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CFOs Seek Boldness and Shareholder Value in Sustainability

Posted By Don Bray, Thursday, May 17, 2012

As point person for finance and risk management, the Chief Financial Officer plays a critical role in advancing corporate sustainability. Much support for this theme came in the form of a lively and highly quotable CFO panel discussion at the Silicon Valley Leadership Group’s annual Sustainable Corporation conference, held on May 2nd.

For those requesting investment dollars to make a company’s products or operations more sustainable, visiting the CFO’s office can be about as much fun as a root canal. A CFO’s traditional focus on quarterly results and return on investment criteria makes ‘no’ a common answer for investment requests, especially those justified mainly on qualitative merits of sustainability. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Three Chief Financial Officers, Lauralee Martin of Jones Lang LaSalle, Mark Hawkins of Autodesk, and Chuck Boyton of SunPower shared their experience and advice on effective cases for corporate sustainability. The conversation was moderated by Gil Friend of Natural Logic.

The panelists each described how their respective companies are committed to sustainability. In so doing, they provided a view into the CFO’s motivations and contributions, and the importance of being strategic, shareholder value-driven, and numbers oriented. Among the conversation’s punchier points:

  • carbon is not how CFOs think
  • calling something a sustainability investment can result in problems from the start
  • economics versus the environment is a false choice
  • there’s a need for bold action, and the world won’t be saved with two-sided paper
  • there has to be numbers, and there has to be math
  • CFOs love to find real value, and push it out to investors

Lauralee Martin of JLL noted that "carbon is not how a CFO thinks”. Rather, cases for carbon reduction and improved sustainability must be equated with economic opportunity – meaning energy savings, cost/revenue dollars, brand, risk management and the like.

For instance, while their direct carbon footprint is small, JLL manages a huge real estate footprint on behalf of their clients. Through efficiency efforts, JLL has helped clients save $125M in energy costs, and reduce carbon footprints accordingly. Further, this cash savings amounts to an increase in client property values of $2 billion. This is an example of the need she sees for "doing something bold” for sustainability, and at the same time, producing the kind of "value a CFO loves to find and push out there to investors”.

At Autodesk, CFO Mark Hawkins stresses support for "numbers and math”. Efficiency efforts in the company’s data centers are demonstrating measurable energy savings of 60%, and a clear business case for investment.

At the same time, he notes that a far more leveraged opportunity for Autodesk is helping their customers "imagine, design, and create a better world” through use of new sustainability-related features in the company’s design software offerings. Along these lines, Autodesk is actively expanding its product capabilities related to energy efficiency in building design, and is engaging in new software partnerships with a rapidly expanding market of clean technology companies.

SunPower, a manufacturer and integrator of solar photovoltaic systems, is striving to "change the way the world is powered”. Sustainability is core to the company’s mission and business value, and as such, reputational risk is taken very seriously. CFO Chuck Boyton notes that it is hard to quantify such risk, but it’s important to frame these intangibles as "our reputation is a huge asset and must be protected accordingly”. Also, he sees reducing freight costs and improving supply chain efficiency having strong sustainably benefits and value to customers.

As a group, the CFO panelists agreed that sustainability is most compelling in terms of what makes, and keeps, a company valuable to its shareholders. While two-sided paper is a smart thing to do, CFOs are motivated by higher level needs, strategies and opportunities. They stressed that sustainability should not be treated as a check-the-box exercise.

For those seeking investment, it is important to get the dialog right, and focus on the potential for high-value impacts. In CFO terms, the panelists all agreed that saying ‘yes’ to sustainability-related initiatives becomes easy when it means setting new standards for products and operations, establishing new levels of performance, and growing markets.

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Advanced Software Powers Energy Efficiency on Corporate Campuses

Posted By Don Bray, Thursday, May 10, 2012

At the excellent ‘Retrofitting Corporate Campuses’ forum two weeks ago, which was hosted by the UC Davis Center for Energy Efficiency, practitioners described a wide range of new technologies delivering impressive savings in their facilities. Indeed this is a rich opportunity, as the US Department of Energy estimates 30 percent of the energy used in commercial buildings is lost to avoidable inefficiencies. Improving efficiency means tens of billions of dollars in potential energy savings for building owners and tenants.

