Sun encourages companies to fess up, publicly, about their greenhouse emissions

Say you’re a business owner. You’ve been converted by the green gospel, and you’re willing to do your part to reduce greenhouse emissions.

Say you’re a business owner. You’ve been converted by the green gospel, and you’re willing to do your part to reduce greenhouse emissions. But how do you get started? What, in fact, is a reasonable rate of reduction in emissions? What are other companies your size doing?

The eco-team over at Sun Microsystems believe that part of the reason that more companies, especially smaller ones, haven’t taken action to get greener before now is that they’ve been paralyzed by the lack of data about how bad things really are, of knowing how much they really can do as an individual organization. Thus the genesis of the company’s latest eco-initiative, the OpenEco.org community Web site, which was launched this week in New York City as part of the Carbon Disclosure Project event.

As the name implies, the OpenEco.org site is intended to provide an open environment for companies to share information about the greenhouse emissions associated with their corporate real estate.

The site provides a calculator where a business can plug in information about their usage of various utilities, including electricity, gas and so forth, to get a better sense of the carbon dioxide emissions associated with their buildings. You can be anonymous if you want, Sun choose to publicly disclose its data. I'll be watching to see how quickly the likes of Google, IBM, Intel and Microsoft do the same. The bottom line is that you need to share the data to look at the aggregate information.

Right now, the system adjusts for regional factors across the United States. In the future, the backers will be adding support for other countries, plus ways of tracking emissions associated with corporate fleets as well as offsets from renewable energy sources. It doesn’t cost anything to join the site, but you DO need to share your data, so that other companies can use it as a gauge for their own consumption habits. The more companies that enter their data, the more information an individual company can get about how their own habits compare to the average. So, like most good community sites, OpenEco.org becomes more valuable to the community as more people join the community.

Here’s a YouTube video that also walks you through the site’s mission.

Joining Sun in the OpenEco.org launch are Ceres, which includes investors and environmental advocacy groups, and Natural Logic, a green tech consulting company that helped set up the site.

This is one of those watch-and-see things. I'll make a note to check up on who's in (and who's not) in the coming weeks. The real test, of course, will be what companies actually do with this information to alter their footprint. Building and data center retrofits, like the one undertaken by Sun earlier this year, are a costly proposition. So, while companies might have more information about their greenhouse emissions contribution, it will take more dramatic programs to actually prompt many of them into action.

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