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Does Your Erp System Have A Carbon Footprint?

Dec 25, 2007
When you study history, you see that the challenges society faces are cyclical in nature. If you get nostalgic for the good old days, watch the local television station that rebroadcasts shows from the 70's. You might notice the hot issues look awfully familiar: saving the environment, the energy crisis, race relations, immigration.

The buzz words have changed: global warming, carbon footprints, diversity. But the issues remain as thorny and controversial as ever. In the case of global warming, arguments rage on, with standard bearers on both sides questioning each other's agendas, and the very validity of the issue itself.

Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum of belief and philosophy, one thing seems to be clear: "going green" has become a mandate for business. It's time to take stock and consider how to approach this issue. Your business systems - ERP, Accounting, Human Resources - can help you turn this challenge into an opportunity.

As you use your IT and software technology to track the direction your carbon footprint is taking you, consider these benefits to going green.

* Despite the perception that greening a business is expensive, going green and staying in the black are not actually mutually exclusive. Very basic, easily achieved green practices can help the environment and improve the bottom line: turn off lights and computers when not in use, recycle paper. Look for creative ways to reduce, reuse and recycle. Use your accounting systems to track the costs of a lighting retrofit versus the reduction in your utility bill. If you are more ambitious, look into having your staff do more telecommuting. Tools like web-cams, internet chat/instant messaging, and online project management applications, can make telecommuting a more effective solution.

* Being ecologically responsible has become something of a marketing tool. More and more consumers are looking for companies that are known for their green products or practices. Even Wal-Mart has become famous as the world's largest producer of organic cotton goods, and Nike gets press for grinding up and recycling its old shoes into safer playground materials for children. But beware: eco-savvy consumers can sniff out an overinflated claim. That's why it's important to have documented results, and this is where your ERP system can help you. Use it to track the amount of waste reduction in your manufacturing process, or if you are adding more warehouses to cut down on fuel-driven distribution costs, use it to separately track and compare costs. With verifiable results there will be no need to be humble about your green contributions.

* You can enhance your image and reputation by taking a leadership position on this issue. Perhaps you could rank your suppliers based on their eco-sense, or use more green products. Use your Accounts Payable systems to give your vendors a "green" rating and then track purchases according to this rating to later report results. This can give your company a competitive advantage, and make it stand out for all the right reasons.

* This is an ideal opportunity to get your employees involved. Going green is a grass roots operation, so turn to your employees for ideas and suggestions on how to run the business in a more eco-friendly way. In addition to giving them a sense of ownership, it will increase their pride in the company they work for. Not only might you be amazed at the quality of the suggestions, but you will probably get a lot more cooperation in making the necessary changes. Make sure you set up automated systems to allow tracking of suggestions, participation in cost-saving programs, etc. Many human resources packages can track an employee's input, which can then be used in evaluations or as a basis of additional monetary compensation or non-monetary perks.

We may have new jargon to describe the problem thirty years from now, but chances are we'll still be grappling with the issue. Certainly for the time being, going green is not going away. It might make sense to use all the tools in our toolbox to tackle this one now.

If you need help adapting your ERP, Accounting, or Human Resources Management systems to track and manage your going-green efforts, email me at solutions@ACIconsulting.com or visit us at www.ACIconsulting.com. I'll put our team to work on it!
About the Author
Douglas Luchansky is the President of ACI Consulting, a reseller for ERP related software and services such as Sage MAS 90 ERP.
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