Notes on Corporate Sustainability Conference
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by Aran Rice on 09/01/2011
Conference notes from Agrion's Corporate Sustainability: Tracking Tools for Measuring and Management Conference held in Palo Alto.
Representatives of several Fortune 1000 companies and a number of sustainability consulting organizations gathered in Palo Alto, CA last week to discuss the fast-emerging demand for solutions that allow corporations to track their environmental impact. Titled “Corporate Sustainability: Tracking Tools for Measuring and Management,” and hosted by Agrion, the conference gave attendees the opportunity to discuss obstacles, opportunities and best practices that have come out of their work to build more sustainable organizations.
Much of the discussion centered around the need for software programs that are both user friendly enough to be managed by many different people within a single organization but also sophisticated enough to produce data that can be used to inform complex business decisions. Rupesh Shah, Director of Corporate Sustainability at Intuit, said that his company purchased a software solution once he realized that using spreadsheets to manage usage data and emissions reporting was unmanageable for a company Intuit’s size.
Other suggestions include:
- Using facility data from energy or water management platforms to identify potential “hot spots” or operational issues by looking for outlier performance.
- The need to set achievable short-term sustainability goals that produce valuable “wins” for the team as well as ambitious long-term goals that will generate significant efficiencies in resource consumption such as energy and water usage. In short, improved performance that leads to financial savings across the organization.
- The importance of creating feedback programs within organizations to empower employees to find ways to make the company work more efficiently and then rewarding the best ideas.
- The value of a robust and recognizable sustainability recruiting program. Particularly in competitive talent pools such as Silicon Valley, a high ranking badge of sustainability from Newsweek’s “Greenest Companies in America”, for example, can make the difference in attracting top notch talent.
- For most retailers, their own supply chain represents the vast majority of their environmental impact. Kristin Block, Energy Manager at Petco, noted that once her company had made significant improvements to its own energy and water usage, as well as its waste production, the next logical step would be a a supply chain sustainability initiative.
All in all, it was a great conference and it was impressive to see the evolution of corporate sustainability at these organizations. As corporate sustainability matures, we will likely see a greater adoption of enterprise accounting software as well as more robust programs at companies both large and small.
Aran Rice is Vice President of Sales for Renewable Choice.