Information Systems for Environmental Sustainability

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

2012 (S2.0) Scholarly To Do’s

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My holiday wish list for the sustainability 2.0 (S2.0) research community:


1. Understanding how/why firms excel in sustainability management

Better understanding of why certain firms excel in terms of energy/ghg reductions relative to peers, in particular, the role of information systems and information management capabilities (e.g., energy and carbon management systems, social media) as complements/enablers/drivers of environmental strategies and practices.


2. Understanding qualitative aspects of residential energy feedback systems

James Pierce and colleagues call on researchers to understand and focus on the ineffectiveness of residential home energy feedback systems. They identify several areas in need of further research:

  • what are considered non-negotiable interactions / patterns (e.g., using a clothes dryer)
  • unintended effects: sustaining the unsustainable (e.g., do these systems actually promote behavior counter to intended outcomes?)
  • alternative aims (e.g,. other objectives such as symbolism and aesthetics of energy).
  • design details (e.g., subtleties of how design details shape perceptions and actions)

Pierce, J., Fan, C, Lamas, D., Marcu, G., & Paulos, E. (2010). Some considerations on the (in)effectiveness of residential energy feedback systems. To appear in Proceedings of DIS Conference on Designing Interactive Systems. Arhus, Denmark. DIS ’10. ACM Press, New York, NY.


3. Understanding and systematizing mechanisms of S2.0 change

We need to extend understanding of mechanisms that underlie individual and organizational sustainability behavior and the role of information systems therein. For example, a simple mechanism that arises from decades of scholarship on organizational use of information systems is what I call “the illusion of information system functionality,” meaning, if a system is well designed and performs its functions as intended (data validity, ease of use, integration with other systems, etc.) then it will be deemed a success. To what extent might Kahneman’s “system 1” and “system 2” mental systems drive this thinking (which often leads to disastrous results, e.g., non-use of a costly system and blame game)?


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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