While many tout BI as a way of boosting profits, BI is increasingly going green as a way to promote sustainability and good corporate citizenship.
Under full disclosure here, I am thrilled that green is gaining ground! I am green, very green. Admittedly, I was not always so passionate about these topics. However, living in Switzerland for eight years forever changed my view of garbage. Indeed the Swiss have “garbage” police who will check your trash to ensure you are recycling and fine you if you’re not recycling (I wish they’d visit NJ for a week!). As trash bags are expensive ($10 a bag, if I recall correctly), manufacturers package their consumer products frugally. You can buy milk and fabric softener in something like a ziploc bag, which creates less trash than big plastic cartons. For companies who don’t package their goods so wisely, shoppers unwrap things at the supermarket and let the store deal with the unwanted packaging.
There have been glimpses of a few BI vendors going green for several years now. Three years ago, Hyperion began offering employees a $5000 discount to buy fuel-efficient cars. While Oracle did not continue that program post acquisition, it has been recognized for some of its environmental efforts.
This past fall, at the Business Objects user conference, citing its vision to raise awareness of green issues, the vendor distributed refillable water bottles to attendees instead of the disposable ones usually provided during conference breaks.
(What a novel idea! I so much liked this idea that it inspired me to give family members these cool SIGG water bottles for Christmas, complete with an explanation of how we toss 38 billion empty bottles in the trash each year, not to mention the 462 million gallons of oil to ship the bottles).
That some BI vendors are trying to be good corporate citizens is one way to measure a vendor’s greenness. However, an emerging and more profound aspect is in how BI software can be used to implement and monitor sustainability efforts.
Prima Consulting in Australia is one of the first BI companies I’ve stumbled across to offer an ERP-agnostic scorecard to help customers manage their CO2 emissions. Their solution, Sustainability SCO2RECARD was released late last year and is built on Microsoft PerformancePoint and Microsoft BI. They initially developed the application to help Australian companies meet legislative requirements to reduce green house gas emissions, but customers are finding that reducing energy costs and eliminating waste can also improve profitability.
This week, SAS announced a new application, SAS for Sustainability Management. It uses the BI platform and performance management applications to provide companies with a way of measuring sustainability goals and performance against them. Leveraging the vendor’s predictive analytic capabilities, customers can also model changes in energy consumption or emissions to see how it affects sustainability goals. As a green BI vendor, SAS has been considering building a solar energy farms at its headquarters.
The green influence on BI is still in its early days with most of the activity seemingly focused on reducing data center energy consumption. As you partner with a BI vendor, consider how good a corporate citizen they are and whether they are providing solutions to help you with your company’s own efforts to go green.
As a way of raising everyone's awareness on the facets of green BI, I also encourage vendors to list their green policies and BI applications here.
Founder, BIScorecard, a web-site for in-depth BI product reviews