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Microsoft Pri0

Welcome to Microsoft Pri0: That's Microspeak for top priority, and that's the news and observations you'll find here from Seattle Times technology reporter Matt Day.

January 9, 2009 at 12:48 PM

CES: Sustainability data the next domain of ERP software?

LAS VEGAS — One of the more interesting conversations I had at this year’s International Consumer Electronics show was with Craig Ramini. He works for Planet Metrics, a Bay Area software company that helps companies measure the carbon footprint of their entire supply chains, not just their own operations.

The Consumer Electronics Association hired Planet Metrics to take a deeper and broader look at the carbon footprint of CES — everything from the carpeting up. Last year, the CEA made its first attempt to “green” the show, through the purchase of carbon offsets for attendee travel, used recycled paper for show brochures and carpeting, and served meals in containers made of plastic substitutes. The show’s efforts expanded this year.

Right now, about half of consumers are willing to pay a premium of 7.4 percent, on average, for a “green” product, although there is substantial confusion on what that means, according to a CEA survey.

Thumbnail image for CEA slide, green premium.JPG

Ramini said many companies’ initial efforts to be more environmentally responsible miss the bigger picture.

“Most people when they use the word carbon footprint, it’s a misnomer, it’s almost like a carbon toe print. It’s only what the company owns, and it can be only 10 or 15 percent of their overall accountability,” he said. “A true carbon footprint recognizes the supply chain.”

Planet Metrics’ software relies on data from companies, governments and other sources to help a manufacturer “to understand the relative carbon intensity of the things that it buys and uses.”

The results of this sort of analysis can be eye-opening. Companies should be “taking greater looks into componentry materials that are coming in for manufacturing. … How much of this show is all about plastics and metals, right? Things that are petroleum based have surprising embodied energies and waste gasses, so plastics that you’re buying — there’s a lot of substitution potential.”

He said he was getting interest from Enterprise Resource Planning software makers.

“Today it’s like a new domain of data — environmental data,” Ramini said. “Soon environmental data will roll right up into common business information systems like ERP.”

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