Information Systems for Environmental Sustainability

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

Ceres Report Mentions Social Media but not CMS

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Ceres, “a national network of investors, environmental organizations and other public interest groups working with companies and investors to address sustainability challenges such as global climate change” released a new report “The 21st Century Corporation: The Ceres Roadmap to Sustainability.”

The report describes 20 “key expectations” by 2020 in four areas governance, stakeholder engagement, disclosure, and performance.

Regarding the role of information systems, the report stresses the importance of modern information technologies for communication and collaboration, and social media in particular.

Under expectation D4 (4th item in the Disclosure area):

 Companies will release sustainability information through a range of disclosure
vehicles, including stand-alone reports, annual reports, financial filings, websites and social media.

And again in the Stakeholder Engagement area:

Many companies, for example, are turning to online communication tools such as blogs and social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, and Justmeans, to engage their connected stakeholders. Conversations about companies are now taking place online all the time whether initiated by those companies or not. Companies should identify, evaluate, or create opportunities that allow for active, transparent, and quality online engagement with stakeholders. [NM: easier said than done]

To engage consumers on the company’s sustainability strategy and performance Seventh Generation uses a broad social media strategy that includes the Chairman’s blog, employee blogs, Facebook, Linkedin, a YouTube channel, Twitter, and Justmeans. The company’s sustainability report website engages users by offering the opportunity to “crowd-source” a book of best practices in corporate sustainability

Given the thoroughness of the report, I was more than surprised that carbon and energy management systems were not mentioned, especially in the Disclosure section. The report essentially says: measure this, measure that, in these time periods, reported in these ways, according to these standards, benchmarked as such, verified thusly. Essentially, the report urges companies to collect reams of data on new sustainability practices and processes, slice and dice it, and report it in myriad ways. How is this possible without innovative information systems? So I checked what the report had to say about this.

The phrase “information systems” is used twice in the report in reference to vehicle routing optimization, the phrase “software” is used six times in reference to specific applications, but no carbon management. This is an egregious error of omission and demonstrates what can happen when we don’t know what we don’t know (in this case, a soon-to-be $1 billon worldwide market). Very few of the important innovative practices espoused in the Ceres report are possible without sophisticated carbon and resource management software systems. Excel won’t cut it. It’s as simple as that.

Author: nigelpm

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

One thought on “Ceres Report Mentions Social Media but not CMS

  1. Pingback: Mind the Gaps – How Sustainability 2.0 Can Address Critical Issues in Sustainability Management « Information Systems for Environmental Sustainability

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