New Survey Shows Need for More Robust Environmental Management Systems

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Businesses in every industry are acknowledging the strategic importance of sustainability initiatives. But without a way to gather, track, and compare data across business units, industries, and locations, it’s hard for them to tell how they’re really doing when it comes to greening their supply chains and operations. A recent survey commissioned by software provider IFS demonstrates the need for green metrics and enterprise software systems to support such environmental data.

The study, conducted in the U.S., Scandinavia, and Benelux, showed that more then  80% of respondents want to track their environmental footprint. But almost half of the U.S. companies reported that they didn’t have enterprise software systems to track this data, and 42% said that the existing systems were too limited to truly capture environmental impacts.
Existing Standards

There are currently over 300 environmental standards and certification for products and services in the US alone. Some of these are government labels (i.e. EnergyStar, USDA Organic, and WaterSense), while others are monitored by NGOs (Forest Stewardship Council or Marine Stewardship Council), industry groups, or third-party certification bodies like Underwriters Laboratory (UL).  Walmart, Best Buy and many of their major suppliers have formed a Sustainability Consortium to establish metrics and the systems to track them.

Companies are facing regulatory and consumer pressures to track and provide this data. This plethora of different certifications and standards is causing confusion for customers and businesses alike. It remains to be seen if one of these platforms will become widely adopted, or if government intervention is needed to establish such metrics.

Existing Systems

Setting up software systems to track environmental footprints can be complex. Different factors may be more important in certain industries or locations, and data analysis is difficult since most standards aren’t yet widely established. Companies like SureHarvest are making inroads in setting up tracking systems for sustainable agriculture, while SAP recently announced a new carbon tracking system applicable to a variety of manufacturing and service industries. Hara, IFS, and Australia’s Supply Chain Consulting also offer software packages to track environmental information.

Shivani is Principal at Friday Consulting, where she works with food and technology startups on strategy, finance, and business planning. She is also a founding consultant at AchieveMission. Shivani holds a BA from Stanford University, and an MBA from Presidio Graduate School. Follow her on twitter @shivaniganguly.