Tag Archives: business

Greening Westin: It’s All You

For a while hotels have been asking you to help them save the environment. A recent Westin I stayed at took this to a whole new level, and there were little cards around the room to help me understand how I was helping. Examples (my paraphrasing):

  • “If you want to save the earth, hang up your towels and we won’t wash them”
  • “If we don’t wash your linens the planet will be healthier, so you should leave this card on the bed”
  • “This shower has a really cool two-head system, but we’ve turned one off to help conserve water”
  • “If you can’t find any information about the hotel or its restaurants, its because we’ve put them on the TV in order to save the environment.”

I also got to help save electricity by using very low-grade CFLs that were incredibly slow to turn on and gave out funny colors of light (this isn’t a knock on CFLs in general, but we’ve all seen good ones and bad ones).

Of course this didn’t stop the Westin from leaving plastic bottles of water out for me to purchase, or encouraging me to watch lots of pay-per-view movies.

After a few hours in the room the message was clear: “Dear customer, please make some sacrifices in the quality of your stay in order to save the planet and save us a big pile of money.”

What I Preach, With an Addendum

Of course, if I’m honest with myself, they’re doing exactly what I’ve told companies to do over the past decade: find places where the interests of the earth and your company are aligned, and make those things a priority.

So I guess I need to make an addendum:

Make sure your customers are part of the equation. It’s short sighted to do things that hurt your customers’ experience, even if its in the best interest of the planet. You need to go back to the drawing board and figure out how to not impact their experience, or figure out how to let them share in your benefits.

In my experience there’s no truly simple wins. For example, “Let’s stop using paper” is not a strategy; you need to figure out when and why you use paper today, and make sure that you have an alternative that’s at least as effective, and doesn’t have it’s own environmental issues.

Welcome to the People’s Republic of JPMorgan

“JPMorgan” is a registered trademark of JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Sorry for starting with a legal disclaimer, but you’ll see why in a minute.

You may recall that 18 months ago Greg Papadopoulos and I published a book called Citizen Engineer, where we tried to help engineers understand key topics related to the role in society, including sustainability and intellectual property. Since then we’ve traveled around giving talks (on our own dime) to help spread the word to students and engineering professionals. I know we’ve gotten some universities to think about their engineering curriculum, and hopefully we’ve gotten our message across to some engineers.

As part of the project we put up a website at citizenengineer.org. One of the features that I only got partially implemented were the forums. Unfortunately I didn’t get the security fully setup, so they have since filled up with spam.

Apparently some of this spam is very sensitive to JPMorgan, as it prompted them to send me the attached letter. The offensive content appears to be 4 spam posts that include random gibberish (with links, of course). Here’s a sample:

powdered peanut butter
austin peanut butter recall
montana lakes
jp morgan preferred stock
the party never stops
rachael mullenix
saw for hire
shemika jackson
tiffany yorks

I’m not going to say much about the letter beyond highlighting a couple of sentences.

Our firm does not object to your ownership of citizenengineer.org.

Its not even worth coming up with an ironic reply to that one.

…our firm demands that you immediately remove all banking or financial services reference from all web pages that are located at citizenengineer.org.

Well, unfortunately their email is causing me to write more about banking and financial services, not less.

I’m not sure what else to say. If you are an investor in JPMorgan Chase, then I’m sorry to report that some of your profits are being used like this. If you are an employee, then I’m just sorry.

Two Reasons Why Carbon Management Software is Not the Next Big Thing

In my experience Chris Mines at Forrester is the top analyst covering the green enterprise, but I think he’s slightly off the mark on his latest article “Five Reasons Why Carbon Management Software is the Next Big Thing”.

Before I talk about where he’s wrong, let me say that he’s right on the money that ECEM is an important function in the enterprise going forward, and as I’ll cover below, I think its just the tip of a larger iceberg.

But saying its an important function isn’t the same as saying there’s an opportunity for a major new software market, and here’s why:

  1. Today the ‘M’ in ECEM isn’t really management, it’s monitoring. Unlike HCM and ERP (and, to a lesser extent, CRM), the energy and carbon software can tell you what’s going on, but you can’t use the software to affect change. In ERP I can order more parts, in HCM I can give someone a raise or a new title, but I can’t use ECEM to swap out incandescent light bulbs or upgrade a truck fleet. In other words, a separate ECEM application can tell you where you might want to look for changes, but that’s where its functionality ends. Look through the list of top 100 software companies, and you won’t find any businesses centered around monitoring.

  2. There’s no cost center in enterprises that can successfully pay for and push for ECEM as a major new application. ECEM spans two large corporate functions, operations and facilities, as well as a number of other functions, including sustainability, legal, CSR, risk, finance, audit, etc. From a budget perspective operations has the biggest one, so would appear to be a good candidate. Facilities is a cost center, and in every business I know is under major budget pressure, and the other functions are even less likely to finance a major application purchase. But the problem is that operations already has a monster investment in ERP, and would need a compelling reason to bring in a major new application (more on this later), and facilities and the other functions rarely have the clout to push a new enterprise-wide application on operations.

But I said that ECEM would be a major corporate function, and here’s how I believe it will play out.

First, the enterprise function will be much bigger than energy and carbon. Within a few years companies will find that they need to track, manage and report water, a wide range of chemicals, and various forms of recycling at the same level of detail. Similar to energy and carbon this will span facilities and business operations, and will reach out through the supply chain. This trend will be driven by environmental and natural resource concerns, but will also have huge financial drivers as our supplies of energy, water and other natural resources are further stressed.

