Companies discover going green pays off

A growing wave of companies in all sectors — technology, financial services, energy, retail, manufacturing — are embracing environmentally safe practices and saving hundreds of millions of dollars, according to corporate leaders and an environmental group's report Tuesday.

SunPower sti, Sierra Nevada Brewing, Patagonia, Ikea, Nike nke, Hewlett-Packard hpq, UPS ups, Yahoo yhoo and others are using green practices in their work sites, in product development and packaging, in energy-saving data centers and other technology, according to a report by the non-profit Environmental Defense Fund.

The report was released here at a news conference featuring green-friendly CEOs and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

David Yarnold, the fund's executive director, says green business practices "can create competitive advantage" and "strengthen the bottom line."

Technology giant Sun Microsystems JAVA, for one, aims to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2012 through a range of practices, from using cooler, energy-saving technology in its computer chips to allowing thousands of its 34,400 employees to work at home.

Permitting employees to telecommute has saved hundreds of millions of dollars in the past six years in real estate and fuel costs. Sun also hauled in $1 billion in revenue last year on its Niagara 1 server computer system, which uses power-saving chips.

Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz calls the technology "a bus" that gets the job done efficiently and economically, rather than a flashy, gas-guzzling Ferrari.

Fireman's Fund Insurance offers its commercial customers insurance policies promising their property, if destroyed by fire or disaster, will be rebuilt using green materials, heating and lighting.

The policies, which are growing quickly in popularity among Fireman's clients, will be available to homeowners in June, according to Chairman Charles Kavitsky.

One clear sign that the product is making money: Competitors are imitating it, Kavitsky says.

Schwarzenegger said green companies and environmentally friendly laws in California — such as its Million Solar Roofs Plan, which provides an energy-bill credit for homeowners and building owners to install solar systems — will lead by example.

"Are we going to wipe out global warming? Of course not," Schwarzenegger said. "But we're inspiring … the rest of the world to do the same thing."