Unlocking Sustainability: Why the CIO Should Hold the Key

The causes, scope, and impact of global climate change understandably may be subject to a divergence of opinion, but it is now virtually impossible to deny that climatic changes are occurring. Likewise, it is no longer possible for organizations to ignore the significant environmental pressures facing them today.Volatile energy costs, limitations on available energy, imposed rules and legislated regulations, and a general desire for transparency into an enterprise’s operations, including its supply chain, are all realities organizations must address.

And they must do so while continuing to be responsive to the needs of stakeholders. Organizations must act to deal with all of these issues, lest they put themselves at risk of extinction. However, to date, those actions all too often have proven to be reactive rather than forward-thinking, isolated rather than coordinated, department-centered rather than businesswide.

An organization’s response must be comprehensive and systematic to maximize resources and focus energies on successful outcomes for the business overall. Current conditions create a perfect opportunity for information technology (IT) to step up and play a critical role in helping shape an organization’s responses to the environmental challenges it faces. IT can do this by working in concert with business units and by using technology across the enterprise to help reduce costs, mitigate risks, and also uncover and seize new opportunities.

This chapter will explore the reasons why businesses are now beginning to be concerned with sustainability and the ways in which they are responding. It will focus on the role that IT can play in helping address sustainability challenges. It will demonstrate why IT should take a leadership role within the organization and not only attempt to make its own operations more sustainable, but—by providing technology—increase the sustainability of the entire organization.

Why does business care? There are three main environmental pressures that are driving organizations to act today: cost cutting, regulatory compliance, and communication with shareholders. Cost cutting In the current economic situation, there is tremendous pressure to reduce costs in the organization and improve the bottom line as it struggles to grow the top line. The volatility of energy prices is generating considerable concern in the offices of many chief executive officers (CEOs), chief financial officers, and chief operating officers.What happens to one’s business if the price of a barrel of oil triples? Is the business prepared for it? Does it even know its current energy baseline? Where are the opportunities to reduce one’s energy consumption?

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Concerns over energy costs and regulation alone are enough to be on the agenda of C-level executives in an organization. However, even more factors are at play as stakeholders, both internal and external to the organization, play an increasingly active role. Energy, carbon, and sustainability issues are putting tremendous pressure on organizations today to do a better job communicating with key stakeholders.The dialogue must be bi-directional.An organization not only must provide visibility into its sustainability progress, but also must be responsive to the input from its stakeholders as it ma.

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