It's also about getting the data out of spreadsheets and into software where it can be shared and leveraged. One challenge companies face today, said Graf, is trying to move budget from travel to IT to address in video conferencing, when those budgets are controlled by different people. Sustainability tools can help make the case for the move to the CFO from a green perspective.
Stephen Stokes, an analyst and vice-president, business of climate change with AMR Research, said sustainability is the new flight to quality and is enabling a new business model that companies would be wise to be ahead of the curve on.
"We're looking down the barrel of an economic change the likes of which we haven't seen for 100 years and sustainability, if leveraged properly, is the lubricant to enable a transition into this new economy," said Stokes. "We're seeing very rapid changes."
And technology, said Stokes will be a key enabler. It's moving from a reporting platform exercise to business intelligence and process and product optimization. This positions SAP well, and Stokes said vendors such as Oracle, IBM and Microsoft are also getting into the space.
"It's fair to say SAP has gotten their game together and built a high-level business plan of where they'd like to be in delivering sustainability tools for their customers," said Stokes.
At its heart, though, Stokes said it's not about carbon. It's about running a more efficient business, with lower carbon impact as an outcome of that efficiency.
A utility company concerned about its own carbon impact, SunPower choose Clear Standards as a partner to help it measure its carbon impact, said Doug Richards, vice-president of human resources. The on-demand delivery model was appealing to enable collaboration across SunPower's global operations.
"Our employees are very cynical and they didn't want to do green-washing. The software helped give us a factual baseline and develop measurable and achievable plans and goals," said Richards.
Betsy Atkins, CEO of Baja Ventures, an independent venture capital form focused on the technology and life sciences industries, said sustainability will be a risk that will need to be measured by corporate boards, identifying it as the next Sarbanes-Oxley.
"You'll need to do it for your brand, you'll need to do it for your investor base, you'll need to do it for your product, and you'll need to do it to avoid fines," said Atkins. "It's going to be important for CEOs and board rooms to be aware of this."
It's not enough to just measure your carbon impact however said Emma Stewart, senior program lead of Autodesk's sustainable business & operations program . It's not just the information; it's what you do with it and what you do about it.