August 2nd, 2012
Guest blog by Michael Koploy, ERP Analyst at Software Advice (website). Michael writes on various ERP topics, with particular interest in supply chain management and retail industries. Click here to read the original article.
In today’s business climate, how important is sustainability to worldwide corporations? According to a survey in the MIT Sloan management review, very.
Of those surveyed, two out of three said they believed that sustainability was necessary to being competitive today. Another 70 percent said the sustainability has become a permanent goal on the agenda. But if companies are to enact initiatives that impact the Triple Bottom Line (TBL) of people, planet and profit, they must ensure that initiatives have quantifiable, measurable goals.
I believe Green Research’s David Schatsky explains why this is important in his July 2011 post in Environmental Leader:
“Aggressive goals are more powerful than modest goals. Public goals have greater impact than internal goals. Quantitative goals are more credible than non-quantitative goals. And goals for the future send a signal that goals described in retrospect do not.”
Doing this is easier said than done. However, I think that corporations can follow three overarching steps to improve their sustainability initiatives:
1. Automate and improve data collection to get a better picture of corporate sustainability
The first step for many organizations is to gain a better understanding of their sustainability efforts and how efficiently individual groups within the organization are operating. The activities of every manufacturing plant, call center, sales headquarters and office building must be integrated into a centralized database to gain a true understanding of the overall business’ output. Automating data collection with enterprise applications reduces human error and the workload necessary to assimilate the necessary data.
2. Use analytics applications to find trends and make informed decisions
Data holds little intrinsic value if it cannot be analyzed. Organizations should deploy Business Intelligence (BI) applications to mine the value in these databases. These systems are vital to finding trends, weaknesses and solutions to an organization’s “sustainability leaks.” In addition, these tools are pivotal to organizing data and presenting it to executive leadership that needs information as quickly as possible in a digestible medium.
3. Develop sustainability teams that are data-minded and accountable for business decisions
Finally, sustainability teams must be built around quantitative, data-minded individuals. This means that organization will have to re-evaluate how sustainability is tasked throughout the organization–will the fiscally-responsible financial teams take on sustainability? Or will those experienced in data analysis have to slide over to sustainability-specific groups? Whatever organizations decide, the end result will be sustainability teams that are more accountable, businesses that are more accountable and a better use of our world’s limited resources.
How have you seen sustainability positively impacted by improved collection, measurement and analysis? Has your organization seen improved output from your sustainability initiatives through the use of BI tools? Please share your experiences below.