It was only a matter of time, really. General Electric (NYSE: GE ) did it a few years ago, Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT ) began changing its tune last year, and so far this year at least a dozen more leading companies -- including a group I call the Jolly Green Giants -- have also jumped on the bandwagon.
It's a smart move that will pay dividends for investors because Big Blue has a lot to bring to the environmental table. There's a minimum of four ways I see the initiative as generating substantial new revenue for the company.
First, as a leader in chip design, IBM has already taken the lead in developing and producing more energy-efficient computer chips. On its face, such a move might seem like small peanuts, but it isn't. Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) and Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO ) are currently spending a great deal of money to power their massive data centers. The problem has gotten so bad, in fact, that the U.S. government has recently gotten involved to help the industry forge innovative solutions to the problem.
To the extent that IBM can continue to design more energy-efficient computer chips, it could help alleviate the problem and, in the process, distinguish itself from competitors like Intel (Nasdaq: INTC ) .
Big Blue can also make serious inroads by equipping businesses with sophisticated networks of sensors and software to help manage electricity more efficiently. On a larger scale, the company could apply the same expertise to make the U.S.' aging electricity grid operate more intelligently.
As I've recently written, Big Blue can also turn its strength in the field of supercomputing to a host of energy-related issues. For example, these powerful computers could be used to speed the development of everything from new energy-saving materials for next-generation photovoltaic cells to the creation of new biofuels.
Finally, in an era of looming government mandates (such as a cap-and-trade system), IBM's team of consultants can hawk their services to help any number of businesses reduce their environmental footprint.
The vice president in charge of the new Big Green Innovations program has indicated that she believes the business will ultimately be larger than IBM's life science program. That's an ambitious goal, and while I'm personally not quite that confident, the program is a bold strategic move that offers additional evidence as to why Big Blue remains a solid selection as the best blue chip of 2007.
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