. This encouragement of suppliers is similar to Sun's requirement that suppliers commit to the ISO 14001 standard but Dell is implementing its requirements differently.

Suppliers' emissions reports will be used to add or subtract from their existing overall quarterly scorecard, the value of which affects their Dell business volume. That's the stick. Once companies begin to report the data, Dell will help them create emissions reduction strategies; that's the matching carrot.

Dell recently completed a power-management pilot on the 50,000 or so computers in its internal network. This resulted in savings of about 13 million kW/hours of electricity, equivalent to preventing the emission of 8,500 tons of CO2 and saving $1.8 million annually. Dell said it would work to identify ways to help its corporate customers achieve similar savings.

In the tree planting programme, customers can offset the emissions associated with the electricity that their computers use, by paying £1 per notebook or £3 per desktop. All the money will be donated to plant trees in professionally managed reforestation projects. The trees will absorb the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere when electricity is generated to power a computer over its average three-year life. This follows on from storage supplier 3PAR's existing and similar carbon offset scheme for its customers.

To demonstrate his personal commitment to this green charm offensive, Michael Dell said he personally would match donations to the programme received during the next three months.

Dell also offers customers free recycling of its products worldwide.