Friday, May 30, 2008

Highlights from the Bentley BE 2008 Conference

This week I had the opportunity to attend the annual BE conference in Baltimore MD, hosted by Bentley Systems; a leading provider of design & construction technology solutions for infrastructure, government, and industry. I was invited to be a judge of sustainability technology submissions in the "BE Awards of Excellence"; Bentley's program to recognize innovative use of their technology in various settings.

Up to this year, categories have included those typically associated with infrastructure solutions: design innovation, project management, visualization, civil works, geospatial, plant design, and water systems, for examples. This year's conference theme was "Sustaining Infrastructure": sessions reflected the emphasis of building sustainability concepts into infrastructure solutions.

My role was to judge submissions in two new categories:"Sustaining Society" and "Sustaining the Environment". Since this was the first year for these categories, the submissions were quite varied in scope, detail, impacts, and type of technology used (Bentley's....). The winners were: CH2M Hill for an innovative design of a fish barrier system for water intake; and a Badlupar based water utility that designed and implemented upgraded water services (both delivery and quality) to local populations, with the additional goal of knowledge transfer to other Indian water agencies as well.

I think this was a very good start for incorporating sustainability metrics into their awards program, as well as integrating sustainability into the conference and company strategy as well. Indeed, CEO Greg Bentley talked at length about Bentley is managing their own carbon footprint, as well as building sustainability metrics & process into their solution strategy.
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Thursday, May 29, 2008

BIM and Green building technologies, Part 2 (on published the second installment of a column on leveraging BIM (Building Information Modeling) for adoption of green building technologies. This column provides insights on the effect of the GSA and federal building market, as well as providing insights on growth and exit strategies. Link is here. Read more!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Blog post on

I contributed a recent post to TriplePundit; topic is how the major market drivers such as BIM (Building Information Modeling) in the AEC sector are allowing for growth opportunities of green technologies. (click on this blog post title to get to the 3P post).

I will follow up next month on TriplePundit with some strategies for cleantech growth, and incorporate some new insights from tech firms I have been working with. Read more!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Some thoughts on sustainability in the supply chain

As the sustainability technology market develops, it appears that there are a number of segments within (such as CSR reporting, supply chain mgt, etc) that are gaining traction, and may 'drive' general adoption of sustainability within organizations. I find it interesting that there are a number of different tech firms such as Aravo, Stakeware, CSRware, Credit360 and many others, that are coming at sustainability from different business processes. The recent Forrester report on sustainability technology (which I commented on in this post) details the general groups as well, but does not identify supply chain solutions as a specific segment. I think this may be an area that could drive faster adoption, and also be a platform that could integrate with other sustainability processes & metrics as they were developed in an organization.

Initiatives to ‘green’ the supply chain generally follow these key metrics:

  • Lower energy use and increase energy efficiency in storage and transportation
  • Minimize packaging via improved product design and use of recycleable materials
  • Lower carbon footprint and emissions via improved energy (above), use of alternative energy sources (where appropriate)
  • Substitution or elimination of toxic materials when possible
  • Effecient use of resources; i.e. "embedded water" costs
  • Optimize the supply chain as to minimize impacts on stakeholders

The market drivers for greening are:

  • Product - specific compliance, such as REACH
  • Sustainability reporting
  • GHG emission reductions and credits
  • Improved risk management (in light of recent supply chain incidents with Mattel, others)
  • Cost savings of shippers / suppliers; leading to better value pricing
  • Stronger relationships & transparency with key suppliers; strategic value

In discussions with many supply chain management solution providers, it appears that many end user clients are deploying 'green' solutions in the supply chain to achieve better energy efficiency, because it is the most visible and generally the easiest issue to solve with key suppliers and logistics partners. But it remains to be seen whether that issue will continue to drive the growth of this segment. There is a general feeling that any additional 'incidents' with global brands will increase awareness and urgency on the part of corporations to gain complete transparency in their supply chains and manage them beyond just energy efficiency gains. Along those lines, continued regulation enactment similar to REACH and RoHS in the EU will also force companies to align their supply chain (and product management) processes so as to be in compliance with product - centric regulations.

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Saturday, May 10, 2008

Use of Life Cycle Assessments (LCA) in Sustainability Programs

Recently read a blog post on TriplePundit by ClimateCheck, regarding the development of ISO 14064, which covers the measurement and reduction of GHG emissions.

