Information Systems for Environmental Sustainability

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

S2.0: Sustainability 2.0

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Digital business practices are transforming environmental sustainability. Some refer to this as “Green IT” or “IT for Green.” I use the term “Sustainability 2.0” (or S2.0) to focus on the impacts on individuals, organizations, the environment, and markets.


Sustainable business practices associated with increased use of IT?

According to Chris Mines with Forrester Research:

In interviewing sustainability leaders at 15 multinationals, we found a wide variety of drivers, barriers, and best practices that are embedding sustainability in corporate operations. One consistent message from these companies is that the more progressive their approach to sustainability, the more they rely on IT systems and skills for collecting, integrating, analyzing, and reporting data and performance metrics.


S2.0 going mainstream?

The Discovery Channel’s new show “The Green Room” airing November 19, 2011 leads with the S2.0 story:

We’re starting off the show here in the midst of California’s Silicon Valley, Palo Alto, what many consider to be the birthplace of information technology, except that today it’s technology designed more for greener business.


ECEM software experiencing rapid growth in adoption?

Software for managing energy and carbon emissions in organizations is predicted to grow at compound rate of 83% (Daniel Krauss, Forrester).


Social media used by individuals to monitor / pressure organizations?

According to the 2010 Ceres report “The 21st Century Corporation: The Ceres Roadmap for Sustainability, social media delivers “radical transparency” [and radical pressure] into a firm’s sustainability performance.

Advances in digital communication over the last two
decades have reduced not only the time it takes to build
a reputation, but also the time it takes to destroy one.
Communication is increasingly disaggregated across
multiple social networks. Facebook has over 65 million
users, and is growing by more than 200% per year.
Twitter, while having a “mere” 7 million users, has shown
year-to-year growth of over 1000%.6  Using these types
of tools, it has never been easier for people to track  
a company’s sustainability performance and to widely
disseminate their perspectives on it. We have entered  
an era of “radical transparency.”


Digital innovation generates new solutions to old problems?

Innovative digital business practices transform what was previously impossible in the realm of “computational sustainability.” For example, Master Card teamed with Brighter Planet to develop a corporate charge card that automatically tracks carbon emissions of employee travel and other difficult-to-measure dimensions of Scope 3 emissions, thus transforming speed, accuracy, and reliability of emissions data, paving the way for real-time analytics and dashboards, and better decision making.


Smart cities emerge as a driving force?

Cisco demonstrated the possibility of smart urban development in its “Connected Urban Development” initiatives, including the Green u-City in Busan, Korea.

From Forbes:

What’s happening in Busan gets at what Fuller sees as the next step in smart grid, the nexus of smart buildings, smart mobility, and smart energy. “This is where investment is flowing and where a lot of our partners – Toyota and DeutscheBank, for example – are making aggressive investments in their part of that nexus,” Fuller says. “Toyota is looking well beyond the Prius and asking how mobility solutions can be not only green but also smart in their connection to the grid and to buildings. Right in the middle of that is this underlying digital infrastructure where we’re focused.


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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