Tuesday, 25 January 2011

The positive impact of mandatory carbon reporting – ICT has a role to play

Pressure is mounting on the UK government to enact mandatory greenhouse gas emissions reporting.

The UK Climate Change Act requires the government to introduce mandatory business reporting of GHG emissions by April 6, 2012 or explain to Parliament why not. The coalition government has given no firm commitment to comply, so last week 150 companies and NGOs wrote to Caroline Spelman, Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, supporting mandatory carbon reporting.

Signatories included AstraZeneca, BAA, Capgemini, CA, Centrica, Guardian Media Group, National Grid, Nestle,  The Co-operative and many more (including The Green IT Report).

Interestingly, later in the week a report into sustainability reporting was published that throws some light on the impact. It was commissioned by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and conducted by KPMG, SustainAbility and Futerra Sustainability Communications. It’s a survey of 5,000 reporters and readers – the full report is here.

The Executive Summary includes the following point:

‘The purpose of reporting is performance. Reporting is driving performance worldwide. Both Readers and Reporters listed their top two reporting objectives as ‘improving internal processes’ and ‘accounting for sustainability performance’. Above any other business case for reporting, making real progress on sustainability is the priority’.

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It looks like a pretty convincing case for emissions reporting. And as if to make the point, The Guardian carried a report last week that Tesco plans to install touch screen energy boards in 500 stores.

Tesco is one company that doesn’t need reminding about reducing it’s emissions. The store group has a long-term commitment to reduce its carbon footprint by 50% and is using CA’s ecoSoftware to help it get there.

The energy boards will be placed in the staff areas of each store showing which store areas are consuming the most energy. The idea is that staff will be able to adapt to reduce power where it’s not needed. Apparently, after the test run at nine stores energy consumption dropped by two to three per cent. It also reduces the need for the paper to report on energy consumption.

 

So, reporting, internally and externally, on sustainability in general and greenhouse gas emissions in particular, does drive better performance. At the same time, pressure is on for governments to make it mandatory.

It’s one area where green ICT can make a clear contribution, through the software that does the counting and the technology that can make it available. Whilst there has been a lot of talk about carbon counting solutions, comparing and displaying the information will become an increasingly important area for ICT. For example, I would expect to see the Tesco energy screens, with user-friendly displays, in the public areas of the stores in the future and adopted in most large retail outlets (and public buildings).

© The Green IT Review

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