Information Systems for Environmental Sustainability

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


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Emergent: Community microgrid using existing energy infrastructure and the blockchain

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Brooklyn Microgrid is using the blockchain for smart contracts and currencies in support of “resilient, sustainable and more efficient energy production of the future.” In simple terms, as FastCompany explains:

On one side of President Street, five homes with solar panels generate electricity. On the other side, five homes buy power when the opposite homes don’t need it. In the middle is a blockchain network, managing and recording transactions with little human interaction.”

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Mainstream Corporate Sustainability Wakes Up to Role of Digital Systems

In mid/late-2000s (when I started this blog), the role of digital information systems seemed to be an afterthought in the corporate environmental sustainability conversation (no sources to back this up: just based on my own observations. exception: Peter Graf at SAP). It’s one of the reasons I started this blog.

Digitization transformed organizations and enhanced corporate financial performance in decades past (and continues to do so). Likewise, digital systems enhance/transform corporate environmental performance (reduce carbon emissions, raise energy productivity, enhance water stewardship, etc.). Mainstream corporate sustainability appears to be waking up to this enormous opportunity.

Examples?

EU ETS specifies that: “the information technology system is designed, documented, tested, implemented, controlled and maintained in a way to process reliable, accurate and timely data.”

The IIRC emphasizes the systems nature of digital information systems: “The IT strategy should extend beyond hardware and software considerations alone to identify the role of emerging applications, establish related policies and align technology-related decisions to strategy

Sustainable Brands New Metrics Conference 2015 reaches out to IT experts:
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But there’s a long way to go…

Using digital information systems to transform environmental sustainability practices within organizations is complex and risky, involving people, processes, and technologies. Research is needed to inform salient questions, such as:

  • Who should lead such strategic initiatives?
  • Where to begin?
  • Which specific technologies are most effective in which contexts?
  • How to determine ROI of such initiatives?
  • How to bridge the culture gap between industrial ecologists/facilities and IT personnel?

As usual, more questions than answers.