Information Systems for Environmental Sustainability

IT, Resource Productivity, Environmental Preservation, and the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Global Flows of Carbon Emissions: Driver of CMS?

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A study by Steven J. Davis and Ken Caldeira “Consumption-based accounting of CO2 emissions” underscores the massive “outsourcing” of carbon emissions by the U.S.  to other countries, especially China. The authors compute that this number is roughly 2.5 tons / person for the U.S. (not sure it’s apples to apples, but this would be about 13% of total U.S. per capita emissions). It’s even higher in Europe, go figure.

Justin Moresco at earth2tech makes an argument that this is a boon to carbon management software firms:

The cross-border flow of carbon also offers an opportunity for the growing number of companies developing software to help their clients track the carbon emissions related to their businesses. These software developers have so far focused largely on helping companies calculate emissions directly related to their operations, such as the fuel consumed by their fleets or the electricity used at their facilities.

But the “next step” in the evolution of their products, says Forrester analyst Chris Mines, will be tracking supply chain emissions, like those related to goods imported from abroad or trucked across town. Big companies like Wal-Mart and Hewlett-Packard are now “pushing hard” to get their suppliers to provide data on the embodied energy of their products, Mines said, and software suppliers will “catch up.”

I’m not sure that this is really a “next step,” as many systems tout scope 1-3 emissions accounting (and I’m sure some actually deliver on this). But I do agree that it’s a key benefit of carbon software systems, one that would be very difficult to do (impossible?) with Excel or more basic approaches.

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Author: nigelpm

Associate Professor of Information Systems, Stephen M. Ross School of Business, University of Michigan - Helping organizations to navigate digital transformation.

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