Second, the ECEM market as we see it today will split into two, and in doing so will turn the ‘M’ from monitoring to management. In the case of operations, enterprise carbon, energy and natural resource management (ECENRM) will become a feature of the major ERP platforms. Last year SAP bought Clear Standards, and they and Oracle have been touting their growing feature list. For operations this is the right place for the functionality to be, since not only can you see what’s happening within the ERP system, but you also have the controls to make changes. Want to optimize the amount of product shipped by rail instead of air? The logistics package in your ERP system is where you’ll have the data and control to do that.

Facilities will absorb the second fragment of the proposed ECENRM space. Today this is a much smaller market than the ERP market, and will remain so. But the part of ECENRM that falls into facilities management will be able to both monitor and management the energy, water, etc. Much of this will be manual today, but will become increasingly automated.

As for the 70+ (and I’ve heard 100+) companies who were started up in this space, they will find that they need to focus on either operations or facilities, and that in both cases its tough to convince either group that they need another, separate application. A few lucky ones will be bought by existing ERP and facilities management companies, some will find small, profitable niches, and the rest will have a tough go of it.

Where will that leave the sustainability professional, charged with reporting enterprise-wide carbon and energy? They’ll have to talk to both operations and facilities and integrate the two sets of data into a final report. Is this ideal? Probably not, but the functions are so different that dealing with each of them on their own turf probably makes the most sense anyway.

The EPA Turns to Bridge Burning

Over my years as Sustainability Officer at Sun I’ve publicly given lots of credit to the EPA, primarily for their world-leading Energy Star program and for the excellent Climate Leaders program.

Boy, do I feel foolish now.

First, in my eyes they tarnished their crown jewel, Energy Star, with the politically motivated and poorly conceived Energy Star server specification (a longer, separate story that I won’t cover here). But I still felt justified in singing their praises as long as they still ran the excellent Climate Leaders program.

At Sun we relied heavily on Climate Leaders when we were starting our carbon accounting, and continued to participate due to the high quality of interaction. We used the resources and contacts to make quick headway in formalizing our program, and in actually reducing our GHG emissions. For minimal investment the EPA had itself in a valuable position with leading corporations, sitting at the center of the corporate sustainability discussion and helping to drive lower emissions throughout industry (you can see a list of the companies involved here).

Well, in the Lisa Jackson era, that proved to be too good to be true as well. Last month the EPA announced that they were suspending Climate Leaders, and with a lack of grace rarely seen even among giant, faceless bureaucracies, used the annual meeting to dash any hopes of discussing potential futures for the program.

It’s worth reading Paul Baier’s excellent write-up of this last meeting, both to see the quality and intentions of the companies involved, as well as heavy-handedness of the EPA. As Paul says:

Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator of EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, was blunt and unrelenting with Climate Leaders partners: “Our relationship with you must change.”
Two things of note about this statement. First, the wording of it was apt, for instead of saying “Our relationship with companies must change”, she used “you”, leaving it open to the companies or the individuals in attendance. The truth is that the companies are not going to feel the impact of this as much as the individual sustainability leaders within those companies. These were the people who were working with the EPA and defending it within their companies and the broader community, and the Agency has decided it didn’t value the relationship.

Basically, Lisa Jackson and team just told a large group of incredibly influential and effective sustainability leaders to “F— off”.

The second point about this statement is that they accomplished their goal. I’ve already noticed a strong shift in attitude about the Agency among my former peers. I’m not currently in a corporate sustainability leadership role, but I have been in the past, and even though I wasn’t at this Climate Leaders event, just reading about it has been like a slap in the face. So I’ve learned my lesson as well: the EPA does not want to be my partner and I should act and speak accordingly.

The next obvious question is “Why?”, but we can only speculate. The budget excuse they used in public seems silly due to the tiny amount of money that was spent on this, but maybe it was also a telling statement. The fact may be that the current leadership of EPA just can’t see itself spending any money to work cooperatively with business leaders.

The more paranoid view is that this was only Act I, and was laying the groundwork for an even more aggressive Act II. “Why spend money to work with them when they’re going to really hate us in 6 months?”. I have absolutely no evidence for this, but given the way this was all handled its hard to see it as an isolated incident.

Expense Tool Done Right

Yesterday I went looking for a simple tool to do expense tracking while I travel around, and found a great fit in Xpenser. You can post expenses over IM, SMS, email and through the web. When using email you can even attach a photo of the receipt, presumably taken with your phone.

All it expects is a text stream of the form “{activity} {amount} {tags}”, such as “Dinner with Jim 46.80 projectx”, which will (as you would hope) file an expense into the ProjectX report for $46.80 with the note “Dinner with Jim”.

They also have an open API. Since I needed to catch up on some expenses I decided that command-line entry would be easiest, so I whipped up this script (note: it doesn’t deal with consecutive spaces correctly):

# this script writes an expense to xpenser.com
# change email address and password to match xpenser acct
curl -i -u $LOGIN $URLSTART${Q// /+}$URLEND

I named the command ‘xpens’, so now I just type xpens “Dinner with Jim 46.80 projectx” and I’m good!

Next, a search for a simple CRM app….

Prepare to be Inventoried

In our eco team at Sun we are faced with a wave of new external environmental reporting, monitoring, and measurement requirements. We’re big on transparency, but the costs and implied morality are getting to be a drag.

One example. Everyone wanted a price on carbon so that it was built into the economy. But even though that appears to be on the way, its now not enough. Now there are folks who want us to report details on the GHG emissions of every aspect of our business, including some who want us to report the complete carbon footprint of each product through the entire supply chain. Is there any use for this data other than for people to give us grades on how “good” we are? Not clear.

Well, Nancy Pelosi finally identified the end point of this trend. Yesterday in an environmental speech in China she said: “Every aspect of our lives must be subjected to inventory.”