Fair, Isaac Corp has caught sustaina bility fever in a big way, and in doing so is producing a blueprint for self-funding energy and paper use reduction that's already catching the eye of the financial institutions that use its credit scores.

"A number of banks ask us about what we're doing with out energy policy and how we're doing it when they're presenting us with RFPs," says Laurent Pacalin, svp and CMO of FICO in San Francisco. "We are hoping that we can demonstrate that it's possible to do [sustainability] projects without increasing capital expenditures."

FICO's initiative is aimed at improving energy use and enhancing economic efficiency. Just 18 months after its debut, the firm has already achieved a slate of impressive financial, paper shaving, and energy saving results.

By deploying PIN-controlled printing, for example, FICO has saved more than $1.1 million in printing related costs. Additionally, a variety of data center and server deployment strategies have increased productivity by nearly 25 percent and reduced energy consumption by 33 percent. Combined with an overall 50 percent reduction in print output and an 8 million-page dip in paper use, the project is exceeding its initial goals. "We are well on our way of achieving our overall goal of reducing energy consumption 50 percent by 2010," Pacalin says.

FICO's been able to achieve these successes without increasing capital expenditures in part because of the firm's use of cloud computing and virtualization in its data center, requiring less physical space and less energy. "Because of this, the [energy reduction] program's already returning money to the IT budget," he says.

FICO's not pushing its strategy on financial institution partners, but given the firm's success - and the pressure banks are under to increase efficiency for less money, FICO's example is apparent.

"[Sustainability] is a big part of what banks are doing to manage expense in their own supply chain," Pacalin says.

The FICO project also demonstrates that as paper goes, so goes a firm's success in managing its energy policy - everything that paper touches increases a firm's carbon footprint. "The issue of paper goes well beyond paper itself," says Rodney Nelsestuen, a senior research director for TowerGroup. "Something has to be done with it. Paper has to be filed, handled, mailed, etc. So it's not just a matter of deciding whether to use paper or cut paper use. You have to realize that paper has both a life and a travel span."

And financial institutions are particularly pressured to find innovative ways to change their paper strategies, since the nature of banking makes it hard to get rid of paper - even tech savvy customers still conduct a large volume of business using physical paper.

Mark Schwanhausser, a research analyst in charge of multi-channel financial services for Javelin Strategy & Research, says that even deep into the age of online banking, about 70 percent of consumers have yet to cut paper statements and other physical documentation out of their financial activities.

"In the lockbox business, for example, 60 to 70 percent of clients may subscribe to document imaging services, but many of those clients still want the paper statements shipped back to them at great expense," says Bob Meara, an analyst at Celent. "Old habits are hard to break."

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