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October 2, 2009

Call for big business carbon management software

Emissions reduction initiatives needs application support

By CBR Staff Writer

Businesses are in danger of being caught out if they rely on spreadsheets and generic business software to manage the data needed to comply with the new carbon reduction legislation coming into force next year.

That’s the view of a leading independent consultant who has flagged that large UK companies will need dedicated carbon emissions management software and should start now with their assessment and adoption of such applications.

In focus groups of executives responsible for their organisations’ carbon reduction or CSR (corporate social responsibility) initiatives, Verdantix has found as many as 63% are using programmes like XL to manage the carbon data they are collating. “It can’t scale, it’s not auditable and there are issues of version control,” said David Metcalfe, a director of the consultancy.

He advised that IT departments have an opportunity to take a strategic lead by assessing the market for carbon emissions management software so as to be able to recommend to the business a solution that will support the long term commitments needed for carbon reduction.

“IT should really work to understand the software that is available and recommend which is the best fit for their organisation,” he said. Many are being delivered as on-demand SaaS options, and without proper planning by the IT department an organisation could run into problems of data integration later on.

A carbon reduction programme can extend from the very top of an organisation, all the way down to the asset level of air conditioning units, data centre servers and power generators. Ultimately, there will be a call to integrate carbon data with information held in enterprise systems such as SAP or Peoplesoft, he cautioned.

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It will call for the involvement of IT and IT management should take the lead and prepare for these issues now, he suggested.

The UK Carbon Reduction Commitment is new legislation that will target the non-energy intensive sectors, and requiring thousands of public and private-sector organisations to monitor and publicly report their carbon data. 

“It will apply to any company or public body organisation with an energy bill in excess of £500,000 a year,” Metcalfe explained. There are 5,000 such entities that will be monitored by the Carbon Trust, with company data displayed in a league table of high achievers and under performers.

The ranking will partly be based on the availability of some early-action metrics and the collection of three years worth of carbon data. Apparently only 200 or so of the 5,000 organisations have so far qualified on that basis.

Carbon emissions software should help organisations improve their carbon management processes through the aggregation, accounting, analysis and reporting of energy and carbon dioxide emissions data.

Some companies already have ambitious climate change strategies, with Cisco saying publicly that it intends to cut carbon emissions by 25% between 2008 and 2012, and the supermarket chain of Tesco is working towards the design of its Ecostore which will be 50% more energy efficient that today’s retail unit.

Suppliers are coming at the carbon emissions segment from very different market positions and the different packages have their roots in business intelligence, environmental compliance and data management. The latest entrant into the field is CA Inc with its ecoSoftware product (see separate story).

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