Green Business Intelligence - What, How & Why?

Environmentally friendly business intelligence - or Green BI - is kind of an ambiguous term. What does it mean? There are 2 main ways of approaching the topic of green BI - the physical environmental impact of implementing a BI solution - and using BI to analyze your footprint.

Business leaders acknowledge that proactively addressing corporate social responsibility (CSR) issues can result in real business benefits. An IBM global survey of more than 250 executives showed that 68% are already focusing on CSR activities to create new revenue streams, and 54% believe CSR gives them a competitive advantage.

Physical impact of implementing BI

It is commonly thought that an environmentally-friendly IT department can save you money, at least in the long run. Cloud computing infrastructure is noted for being more environmentally friendly than in-house infrastructure, with no need for new systems or IT equipment inside your company’s walls. So exactly how can the cloud make your organization more green?

1. Energy consumption: since cloud-based business intelligence solutions are delivered through a scalable environment, energy consumption is reduced at the source. At the same time, your company’s energy expenses will be reduced.

2. Decommissioning: eventually, every on-premise server you buy will have to be replaced, creating a future waste disposal challenge. By using the SaaS model, you won’t have to buy (and later get rid of) any IT equipment. So that means you will also enjoy waste disposal cost savings.

3. Staff: keeping your IT needs means you won’t have to hire resources as aggressively. Not having to increase the number of employees also translates to a lower rate of energy consumption, not to mention lots of other cost savings.

President Barack Obama expressed a desire for the Federal Government to spend over 150 billion U.S dollars on green technology at the beginning of his term, and he wanted a significant amount of this money to be spent on green IT and green computing. The idea was to practice green IT initiatives, especially those concerned with improving the environmental sustainability of enterprise data centers.

Using BI to analyze your footprint

Regulatory mandates to reduce greenhouse gas emissions worldwide are compelling companies to look for new approaches to carbon management—from sourcing and production, to distribution and product afterlife. Much of the opportunity to address CO2 emissions rests on the supply chain. Reducing the supply chain's carbon footprint is essential.

So how would you use BI to analyze your footprint? Reduce greenhouse gas emissions and environmental impact across your business activities by monitoring your carbon use. Streamline business processes to improve overall efficiency, enhance quality, and add or change activities that help you become more environmentally friendly. Use dashboards to estimate emissions across business travel, distribution, energy, manufacturing etc. Collate data from company-wide systems into one place so you can comprehensively report your CO2 emissions to key stakeholders in an auditable and consistent manner.

Unfortunately, a lot of companies still have little or no actionable data about their environmental footprint. Although organizations may have the means to track cashflow, they often have little business intelligence or transparency into the most critical sustainability issues. The C-Suite is increasingly calling for environmental performance indicators to be included on existing executive dashboards - it is not enough anymore to be the fastest and cheapest: companies must strive to be the greenest and cleanest as well. What are the benefits of using BI to measure your "greenness"? Helping reduce your ecological footprint and energy costs, improving employee morale, developing competitive advantage and leadership, enjoying lower cost of compliance and strengthening your brand image are a few of them.

What do others have to say about Green BI?

William Laurent, a leading expert in information strategy and governance has talked about the Seven Pillars of Green BI:

"Green business intelligence breaks down into seven related, yet importantly distinct components. The Seven Pillars of Green BI provides the actionable “green knowledge” that will best assist global enterprises in monitoring, managing, and implementing their environmentally-wise future."

The Seven Pillars of Green BI

  • Manufacturing Consumption Footprint (i.e. Resources Used in Production)
  • Manufacturing Output Footprint (i.e. Waste Created from Production)
  • Operational Consumption Footprint
  • Operational Output Footprint
  • Product Consumption Lifecycle (i.e. Customer Consumption)
  • Employee Social Footprint
  • Green BPR (i.e. Green Reengineering of Business Processes, Procurement Patterns, etc.)

To sum up

What is the future of Green BI? It could be the introduction of new types of key performance indicators (KPIs) and dashboards that will measure environmental performance and compliance. These dashboards will be able to regulate, track and ration energy, while monitoring and integrating power usage statistics with pricing strategies and carbon-footprint data.

In the future, a large amount of green intelligence budgets will be at stake when it comes to measuring carbon footprints and emissions. Tax breaks and compliance penalties associated with environmental sustainability will make their way to the forefront of company concerns.

What do you think? Tell us in the comments.