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Opinion

Governing the greening process
Simon Perry By: Simon Perry, Principal Associate Analyst - Sustainability, Quocirca (Moved)
Published: 20th May 2009
Copyright Quocirca © 2009
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You can expect to hear it said that “green is a process, not an outcome” more and more often in the coming years. However, being mindful that the same is also said often of information security, we can also perhaps predict that such a statement will prove to be ignored as much as it is true. More optimistically, those organisations that choose not to ignore it and instead correctly manage the state of continual change and improvement that is associated with treating “green” as a “process” will need to take a very structured and organised approach. This needs to be one that enables them to effectively govern the full breadth of related activity, measure performance indicators, and report with detail and clarity to stakeholders.

Whether the market wants to label such governance “green”, “eco”, or “sustainable” remains to be seen. Nevertheless such a governance led approach will be required if businesses are to successfully navigate between the desires to generate revenue and profit and the desire to tread lightly en route. Along the way a continual set of data points from a wide range of sources will be required to support the decision making required to achieve a suitable balance.

For a start, there will be voluminous data that is mostly numerical in form, relatively simple in itself but highly complex to understand in its entirety and full context. Such data comes from existing financial governance processes, performance data related to emissions of GHG and other pollutants, and measuring the consumption of various other resources, including not just those in short supply, but also those like Tantalum that are coming under increasing scrutiny due to human rights issues. Such information must be collected in an auditable fashion and made available for a wide variety of both internal planning and external reporting purposes. Note that the requirement for auditability infers issues such as a requirement for data quality, a controlled chain of communication, an audit trail, forensic capabilities and a need for confidentiality. The subject of measurement and reporting of such data is a topic unto itself, however suffice for the purpose of this discussion to say that such activities are the headlights, the mirrors and the traffic camera of any green process and will play a significant role in allowing companies to govern their efforts successfully.

Meanwhile, any medium to large business actively progressing a strategy to meet its commitments under the UK’s CRC requirements (or similar) will likely find itself with numerous ongoing projects and initiatives, each related to some aspect of measurement or change. Each of these needs to be individually managed well as a project, with all that entails, while performance scorecards are made available “upward” so as to give a broad perspective of progress.

There may also be relatively seismic shifts in how a company operates, such as changing production supply chain capabilities and operations, or entering or exiting a particular market, all due to attempts to find a winning position in a “greening economy”. Any such seismic shifts will inherently involve further reorganisations in how a business operates and those activities too will need project level management. For example, a company may make supplier changes involving altered locations for various manufacturing stages, there may be changes to the materials or manufacturing methods themselves, and there may also be packaging and delivery method changes between supply chain stages. More simply (or perhaps not) a company may seek to radically reduce staff travel, resulting in required changes to daily working models and overall ways of working that have enormous implications to everything from health and safety to IT infrastructure design and operations to how relationships between a vendor and a customer are managed.

Lastly, businesses will also need to inculcate into their staff a culture a behaviour that makes consideration of sustainability inherent in every decision. Not dissimilar to how employees are asked to consider ethical behaviour, non-discriminatory behaviour, information security awareness, and an overall winning and professional approach in everything they do. Building and supporting a culture of sustainability involves getting everyone to understand all the issues, to understand the importance placed strategically by the executive team on such issues, to understand the general direction the business wishes to take, and to get in the habit of considering the ecological outcome of any decision.

Such a wide ranging set of requirements for performance measurement and analysis, supporting informed decision making, along with the need to deal with regulatory reporting requirements and a desire to introduce cultural change will almost certainly lead to the increasing adoption of structured approach to green governance. That in turn begs to be supported by IT-enabled automation by way of process management software platforms that ease the burden of information gathering and regulatory reporting, while fostering communication, planning and activity management.

As some of the dust clears from the 2007/8 “green IT” field, those governance process management platform vendors that can see beyond early green wash will be well poised to bring new products to market to meet this nascent requirement. What will follow will be a round of cosying-up in the marketplace between service providers like the SIs, which have or are developing change methodologies associated with a shift to sustainable thinking, and the software platform vendors which bring governance management product to market. Meanwhile, businesses will do well to place the leadership for sustainability initiatives at a high enough level to ensure that they are given sufficient strategic support, and also adequate executive and board level governance oversight.

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