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Enterprise Environmental and Sustainability Information Management: There is a Better Way

Posted by Neno Duplan

Data published by the Environmental Business Journal indicate that the global environmental market is approaching one trillion dollars in annual expenditures. Last year U.S. environmental industry generated revenues of about one-third of that. The industry continues to grow at an average rate of five to ten percent per year, and is poised to grow even faster in 2014 than in any previous year.

Despite its impressive growth, some troubling trends persist within the industry. Most notably is the industry’s failure to embrace the cloud-based  information management revolution. Not adopting the latest technologies for capturing, storing, distributing, managing, visualizing and reporting information increases costs of managing emissions to air, water, and soil, delays the cleanup of contaminated sites and management of climate change information necessary to better understand causes of global warming phenomena.

Most companies “own” their financial, human resource, customer relations, and other data. This information typically resides on computers located in the company’s facilities, or it may be housed off-site in data centers managed by an outside party, or more recently in the SaaS-based Cloud applications. Regardless of which alternative is adopted, both are similar in that:

  1. Information is stored in a consistent and organized manner in central databases developed by professional software companies.
  2. Employees within the company have, to the extent that their privileges permit, continuous and unimpeded access to these data.
  3. Companies unquestionably own the data and are able to change support vendors at will.

However, the way companies with environmental liabilities manage and store their environmental information and data stands in marked contrast to the model they have adopted for all their other key data. Historically, environmental consultants have used narrowly focused applications built on spreadsheets and client/server databases to serve the complex software requirements of this market. Today’s landscape of available technology options has consolidated; new and better options exist. While planned IT spending on environmental software is rising, organizations are still struggling to identify software and service providers that can support environmental information management in the manner to which they’ve become accustomed with other enterprise initiatives and enterprise software, such as enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), and supply chain

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