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Special Report: Environmental Business Software

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Environmental business software is in vogue. Alison Smith explores its potential to support green strategy

The business community today faces enormous pressure to minimise environmental impacts, reduce carbon emissions and show good corporate citizenship. Legislation is multiplying, customers are demanding green products, investors expect a green image and organisations need to respond to the rising costs of fuel, materials and waste disposal.

Organisations are realising that they need to address sustainability in a holistic way to remain competitive  in a world of shrinking resources. Board-level leadership is critical to this. So are strong, effective management systems.

Recognising this, many organisations have set up formal environmental management systems, corporate responsibility programmes or, more recently, carbon management systems. These aim to measure and manage impacts, help set targets and monitor progress towards them, and underpin reporting to stakeholders.

You can only manage what you can measure, as the old saying has it, so the foundation of environmental management systems is data.
Many organisations start with a do-it-yourself approach, creating a spreadsheet and entering information from, for example, a pile of utility bills and a set of government-provided emission factors.

This may be adequate for small office-based organisations, but larger organisations, especially those with multiple sites or complex emission sources, can soon run into problems.

Organisations are finding they need more powerful tools to gather and analyse large amounts of data in a robust, auditable and efficient manner, so they can spend more time and effort on what really matters: reducing their impacts.

At the same time the potential for information technology and internet-based systems to contribute solutions has grown vastly. As a result of these two factors, the environmental software market has exploded into a bewildering array of vendors and products.

This special report will cut through the chaos of a young and rapidly evolving market to show how environmental business software can help organisations in their drive towards sustainability.

First it looks at why more and more organisations are buying environmental software and finds out how the market is responding to their needs.

It provides a practical guide to the main types of software available, which can be used in conjunction with Environment Tools, a free online database listing more than 300 carbon, sustainability and environmental software tools. It looks at software tools in action, showing the main benefits they can bring to businesses.

Last, it examines the most important future market trends and considers how user needs are driving technical developments.