Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Enabling Sustainable Business

So, what are the technologies and systems that will enable the sustainable enterprise? I had never really given this much thought, other than a cursory mental glance when I thought about building a tool in excel to more easily track carbon emission for myself and the client I am working with at BGI. (image from Sustainable Software)

After a meeting today with a friend of mine, someone with many years of experience in the "sustainability" space, I started thinking about what it really means to attempt to maintain a sustainability initiative. It's about data; identifying, tracking, gathering, reporting, maintaining, coordinating, storing; mounds and mounds of electrons in some metal box that may or may not be physically located on your company site. There's CO2 (and other GHG's) to track, social metrics (community, employees, families, etc.), "CSR" (whatever that means), industrial ecological metrics, etc., etc. Oh, and different departments would like to see different data in different forms, thank you very much. The design guys won't care all that much about the depreciation of the new solar array, of course, they might care about the energy spend given that it could effect profit sharing payouts. In any case:
  • Where does it all go?
  • Who maintains it?
  • Who's responsible for it?
  • What data do you really need?
Makes me wonder...what are the enabling systems to support sustainable businesses? What if a billion dollar energy intensive company spread over thirteen countries in 10 time zones with 20 languages and just as many conflicting systems wants to conduct a CO2 footprint? Does the data reside on 13 different EH&S vice presidential laptops? Does the data make sense? Is it verifiable? Could it be used to assess the risk the company faces under potential CO2 emissions regulations as they go to their bank for a capital improvement project?

Makes one wonder, who can help manage all this data?

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