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The Secret to Being Green
It's not just what you do — it's how.
Posted Apr 2, 2010
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Call it what you will -- climate change or global warming -- the environment is an inescapable topic these days, making headlines wherever you look. Although you'd never be able to solve this problem with software solutions alone, there is no doubt that technology can play a significant role in advancing efforts toward sustainability.

As with any good cultural shift, the first step toward change involves awareness. To figure out how to reduce your carbon footprint, for instance, you need to know what your current footprint is -- and what's causing it. That means asking yourself some critical questions, including:

  • How do I heat my home?
  • Do I commute? If so, how far?
  • Do I recycle?

These are the types of questions you will find in a typical carbon calculator. Did you know that the average North American generates about 20 tons of CO2 each year, whereas the global average carbon footprint is about 4 tons?1 Whatever your own footprint, once you add it up you will be able to see possibilities for your own reduction efforts. For instance, maybe you take one less flight per year-because air travel has a much larger carbon footprint than driving (the average round-trip flight across the U.S. emits about 6,000 pounds of CO21), this simple change can be significant.

At the same time, this cultural shift toward sustainability has given our society a chance to question some of our core beliefs. . For instance, the fact that something is "disposable" may no longer be a good thing, but instead a liability. Riding the bus may no longer be the last resort, but instead a bona fide status symbol.

This shift also applies to corporations that need to act quickly to meaningfully reduce their carbon footprints. First they need to understand their carbon footprint. Interestingly, much of the information that is needed to understand a corporation's impact resides within its system of record, which is usually its enterprise resource planning system, data such as how much it paid for its energy bill, and what resources it consumed over a particular period of time. The Microsoft Dynamics team has created a tool that enables corporations to track the additional data they need to understand their carbon footprint as a first important step in managing and reducing their impact.

Environmental dashboards can capture and report on impact data. In the example of the energy bill, for instance, a dashboard would allow you to track exactly how much energy was consumed. The dashboard also allows companies to view the energy-related costs, which can quickly shed light on previously unseen reduction opportunities that will translate directly to the bottom line. Carbon calculators and dashboards are the obvious ways that software can help mitigate impacts. But what about the not so obvious ways-ways that involve changing the way you do things?

Gaining insight into the environmental impact of your business can change the way you view your business. Once a company gains this insight previously held hard-core beliefs may be shattered. For instance, many of us believe that in order to work effectively we must go to the office. What if that was not the case? By enabling a distributed work force there are numerous environmental and societal benefits.

First of all, if your workers are in their homes, there would be no need for them to commute into an office building. That eliminates the carbon footprint of all those commuting miles. It also has a positive impact on the employees' costs and time. It eliminates the amount that employee needs to pay for fuel, which can be significant. For instance, in a 2008 online survey of 377 full-time employees by Telework Exchange, 84 percent of responders rely on their cars, trucks or SUVs for transportation to and from work, spending on average $2,052 per year.

Telecommuting offers benefits to communities and employers as well. In communities, telework options increase the sheer number of people who are employable. Removing all those commuters from the road decreases wear and tear on the transportation infrastructure, reduces traffic congestion and accidents. For companies, telecommuting increases the potential pool of talent, and it has positive benefits for those hires, including reducing the potential spread of illness, reducing turnover and absenteeism, and improving employee morale. This is indeed an opportunity where an effective software solution such as Microsoft Dynamics CRM can play a major role in ensuring the success of efforts like these. With an intuitive interface and integrated Microsoft Office capabilities to boost productivity and streamline communications, including a 360-degree view of the customer to help agents gain valuable insights, Microsoft Dynamics CRM can be a strategic asset to any organization.

So in the end we can see as we green ourselves, it isn't just what we do to lessen our impact, it is how we go about doing it that can lead us to radically rethink old paradigms, change our behavior and realize true business value. Through this lens, we can derive how software can play a significant role in helping us in our efforts toward a more sustainable society.

About the Author

Jennifer Pollard (Jennifer.Pollard@microsoft.com) is a senior product manager for Microsoft Dynamics. Pollard works on developing the strategy for Microsoft Dynamics products that will enable customers to become more environmentally sustainable.

1 http://www.eoearth.org/article/Carbon_footprint

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Please note that the Viewpoints listed in CRM magazine and appearing on destinationCRM.com represent the perspective of the authors, and not necessarily those of the magazine or its editors

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For the rest of the April 2010 issue of CRM magazine please click here.

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