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Businesses going green with IT

In today’s ever changing world, there is an increased amount of pressure to become more environmentally conscious in they we live go about our daily lives. Some examples of environmental impacts on individuals may include trash recycling, choosing eco-friendly consumer products, vehicle purchase, as well as basic house hold energy management. We could also apply this to an industry service. Businesses in the architectural / engineering world perform construction services in the form of site development. Companies in this industry are designing and making decisions on behalf of their client based on the latest regulations to ensure all the environmental requirements are met while striving for sustainability.Sustainability’s advancement in society has reached a new level for business organizations. Companies are not only providing services externally that need to comply with environmental regulations. They are also assessing their own internal corporate operations and its environmental impact. Madden’s (December 2009) article on sustainability software brings attention to the emerging “green” software market and how companies are looking to apply this technology both internally and externally to comply with the challenging environmental laws while increasing its corporate image and profitability.

Software vendors are now developing applications for businesses to track “greenhouse” gas emissions (GHG), water and other energy usages, paper waste, and improved materials for services among some of the examples. One of the leading software applications in this group is called carbon emissions accounting or Enterprise Carbon Accounting (ECA). ECA software enables a company to perform analysis and reporting of its GHG emissions. According to AMR Research in Madden’s (2009) article, the carbon auditing software market has reached $3.6 billion and could see levels as high as $9 billion within the next couple of years. The validity of the market share has grown since being joined by large vendors such as Computer Associates, Microsoft, and recently merged SAP/Clear Standards.

California based company, Enviance, is rated as one of the market leaders in this emerging industry. Their environmental enterprise resource planning (ERP) services include web based and on premise automation of tracking and reporting of health and safety, greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental factors. Their mobile platform involves personal digital assistants (PDAs) and tablet PCs for reducing the amount of paper used in meter reading, inspections for hazardous materials and environmental discharges, and auditing. Data is entered on site through the PDAs and uploaded directly to the incorporated environmental ERP system, which yields a seamless flow of information in real-time throughout all levels of an organization.

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software functionality is better known for its sales, production, planning and financial data management that allows the business process to be viewed throughout an organization. It executes its objective typically through a suite of software modules integrated for the business process. One of the challenges sustainability software faces both before and after implementation is whether it’s verifiable. In Madden’s (2009) sustainability software editorial, referring to environmental ERP implementation, Larry Goldenhersh (CEO of Enviance) conveys the detail that accounting for carbon data is not equivalent to financial data on a balance sheet.

Regulatory environmental laws can be very complicated. Mr. Goldenhersh states, “Customers (companies) need to trust that the solutions they have in place will be defensible on many levels – regulatory and reputational” (as cited in Madden, December 2009). In contrast to business professionals’ contribution to (ERP) software development, Mr. Goldenhersh goes on to explain that if sustainability applications are to have any credibility, they will need to be developed with environmental experts in hard sciences such as physics and chemistry as examples. We can also add professionals in other areas such as architectural and engineering with environmental accreditations.

Green software users are employed in other sectors within an organization besides executive and management. At the design and production levels, employees can use the applicable data to create improvements for their own facilities management operations or for outside design services. Using the construction trade example mentioned earlier as it relates to the content, Madden’s (2009) article explains how CADD (computer aided design and drafting) software vendor Autodesk is providing solutions to their clients enabling them to meet “green” initiatives.

Autodesk has been developing green tools built into their software as well as providing an online web based environmental service. One example of a built-in tool added in their desktop software Inventor is the Sustainable Materials Assistant (SMA), which is applied in manufacturing and process engineering. The SMA application used in digital prototyping focuses on providing feedback for intelligent material selection in the design process with respect to environmental compliance.

Their internet based solution is known as the Green Building Studio. This web service uses the Ecotect platform software to enable architects and engineers to perform a building analysis, generating a design that is more energy efficient and account for the overall carbon footprint in the end product (a building system). The information technology applied in this green software service incorporates many factors in this trade including carbon emissions reporting, water usage, amount of daylight, site positioning, and even a detailed weather analysis among several of the examples. Using Enviance CEO’s comments on green software creditability as a parallel reference, the Green Building Studio web service was evaluated under ANSI/ASHRAE standards for this genre of computer analysis and is certified by the U.S. Department of Energy, (according to the Autodesk website) making the service verifiable.

According to the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), information technology was predicted to create the “paperless” office but has yet to deliver. Analysts report that companies are still using far more paper than originally predicted for business operations today (stated in Madden, 2009). The consumption of paper contributes to the impacts paper mills and logging have on the environment. Hewlett-Packard one of the leading suppliers of office equipment and supplies has strategically partnered with Capella Technologies to provide an Intelligent Print Management (IPM) software solution. The on demand printing solution allows the company to monitor and track documents and to ensure they are printed on the correct devices thus reducing costs and allow companies to become more eco-friendly.

Another example of reducing paper consumption through the use of information technology in Madden’s (2009) article is the Quik suite product. Efficient Technologies markets this software to automate forms and incorporate the use of digital signature technology for e-signing. The goal is to have companies fully embrace this technology to reduce its paper consumption by half or greater.

There will always be a debate regarding the validity and magnitude in regards to sustainability and other environmental agendas. Madden’s (2009) two part editorial suggests these issues are having an impact on information technology and the way organizations are applying them. With the ever increasing environmental regulations and public awareness, companies are becoming more sensitive to their corporate image with the consumer as well as with potential clients. Businesses are utilizing “green” software technologies enterprise wide in their internal operations as much as they are in their commercial trades to strategically position their public profile while they increase profits and reduce operating costs.

References

Madden, Ned. (2009, December 1). Sustainability Software, Part 1: It’s Easy Being

Green. TechNewsWorld. Retrieved from: http://www.technewsworld.com.

Madden, Ned. (2009, December 8). Sustainability Software, Part 2: Cutting the Paper

Chase. TechNewsWorld. Retrieved from: http://www.technewsworld.com.

Enviance®. http://www.enviance.com.

Autodesk®. http://usa.autodesk.com



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