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What should companies know about sustainability software?

Sustainability is composed of social, environmental and economic pillars. That's why technologies focused on this market address different needs. Here's a narrow glimpse.

Companies and supply chains are understandably focused on increasing sustainability, and these same organizations are also very reliant on software to help run their businesses effectively and efficiently.

Combining these two interests is the world of sustainability software.

Types of sustainability software

Software designed and marketed as sustainability software generally addresses measuring, monitoring and reporting sustainability-related factors. In a post for GreenBiz, Chris Mines, senior vice president and research director at Forrester Research, defined some specific types of sustainability software:

  • For executives: Sustainability performance and project management software provides insights on corporate sustainability performance and the progress of sustainability projects.
  • For executives and operations: Enterprise carbon and energy management software focuses specifically on the corporate carbon footprint and resource consumption.
  • For development and product management: Sustainable product development software can help support design and development of greener products.
  • For IT, HR and information workers: Collaboration and communications systems can help reduce travel and improve workforce efficiency through collaboration and communication.
  • For those focused on hard assets: Smart infrastructure management software can help manage smart infrastructure and improve the use of buildings, vehicles and other hard assets.
Don't forget that ERP systems are inherently focused on reducing waste in its many forms.

In addition to purpose-designed software in the first two categories, many ERP developers are incorporating green elements into standard business intelligence (BI) tools that are either a part of, or designed to work with, their systems. The enhanced BI reporting enables companies to set sustainability goals, measure progress toward those goals and document their success. Most ERP systems today also feature collaboration and communications subsystems that help reduce travel, even though that may not be their main function.

Systems to support sustainable development offer a new dimension for existing design and engineering software that brings sustainability improvements into the design decision process. Similarly, smart infrastructure management systems build on basic asset tracking to utilize the sensors and smart, connected controls that are becoming more commonplace in buildings, equipment and environmental control systems.

ERP can be sustainability software

Don't forget that ERP systems are inherently focused on reducing waste in its many forms, including excess inventory, unnecessary movement and handling, and overproduction. Waste reduction directly correlates to reductions in energy consumption, waste material disposal and emissions of all types.

Sustainability priorities

There are many sustainability frameworks, directives and standards, including the United Nations Global Compact, Global Reporting Initiative's G4 Sustainability Reporting Guidelines and ISO 26000.

Companies can use sustainability software to incorporate the measurements and goals from their chosen framework to direct and monitor their own sustainability efforts and report the results to the appropriate monitoring agencies, customers and stakeholders.

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