Historically, despite the size of the opportunity, advanced information technology solutions for efficiency have been slow to materialize. This is likely due to hardware and software dependencies in traditional building management systems (BMS), cost issues, and organizational alignment challenges. More recently, however, rapid advances in the price/performance of IT coupled with cloud-based computing have given rise to a wide range of new software-based facility resource management (FRM) solutions.

Further, many of these solutions include adaptive monitoring and control systems that learn from operational experience, and provide for occupant needs with a high degree of precision and efficiency. Typically designed to augment standard BMS functionality, these solutions provide advanced capabilities such as HVAC and lighting optimization, continuous commissioning, predictive maintenance, integrated fault detection, diagnostics, and prioritized work order generation.

In practice, FRM solutions are showing excellent returns. George Denise, a senior executive at Cushman Wakefield, described Cushman’s joint work with client Adobe Systems. Adobe’s San Jose headquarters has three office towers, comprising two million square feet. In addition, Adobe occupies numerous smaller sites around the world. They have implemented IBIS, an enterprise energy management software product from Integrated Building Solutions, Inc., across 12 sites, including their San Jose location. IBIS capabilities include extensive energy analytics, real time monitoring, continuous commissioning, and automated work order generation. The IBIS installation has an ROI of 30%. Also, Adobe has implemented an advanced HVAC optimization and control solution from Optimum Energy, achieving a 49% ROI.

And Darrell Smith, Senior Operations and Facilities Manager at Microsoft, described a major information technology initiative targeting Microsoft’s 118 buildings located near their headquarters in Redmond, Washington. The location includes 15 million square feet of space and seven different BMS platforms, generating 500 million data points a day. Challenged with the energy management, maintenance, and reporting across this extended campus, Microsoft is piloting a new facility and energy management solution from ICONICS, Inc. The solution will provide new capabilities for ongoing automated commissioning, fault detection and diagnostics, and prioritization and monetization of alarms. Microsoft is targeting energy savings of 6-10%, and payback in less than 18 months.

In an example of the power of adaptive controls, a new system is being tested on the UC Davis campus to optimize outdoor lighting. Davis is physically the largest campus in the University of California system. Outdoor lighting of buildings, roads, parking lots and bike paths is a major cost. A pilot solution from Lumewave provides wireless network management of outdoor lighting, including control, sensing and metering, diagnostics, logging and reporting. It enables geo-located organization and control of lighting assets, and ‘over the air’ programming. Somewhat futuristically, the solution can even interpret motion sensor data to light the anticipated path of a cyclist on a bike path.

These examples highlight how new information technologies are converging with traditional facilities management functions. This trend is explored in detail in ‘Facilities Resource Management Solutions – Emerging IT Tools Reshape Building Energy Management’ a major report released this week by AltaTerra Research. The report describes the complex and rapidly-evolving market for FRM solutions. It features new capabilities for energy and resource management in facilities, and profiles 25 solution providers and products.

Tags:  Energy/Resource Efficiency 

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New Energy Efficiency Solutions, and Your Reputation

Posted By Administration, Thursday, May 10, 2012

A wide range of new IT-based solutions are emerging to improve energy efficiency and resource management in facilities. This trend appears to be strategic and well-timed. Cutting costs and improving operational efficiency are now companies’ top reason for addressing sustainability, bumping "Corporate Reputation” down to second place, according the recently-released 6th Annual McKinsey Global Survey.

There are a lot of savings to be had in commercial energy use. Commercial and industrial facilities account for nearly a third of US energy usage. Another third is transportation, and the remainder is residential and industrial. Remarkably, the DOE estimates that nearly 30% of commercial energy use is wasted through avoidable inefficiencies. Doing the math, this means approximately 10% of all US energy use is being wasted through inefficiencies in commercial facilities.


Yet to realize these savings, structural hurdles must be overcome. Disaggregated data, misaligned organizational incentives, heterogeneous and dated energy management infrastructure, and issues with business case credibility have been common issues, slowing energy efficiency investment.

The great news for facilities professionals is that a host of new IT-based solutions for Facilities Resource Management (FRM) solutions have emerged to address building energy efficiency in new and innovative ways. Over the last decade, information and control technologies have improved significantly, and it has become more cost effective to collect and analyze large amounts of operational data. These developments have led to the emergence of new application software, control systems, and IT-enabled devices, evolving Facility Resource Management (FRM) to a new level. Building upon the BMS, facilities professionals now have access to a range of add-on solutions for continuous commissioning, automated demand response, tenant engagement, and other advanced capabilities.

