Information Systems for Environmental Sustainability

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

Sustainability 2.0: Automate, Informate, Transform

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The following is cross-posted from Michael Koploy at

Greater Understanding Through Data Automation

Today, achieving sustainability involves finding areas where business consumption can be reduced and efficiencies improved with a relatively high benefit-to-cost ratio. New regulations, such as the proposed 80 percent reduction of U.K. CO2 emissions by 2050, makes achieving progress toward these lofty goals imperative to avoiding financial penalties.

To track their success, businesses must be able to quantify sustainability initiatives, says Kevin Ramm, Senior Sustainability Solution Manager for SAP. The problem, as he sees it, is that many businesses are using an incomplete picture.

“Data collection continues to be a major challenge,” says Ramm. “But sustainability benefits from good data–information that is timely, pertinent, relevant and has the right degree of robustness.”

Data collection isn’t easy. “I’ve worked in sustainability teams and I’ve seen how hard it is to know which direction to go with your activities,” Ramm says. “Data collection isn’t sexy, and it’s common to take shortcuts wherever you can.”

The solution, Ramm says, is to circumvent manual collection through automation. Danone, a multinational food corporation, worked with Ramm and the SAP team to improve the automation of its data collection for new sustainability insight. With upwards of 35,000 products, this was quite a challenge.

Danone used its Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system data to determine the product footprint–a quantification of a product’s environmental impact–for all its products. The result: a management team that was able to benchmark the sustainability of products within its portfolio at specific locations.

The information empowered the team to rethink its processes, from shifting the transportation methods of its goods to re-evaluating the use of ingredients and materials from specific regions.

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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