Information Systems for Environmental Sustainability

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

VERGE DC: Focus More on Business Energy Efficiency & Carbon Reductions?

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The recent VERGE DC Conference brought together:

corporate leaders focusing on a new wave of technological change revolutionizing sustainability. A convergence of technologies for energy, buildings, information, and vehicles, which GreenBiz calls VERGE, is enabling companies to break down organizational silos, and accelerate innovation. This has profound implications for your company’s sustainability and business goals.

The program included experts on residential energy use, built environment, innovation, electric vehicles, cloud, Internet of things, government, sensors, and supply chain management. I attended virtually, free, so thanks to VERGE for making most of the sessions available online.

One suggestion I have is to increase the focus on what business is doing now in the areas of using IT to enable energy efficiencies and carbon emission reductions (only a few sessions dealt with this topic). What types of efficiency initiatives are working? What is most effective? What are the hurdles?

Why more focus on business? According to computed U.S. energy flows, the non-residential sector uses much more electricity (about 1.5 times as much):

  • Residential electricity: 4.95 quads (39%)
  • Commercial + Industrial + Transportation: 7.85 (61%)

From an aggregate “move the needle” standpoint, is it easier to get tens of thousands of large companies to be efficient rather than 100 million + households?

Suggestions for future VERGE programs?

  1. Environmental ERP vendors and use cases
  2. Carbon emission management in supply chains
  3. Data standards for sharing energy value chain data between utilities and business
  4. Social media for employee engagement efforts around energy efficiency/carbon management

I have three studies in progress on information systems for managing energy and carbon emissions (#1 above), and there’s a growing community of researchers and consultants working in these spaces. One insight that’s emerged from my research is that energy data sharing between utilities and companies is not well developed, and this is a key inhibitor of organizational sustainability efforts (the first study on this will be posted on SSRN soon).

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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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