Diet ads frequently promote that by taking smaller bites during meals, people will be more likely to slim down.  Well, businesses should listen to this advice too.  By taking smaller “bytes,” or using technology more efficiently, businesses can slim down their costs and impacts on the environment.  When used effectively, technology is also an excellent tool for companies to launch sustainability projects.  In the recent Software Advice article, Data Collection + Business Intelligence= Successful Sustainability Initiatives, ERP Analyst Michael Koploy describes how improving data collection systems and analytics operations will enhance companies’ sustainability initiatives.  In addition, companies with sustainability teams that are data-minded and accountable will be more successful.

BrownFlynn agrees with Koploy’s findings.  We believe that technology can be a valuable resource for companies to measure their environmental impacts and track their progress.  However, the data compiled by technology sources can only go so far.  Facts and figures have little significance until they are interpreted, analyzed, and organized.  The analysis process requires not only data, but also strategic thinking that technology cannot provide.  For strategic thinking to occur, business leaders must utilize the data to set goals, determine parameters, find connections, prioritize actions, and make decisions.  In a sustainability context, companies follow this strategic thinking pattern and are often able to report their results.  For example, SAP, the world’s third largest independent software manufacturer and a leader in enterprise applications, reviewed internal data to determine the best metric of employment progress to include in their sustainability report.  When given employment statistics, SAP decided to focus on their employee retention rate rather than their turnover rate.  The employee retention rate was a more representative metric of their employment goals; “not just managing measuring turnover, but actively managing the retention of talent.”  As demonstrated in SAP’s case, technology can provide data that help businesses make decisions, but it is just one element of the sustainable business process.

According to BrownFlynn’s definition of the sustainable business process, technology helps companies complete the Monitor step.  The complete process is outlined below:

  • Prepare….by creating a leadership team and brainstorming goals.
  • Connect….with stakeholders and determine where they think your company can improve its sustainability initiatives.
  • Define…. problem areas and how you will approach them.
  • Monitor….your impacts and your progress.
  • Report….your findings, goals, and progress to your stakeholders.

The diagram above demonstrates that each step in the sustainable business process can be ongoing and influenced by other steps that occur.

The strategy element of the process is where BrownFlynn serves as a resource, to help businesses utilize available information, create sustainability strategies, and communicate to stakeholders.  We recognize the value of technology in initiating this process.  Our support for technology as a sustainable business tool is demonstrated by our recent collaboration with SAP.  Together with SAP, BrownFlynn will be hosting Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) training sessions July 31-August 1 in Philadelphia, PA and September 25-26 in Palo Alto, CA.  The GRI-certified program provides attendees with a comprehensive overview of reporting their environmental, social and economic policies- a practice which often establishes or enhances a company’s sustainability strategy.  SAP will inform attendees about methods to efficiently collect and organize data, and BrownFlynn will review best practices in the GRI reporting process.  Click here for information about the GRI training sessions and how to register.

With effective use of technology and a well-developed strategy, businesses will see vast improvements in their sustainability efforts.  So, we, as businesspeople, should listen to diet ads and take smaller “bytes.”  As a result, we will slim down our costs and reduce our footprint.  Ultimately, we will be happy with our lower weight on the environmental impact scale.

 

By Brittany VanderBeek, Intern