These solutions offer compelling business cases; most of them claim 20-30% savings on facility energy bills, right in line with the DOE’s predictions. Yet various FRM solutions are attacking the problem from different angles, to the point where it can be confusing for a customer to figure out just which approach is best for their situation. And of course there is some overlap, meaning that applying multiple FRM solutions may not have the cumulative effect you might hope.

In November, AltaTerra Research is releasing a landscape report on Facilities Resource Management Solutions: Emerging IT Reshapes Facility Energy Management. The report will define FRM capabilities and explore 25 different FRM solutions being offered by vendors today. Please join us this Wednesday, October 26 at 11:00 AM PT for a free preview of our FRM report.

Tags:  Energy/Resource Efficiency 

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The Volt vs. Sustainable Innovation: Are We There Yet?

Posted By Phil Metz, Wednesday, March 07, 2012

General Motors’ electric vehicle, the Chevy Volt, is much in the news lately – and not in the way GM had hoped. Excerpting from the March 6, 2012 Wall Street Journal article by Jonathan Welsh:

"Chevrolet’s announcement on Friday that it would halt Volt production from March 19 to April 23in a bid to cut excess inventory has generated speculation about the car’s future. Parent company General Motors said it is committed to the vehicle and its technology.”

"While the Volt may look like a shaky proposition today, the distant future could be brighter. As the cost of batteries and other technology decreases and moreplug-in and pure-electric models enter the market their prices will become more competitive. Consumers will also gradually become more familiar with the features and operation of electric cars. After a few years they may begin to seem normal.”

Beyond the specifics of the Chevy Volt case, is this announcement emblematic of the status of sustainable product development? Must sustainable product development and innovation reside in the "distant future”? Are companies pulling back? Is it an additional burden, or are companies able to transform sustainability into a benefit and new source of profit and competitive advantage?

Recently I have been serving as Vice President of Programs for the Product Development Management Association (PDMA) Special Interest Group (SIG) on Sustainable Innovation. PDMA is the premier global professional organization geared to improving the effectiveness of individuals and organizations in product development and management. In my role, I have been polling members for their inputs on topics of highest priority and to identify speakers who can address these issues for the SIG.


What have I learned? What topics are the folks who drive product development at major firms focused on? What do they want to learn more about? Based on my research to date, the evidence suggests that sustainable innovation is of very high importance to product development practitioners – especially in the areas of:

  • Emerging environmental product standards and establishing sustainable innovation guidelines (what constitutes a "green” product?)
  • Sustainable materials and supply chain
  • Building the business case for sustainable innovation internally and with customers
  • Sustainable packaging and distribution
  • Sustainable innovation for services
  • Sustainable innovation implementation, processes, and practices at major companies

Clearly these hands-on product developers are well past the "what if” and deep into the "how to” of sustainable product development – they are looking to unambiguously define "green products”, and find sustainable materials and suppliers. Clearly, too, these practitioners are scrutinizing sustainable product development much as they would assess any "extended product” ingredient for commercial impact: What’s the business benefit for the firm? How will this pay off for our customers? Our operations?

Also, product development practitioners want to know how to develop sustainable products more effectively, by understanding the practices and experiences of their peers at other major firms. PDMA plays an important role in this regard. There’s also a strong current of interest beyond the day-to-day of product development to more strategic and transformational questions: How do we leverage sustainable innovation for competitive advantage? How do we accomplish sustainable business model innovation?

In summary, sustainable product innovation is real. It’s a young field with many key "how to” questions. And clearly, product developers at major companies are focused not on the "distant future”, but on the "here and now”. They are treating sustainable innovation much as they would evaluate other new or emerging product development requirements – in terms of its potential value to customers, commercial benefits for their company, and impact throughout operations and supply chain.

Want to learn more? Please join us on April 5, 2012 for our web conference event, Uniting Product Development and Sustainability. Presenting in this independent online conference are Sue Burek, Manager of Research and Partnerships at Ingersoll Rand’s Center for Energy Efficiency & Sustainability (CEES), and Phil Metz, Senior Research Partner with AltaTerra Research, focused on Product Sustainability and Innovation. They will discuss how sustainable innovation is being systematically envisioned, organized and implemented in practice to deliver new/improved products and services.

