7 Considerations When Shopping for Carbon Accounting Software
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by Brian Sloss on 08/19/2011
Learn about how to define your requirements and do your research when shopping for a carbon accounting solution.
The market for carbon management systems is growing at an extraordinary rate. Pike Research recently published a report claiming an 84% growth in the market between 2009 and 2010, with an expectation that the market will reach $5.7 billion by 2017.
The demand for enterprise carbon accounting is coming from three distinct areas:
- Pressure from consumers who want to give their dollars to the “greener” company
- A genuine desire from businesses to reduce their impact on the environment
- Mandates from powerful buyers in the retail, automotive and telecommunications industries who are prodding vendors in the supply chain to measure the carbon emissions of their goods before they land on the shelf.
Though it is an emerging market, the playing field offers several choices of vendors and a variety of offerings for enterprise carbon accounting. Users no longer want to wade through spreadsheets and are demanding a simple, scalable and automated solution. Conversions and calculations need to be easy to perform, compliant with international protocols and scalable for a complex global operation.
While researching solutions, consider these important questions:
Q) Why do you need a carbon management solution?
A) There are many different drivers for investing in carbon management solutions. Generally speaking, organizations fall into two buckets: Environmental leadership or compliance – proactive or reactive. Depending on which bucket you fall into, you may have different requirement for reporting your environmental metrics. Understand why you are measuring your footprint and what you are going to do with your results.
Q) How will a carbon management system fit in with your organization?
A) Each organization is unique. The data that is required for carbon accounting usually lives in a variety of places, from facility managers to accountants and human resources. If you can map out where the data is located and who will be required to aggregate it, you will be able to ask your software vendor much more insightful questions. What is the pricing structure? Do you charge per seat or is it based on the size and complexity of my organization?
Q) What are your IT requirements?
A) Work closely with your IT department as you are evaluating solutions. Depending on your current systems and securities that are already in place, some software packages may not be compatible. More and more carbon management systems are moving to web applications, which can get around a lot of the pushback that you may get from IT (because nothing is downloaded onto the company system).
Q: Who will be using the software?
A) Some systems are designed to only be used by engineers or facilities managers, others are designed for non-technical employees. A computer science degree should not be a requirement for using software – it should be able to be used by techies and non-techies alike.
Before final selection, ask your software vendor these important questions:
Q) Is the software easy to use?
A) Technology is meant to reduce your burden and make you more efficient at your job. Simply put, the solution that you choose should be easy to use. Is it intuitive, easy to set up and scalable? Do you have to pay the vendor extra just to implement the software within your current systems?
Can you imagine your staff using the software on a regular basis and into the foreseeable future?
Q) Does the software follow the protocols required for your reporting purposes?
A) If you will be reporting to a specific program or reporting authority, make sure that the software you use will enable you to be compliant with the requirements. Generally speaking, the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, published by the World Resource Institute and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. is comprehensive and will address your needs.
Q) How do you get your information out of the system?
A) The software that you choose should not be a black box --the whole point is to be able to do something with the information. Most software solutions provide some sort of output report. It is important to know what the reporting capabilities are. What are you going to be using the output reports for? Are the reports broken down into a usable format? Are the reports transparent? Could they be audited/verified?
Purchasing a carbon accounting solution is an important decision. Define your requirements, do your research and ask tough questions when vetting vendors. The software that you choose can make all the difference as you move forward towards to your sustainability goals.
Brian Sloss is Sustainability Analyst for Renewable Choice.