First things first, I DO believe there is a case for certain purpose-built applications that purport to focus on aspects of corporate sustainability, such as carbon and energy management software or lifecycle asset management software. But I think that many businesses are overlooking the valuable information and data that is buried within existing enterprise resource planning and business intelligence software.
That's the subject of a new guide from massive sustainability services and IT integrator Deloitte, "Analytics for the sustainable business." The paper focuses on the value that you might be able to glean from existing information that IT teams are helping companies gather across their business operations.
"Before you run off and buy additional software, step back and look at what you already have," advises Lee Dittmar, principal of Deloitte Consulting and leader of Deloitte's IT for Sustainability service offering.
Dittmar says that the secret to defensible (read auditable) corporate sustainability information is the ability to automate its collection and create reports that can be generated on an ongoing basis. What's more, this data cannot be considered in a vacuum: It needs to be aligned with other corporate data in order to provide any kind of meaningful insight, he says.
"If you want to move beyond public relations and speeches, you need to measure the effects that your efforts are having in a repeatable fashion," Dittmar says. "It can't be made up information."
The report I've referenced provides an idea of the sorts of information you might be able to glean from existing analytics software. But I wanted to highlight what Deloitte references as the three first priorities for linking analytics software with your corporate sustainability -- it is beyond green IT -- initiatives.
- Automate reporting. The more you can integrate the analysis of this data -- as well as how it relates to other corporate metrics -- into regular information that is shared throughout the organization, the better. Make sure that the chief financial officer has insight into these numbers, and you could find a very valuable champion to help you fund software for even deeper insight.
- Find a way to link sustainability with operational performance. "A" is for accountability, and there is no reason why sustainability efforts shouldn't be subjected to the same scrutiny as another other initiatives. Data is an enormously powerful organizing tool.
- Get supply chains engaged. This, to me, is one of the most powerful competitive weapons that any company can have. Similarly, your supply chain could be the weak link in your green business strategy. Don't let your suppliers say they are too small or too under-resourced to think about sustainability. Give them the tools to help them make YOUR sustainability mission better than your competitors. The world of cloud application services should make this much easier.
The final thing I'd like to leave you with: Don't limit your thinking to "green" IT, think about how technology can play a larger strategic role in enabling sustainability programs and efforts across the company. Yes, I know it's not your problem, but it might just be your solution