Guest Blog: Corporate Responsibility Tracking Systems Fall Short
To answer rising environmental concerns, many business have begun to use sustainability software to track their resource use. In theory, such software would allow corporations to analyze their usage and make better decisions by allowing them to understand the true cost of the raw materials they use and find places to cut back without hurting their bottom line. However, according to New York sustainability advisers Green Research, the current tracking solutions aren't up to the task, often allowing key details to slip through the cracks.
The most prominent crisis facing our planet today is the oil shortage. With China's drastic growth and our own continued reliance on fossil fuels, it doesn't take PhDs to predict the impending oil crunch. Similar pressures exist for each and every resource we use, including food, building materials and supplies for manufacturing.
In a recent BSR Poll, sixty-two percent of the business people surveyed cited sustainability integration as the single biggest challenge facing corporations today. Large companies tend to operate as individual, independent departments with entirely separate budgets; because of this, the data needed to create a sustainability plan is scattered throughout the company. Thus, the modeling software has to either analyze the information for each branch of the company separately, or compile all of the scattered data into one chart, which raises a whole host of other complications. The sheer complexity of this problem has so far thwarted programming efforts to break it down, which means that it is far too easy for software to garble information or even miss entire departments, so that there is no comprehensive view of the company's impact as a whole.
For those hoping to make a fortune promoting a greener world, there is a bright side: the problem creates jobs. In the short term, auditors are needed to manually compile data from the various parts of a company and assemble them into a larger picture of where the company stands environmentally. In the long term, programmers will need to create new procedures and tracking software to facilitate automatic data compilation, and business efficiency experts to re-structure companies into a pattern that is easier to collect information on.
Much of the difficulty faced by companies switching to a responsible corporate course can be attributed to inertia, or the simple tendency for people to resist change. Many corporate executives who have embraced the concept of sustainability and tried to implement comprehensive re-structuring have met resistance from stockholders and employees alike who lack faith in the result. The executives must convince all decision makers that being on the forefront of the sustainability movement will offer the company an advantage that will translate into profit later, even if it causes a lot of growing pains now.
While there is debate about the degree to which we are depleting the resources of the planet, there is no argument that we must conserve all we can now. Wise and forward-thinking executives are already trying for a more sustainable approach, but the tools available are not yet up to the task. Businesses need to streamline their organizations to make it easier to track accountability, and invest in writing better software to oversee resource use. It is essential that we keep looking for ways to improve existing tracking software, rather than calling it “good enough.”
Brittany Lyons aspires to be a psychology professor, but decided to take some time off from grad school to help people learn to navigate the academic lifestyle. She currently lives in Spokane, Washington, where she spends her time reading science fiction and walking her dog. Brittany also blogs for Phds.org, where more of her work can be found.