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Sustainability: Turning Philosophy into Competency

Posted By Don Bray, Monday, February 06, 2012

At an executive briefing I recently attended, a panel of Fortune 500 CEOs was asked if their organizations aspired to leadership in sustainability. Polite laughter broke out, with comments like "would we really want to be up here advocating for the alternative?”

They went on to say aspiration is no longer the issue with sustainability– every business wants to be good at aligning economic interests with environmental and social concerns. The real questions are about focus and competency. They admitted being less clear on "what exactly does the organization need to do?”, and "how do we effectively get there?”

These questions are complicated, and with good reason. As an operating philosophy, sustainability has implications for an organization’s strategy, processes, roles, and technology infrastructure. Further, if affects all functions within an organization. Yet when done right, organizations are enhancing brand value and reputation, differentiating their products, managing risk, using resources more efficiently and saving money.

Figure 1: Top-Level Sustainability Competency Model


Over the past few years, major companies such as Intel, Whole Foods, Starbucks, and HP have been regularly identified as sustainability leaders in investment indices such as the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, and press rankings such as Newsweek’s Green Company Rankings. A common attribute shared by these organizations is that they are developing new competencies for sustainability across multiple business functions.

Our competency model above outlines the scope and dimensions of sustainability within an organization. Leaders are performing traditional functions in new ways, incorporating new strategies, competencies and technology related to sustainability. Goal setting, customer interaction, design and certification of products, energy sourcing, employee engagement, vendor management, corporate reporting, risk management, and facility energy efficiency are all examples of functions being transformed in the context of sustainability.

We see many specific examples of leadership in sustainability, coming from a wide variety of organizations and functions. In the coming months, we will be involving a number of these organizations in online briefings and case study reports, so their insights can be shared with a broader audience. Our goal is to get below the headline level, to explore economics and the detailed ‘how’ questions most useful to those considering similar efforts.

An outstanding leadership example in facilities resource efficiency is Adobe Systems. In 2011, for each of its three headquarters high rise towers in San Jose, California, Adobe earned an EPA Energy Star rating of 100. This puts them in the top 1% for energy efficiency among similar facilities. At an upcoming online conference in March, we will hear representatives from Adobe, Cushman-Wakefield, and the US EPA Energy Star program describe their extensive efficiency program, leading practices and metrics for building energy management, monitoring, and related incentive structures.

Another such example is IKEA, and their efforts in sourcing renewable energy. IKEA has become a leading commercial adopter, with on-site solar at 85 percent of their U.S. stores by the end of 2012. IKEA is one of a number of major organizations significantly scaling their solar deployments around the country, in response to falling solar prices and broadening a broadening of incentive programs. Later in March, we will hear from IKEA and others in an online conference focused on the details of how and why organizations are moving beyond experimentation with solar solutions to broad-scale deployment.

In summary, it is exciting to see how major corporations and institutions around the world are benefiting by embracing sustainability. Yet it is still early, and organizations are looking to learn and develop new competencies across a wide range of business functions. We remain focused on providing relevant market analyses, frameworks, and leading practice examples, to help organizations convert a philosophy of sustainability into new operating competencies.

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2011 Trends Taking Us Forward…

Posted By Don Bray and Eric Paul, Tuesday, December 20, 2011

As 2011 rapidly comes to a close, we take a quick a look back at some of the key developments of the past year – ones that will likely shape the market in major ways going forward.

Chinese Solar Panels Fuel Growth & Protectionism

While low-cost panels from China have fueled a rapidly growing U.S. solar market, they have also become a point of contention. In October, a handful of U.S. solar manufacturers led by SolarWorld formally accused Chinese companies of dumping panels in the U.S. market. This complaint could lead to tariffs being levied on Chinese-made panels. In turn, this could halt or reverse the trend of rapidly declining solar panel prices crucial in stimulating overall market growth. China has retaliated, launching an investigation of its own on U.S. solar subsidies and incentives. Both sides appear wary of starting an all-out trade war, but the result of the dumping allegation will certainly impact the U.S. market moving forward. If accepted, the trade allegations will lead to higher costs for new solar customers and impact market growth.

Electric Vehicles Enter the Mass Market

The Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf hit the U.S. markets this year to much fanfare. While sales of the Volt have been less than expected, the car has received a number one ranking in Consumer Reports Customer Satisfaction Survey. Electric vehicle sales volume is anticipated to increase significantly in 2012, and retail-oriented companies are already deploying strategies to allow customers to recharge while shopping. As part of the ECOtality program, leading organizations, such as Walmart, Walgreens, and IKEA, have begun deploying EV-charging stations across the US. Corporations are also installing EV-charging stations to allow employees to recharge at work and purchasing EV’s for employees use.

Renaissance in U.S. Domestic Fossil Fuel Production

The U.S. is undergoing a renaissance in domestic fossil fuel production, thanks to the use of hydraulic fracking. Fracking, now used in more than one-third of all natural gas wells, is expanding oil and natural gas production in the U.S. and putting downward pressure on prices. In 2010, natural gas production grew for the fifth year in a row, increasing by 4.4 percent compared to 2009—driven by improved horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracking technologies. Prices have dropped from the 5-year (2005-2009) Henry Hub price of $7.28 Mcf to $4.52 Mcf in 2010, as the supply of natural gas has increased. Dropping natural gas prices have created a more difficult environment for many renewable energy projects, which must compete against natural gas-fired power plants on price. Yet many see fracking as a potential environmental and public health concern. Last week, a report from the EPA indicated that fracking was "likely” responsible for contaminating nearby ground water in Pavillion, Wyoming. Despite these concerns, fracking appears here to stay and will continue to affect the market for renewables in the future.

The ‘Solyndra Flu’

In September, solar panel manufacturer Solyndra filed for bankruptcy two years after receiving a $528 Loan Guarantee from the DOE. The company’s failure, dubbed the ‘Solyndra Flu’, a term referenced by Cromwell Schubarth of the Silicon Valley Business Journal, has dulled enthusiasm for clean tech products in the marketplace, and made investors increasingly wary. Conservatives in Congress are openly questioning the loan guarantee program and President Obama’s entire clean technology agenda. This failure has increased the partisan divide around renewable energy. A recent poll by Pew Research found that support for increasing renewable energy funding remains positive at 68%, it has dropped markedly in the past year—fueled by a dramatic drop in Republican support. The effects of Solyndra’s failures may be temporary, but gaining political support for new renewable energy legislation has become a much more difficult prospect in the immediate future.

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New Hara CEO Sharpens Focus on Energy Management

Posted By Administration, Thursday, October 06, 2011

At Hara’s Executive Summit held on September 20th, new CEO Dan Leff described energy cost savings as a ‘here and now’ opportunity, a clear call to action for corporations and institutions. Yet to realize these savings, structural hurdles must be overcome. Disaggregated data, misaligned organizational incentives, heterogeneous energy management infrastructure, and issues with business case credibility have been common issues, slowing energy efficiency investment.

"This low hanging fruit has been hanging low for about 20 years” said Jim Sweeney, a Summit speaker, and Executive Director of Stanford University’s Precourt Energy Efficiency Center. "There seems to be an electric fence around that orchard – the question is, what is that electric fence?”

In this context, Hara introduced Mr. Leff, an energy industry veteran, and presented the company’s latest product development roadmap, outlining a number of new capabilities for energy management. While careful not to dismiss carbon management and sustainability, the clear direction going forward is to help customers save money on energy. Hara aims to provide better data, enterprise-level integration, and business support for efficiency investments in a way that is CFO-relevant.

Hara’s direction is consistent with other major players in this growing software market. Sustainability-related offerings from SAP, IBM, CA, Enablon, C3 and others are increasingly focused on helping customers drive measurable cost savings in energy use at an enterprise level. This was highlighted as a major trend in AltaTerra’s June 2011 industry landscape report titled ‘Enterprise Sustainability Management Solutions: Reference Architecture and Buyers Guide’.

Customers and experts presenting at the summit described energy costs ranging from 5-30% of operating profits, with a savings potential of up to 10% of operating profits. They also detailed the different ways that energy costs add up – directly on energy bills, and indirectly through freight and MRO (maintenance, repair, and operational costs).

Customers agreed that energy saving opportunities abound within most large organizations, and are very material to the bottom line. Not only that, many customers are demanding energy & GHG reduction programs at their suppliers. The challenge remains getting better visibility to energy use data, and establishing better enterprise-level disciplines for identifying and executing the highest-return efficiency improvements.

Hara provided a preview of new functionality currently under development – some of which will be released in the next 45 days, followed by additional releases in 2012. The outlines of three new modules included ‘Insight’, which will report enterprise-level energy performance, and analyze energy investment broadly in terms of a percentage of the organization’s operating profit. The new ‘Modeling, Forecasting and Budgeting’ module allows organizations to model best and worst-case enterprise-level energy cost scenarios, based on a range of internal and use and pricing variables. And a new module for ‘Efficiency Planning and Optimization’ supports top-down target setting for energy efficiency and cost savings objectives, enforcement of ROI calculation disciplines, and advanced project portfolio analysis.

We will continue to actively track Hara’s progress in development of this important new functionality, and in a larger context, highlight customer experience with deploying energy management capabilities.

Learn more about Hara, C3, and other sustainability management vendors in AltaTerra’s latest report "Enterprise Sustainability Management Solutions: Reference Architecture and Buyer’s Guide.”



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Lessons from the Field in Engaging Employees in Sustainability

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, August 03, 2011
Employee Motivations for Sustainability Behavior Change

Last week, we had the opportunity to discuss how companies are engaging employees in sustainability with two leading sustainability executives, Suzanne Fallender from Intel Corporation and Leilani Latimer from Sabre Holdings. The briefing was able to shed light on many of the complexities that managers face to effectively engage a diverse set of employees in a company’s sustainability efforts.

A major concern is how to appeal to a diverse group of employees. Companies must not treat employees as one unified group, but instead segment them based on how they like to be engaged and what matters to them and to create engagement programs accordingly. Some employees will be actively involved in every meeting, others will only look at group emails, and some may chose to only show up at events every once in a while.

Suzanne and Leilani listen to their employee base and develop engagement initiatives that meet their needs and are aligned with company goals. At Intel, Suzanne helps the company’s diverse functional groups determine the best way to integrate sustainability into their jobs and contribute to company goals. For example, with the IT group, they decided to implement more appropriate computer refresh times and reduce employee travel by using IT technology. At Sabre Holdings, Leilani has found that their original approach of using employee engagement software comprised of personal sustainability actions was not the best fit for employees. Instead, employees wanted to have workplace sustainability actions that they could implement on the job to help reach corporate goals. Because of this finding Leilani worked with AngelPoints to tailor the software library of sustainability actions available to include more workplace items such as reducing paper use and improving energy efficiency in offices.

Intel and Sabre Holdings not only tailor their employee education and engagement programs in a way that is most fitting for different types of employees, but also employee incentive structures. At Intel, they found that employees are motivated by their variable performance bonus so the company decided to link bonus pay with sustainability goals by adding environmental metrics into the company’s operational goals. One successful way Sabre Holdings motivates employees is through competitions, which include small monetary awards that the winning team can donate to environmental NGO of choice.

The right incentive structures for employees will vary from company to company, depending on geography, cultural norms, socio-economics, functional roles, team and individual personalities, etc. Figure 1 is a visual depiction of the different motivations that we’ve seen propel employees to be engaged and change their behavior with regards to sustainability. The salary/bonus slice is typically the common denominator among employees to be motivated to act. A combination of extrinsic motivations (e.g. salary/bonus, competitions, recognition, etc.) and intrinsic motivations (e.g. inherent sustainability interest, growth opportunities, etc.) may be useful to implement in order to address multiple types of employee motivations.

We have learned from Intel’s and Sabre Holding’s experiences and our own research what comprises an employee engagement program around sustainability including how it should be unique for different employee groups and how employee sentiment needs to be gauged on an on-going basis. What should be tailored within an engagement program includes the communications, incentives, goals and actions implemented, etc. because of differing employee characteristics within an organization.

To learn more about this topic visit AltaTerra’s on-demand recording at https://altaterra.site-ym.com/store/view_product.asp?id=821340.

To learn more about engaging employees in sustainability you can participate in our other upcoming web conferences on this topic including:

You can register for the event series at www.altaterra.net/event/employee_sustainability.

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Green Mission, Green Rewards

Posted By Administration, Monday, July 11, 2011

Among sustainability professionals, a question we frequently hear is how to better engage ‘rank and file’ employees. Akin to the proverbial herding of cats, this is no easy task.

Organizations have come to understand that reaching ambitious sustainability goals and leadership status in the marketplace requires mass action. Also, it’s recognized that engaged employees, in general, are happier, more productive in their jobs, bring more innovative ideas, stay with the organization longer, are sick less, etc.

Along these lines, making real progress requires new capabilities for:

  • Educating employees on sustainability
  • Institutionalizing sustainability across company operations
  • Creating performance incentive structures that motivate employees to act in alignment with sustainability goals

At AltaTerra, we are developing an online conference series, "Leading Employee Practices for Sustainability,” that showcases cutting edge practices, policies, and tools that industry leaders are currently using to engage employees in sustainability.

For example, in the corporate policy arena, we have a speaker from Intel describe how and why sustainability performance incentives were integrated into the company’s employee bonus program. In the corporate practices area we will feature a web conference on green benefits packages including a speaker from Beneplace. In addition, we will highlight multiple examples of IT tools that are used for employee engagement at large, to operationalize green team or employee initiatives, and to display current resource use data.

An interesting element of employee education and engagement is the use of resources such as software applications or websites. Many sustainability leaders first use their corporate intranet as a tool for company-wide education. Some intranets also have the ability to collect employee ideas and feedback.

More progressive companies are using social media to engage employees and often customers using such tools as Just Means, Facebook, Twitter, and dedicated websites. Companies are also beginning to use software programs such as those from AngelPoints, CloudApps, GreenNurture, and Tripos Software, and others for overall employee engagement. For more information on the IT tools used in employee engagement please stay tuned for the AltaTerra research report that will be released along with the web conference series.

The first online conference titled, "Leading Employee Practices for Sustainability: Performance Incentives & Alignment”, will take place Thursday, July 28th from 11am to 12:30pm Pacific Time. To register for the event or the event recording visit: http://www.altaterra.net/events/event_details.asp?id=168800

The remaining events in the series will take place August 18th and in early September. Stay tuned for more details!

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Sustainability management creating new IT paradigm

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Organizations around the world are elevating resource efficiency and sustainability from a tactical to a strategic concern, and they are moving aggressively to improve environmental performance in facilities, processes and products.

For many, this has meant new information management challenges, related to energy and water use, solid waste, toxic materials, carbon emissions, and other factors.

Often, sustainability management requires new types of information not previously tracked—e.g. details of energy and water use, product environmental attribute data, and GHG emissions. Furthermore, for IT, sustainability represents an expanded organizational paradigm, requiring approaches that span traditional boundaries between enterprise systems and facilities systems, design systems, suppliers, and customers.

In the rapidly growing market for Enterprise Sustainability Management (ESM) software and services, there is no "one size fits all” solution. Establishing an effective information architecture means taking a comprehensive view of sustainability, and putting in place capabilities that serve the organization’s highest-value needs.

In our new research report "Enterprise Sustainability Management Solutions” we present a clear, six-level reference architecture defining and classifying essential capabilities for sustainability management—from the enterprise level down to the device level. We profile and analyze offerings from nineteen key ESM solution providers, relative tonineteen specific capabilities described in the top three levels of the reference architecture. Example key findings include:

  • Over the past few years, sustainability thinking has shifted away from a carbon focus to a concern with general sustainability and energy savings, notably in the US market.
  • For many organizations, a combination of powerful market forces has elevated sustainability to a strategic level, with immediate implications for operations, products, and brand value.
  • Leadership in sustainability requires organizations to adopt a broad range of new processes, practices and information management capabilities.
  • Sustainability requires new types of information not historically tracked in many organizations – e.g. details of energy usage, water use, product environmental attribute data, GHG emissions.

Leading providers are identified in four distinct market segments. In conclusion, we present recommendations for how organizations can establish effective enterprise architectures for sustainability.

Enterprise Sustainability Management Solutions: Reference Architecture & Buyer’s Guide report is now on sale! Click here for more information and to purchase the report.  

A free summary of the report is available here.  

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