A comment in the article (link is here) caught my eye:

"One of the challenges is the use of an “approved or standardized” approach to quantifying the carbon credits created by new technologies. There are many approaches being used, ranging from in-house engineering calculations to full life cycle analyses (LCA) and computer models"

It made me think about the 'state of the art' of LCAs...(yes, I know: I may lead a very lonely life)......anyway, I do think that LCAs can be a very powerful tool to identify, measure, and manage GHG emissions, as well as do the same for other important 'sustainability' metrics such as: resource consumption (i.e. water); toxics use and emissions, and of course carbon footprinting.

LCAs have been around for quite a while; I developed (rudimentary) tools for environmental management problems in the 80s and 90s; focusing on chemical disposal / recycling challenges. Product Stewardship and 'Responsible Care' were the primary drivers of this market at this time; both programs were developed by the chemical industry in response to potential strict regulations in the aftermath of catastrophic environmental incidents (Bhopal, West Virginia chemical releases). But these programs did not really look at impacts in production; they focused more on the impacts after the sale.

Currently, qualitative LCAs are in use ("LCA Lite" is a term a peer of mine in the manufacturing consulting industry has used). These are quite useful for strategic planning, prioritization and ranking of initiatives and programs, and communications / marketing purposes, but may not add value for decision making on supply chain optimization and 'greening', or similar decisions in green product development in PLM efforts.

I think the standards organizations such as ISO and the Voluntary Carbon Standard are taking a lead in the development of rigorous methodologies, as well as definition of metrics that may be accepted by industries.

This is a market sector that I think both technology companies and service providers may have significant success in the next few years; tech companies in the CSR and supply chain mgt sectors are well positioned to incorporate LCA functionality (and data sets); and 'white space' development and industry - specific customization will be required to get LCAs to the point of being widely accepted tools for sustainability decision making.
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Monday, May 05, 2008

When Compliance is not enough...

Recent industrial accidents have been in the news: an International Paper plant explosion in Mississippi, and in February, another explosion at the Imperial Sugar plant in Port Wentworth GA (link).

When thinking about 'sustainability', it would seem that governmental compliance needs to be adhered to, first and foremost. Compliance in most cases is performed as result of required regulations by EPA, OSHA, and state government groups, for these two cases. But what happens when a facility (or warehouse or distributor) is in compliance, but an accident of this magnitude still occurs?

As reported by the Wall Street Journal earlier this week in their article "Dust Cloud Settles Over Industries", there was a significant dust problem at the Imperial Sugar plant, and questions were raised by outside experts as well as those in OSHA as to how effective cleaning procedures were. In this case, the plant had been cited for numerous violations in the past, but as one inspector put it, they probably did not know the severity of their own dust problems:

"They don't see it, they don't clean it, because they don't realize the hazard is there," says John Vorderbrueggen, lead investigator for the blast at the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, a federal agency that probes chemical accidents. "I wouldn't call it negligence. I'm sure any company, if they had an awareness that a hazard existed, they would take corrective action. So it's really an ignorance issue." (Wall St. Journal)

OSHA regulations may not have been sufficient, according to a member of their own safety board:

"OSHA has a 'gotcha' approach," says Stephen Selk, investigations manager for the safety board. "They look hard and creatively to identify sometimes arcane interpretations of rules that were broken. We're suggesting to OSHA that they don't offer clear guidance. They don't tell industry the things to do to prevent a disaster like this." (Wall St. Journal)

And this is where I started thinking about 'sustainability' versus compliance.


It remains to be seen whether Imperial Sugar and International Paper were in compliance with relevant environmental health & safety regulations. But assuming that they were, they still have incurred very high costs (financial, loss of human lives, diminished brand) as a result of these accidents. Could the implementation of a risk management or sustainability program avoided these accidents?

I think the issue here is that instead of just meeting compliance, or even adhering to a sustainability program, there is a need to monitor and optimize the processes and associated metrics of any compliance, risk management, and even sustainability program. You might be in 'compliance' with a governmental or NGO regulation, or even in compliance with your own sustainability program, but if your processes are faulty, or if you are not measuring the correct metrics, or you don't have a standard to measure the metrics.....then compliance is all for naught.

We have seen this type of problem in the supply chain, with the crisis that Mattel went through recently when it was discovered that toys were being produced by second and third tier suppliers with hazardous metals. Mattel did not have a process that was applicable for evaluating and managing this risk; they essentially had zero transparency into that part of their supply chain. Their financial 'hit' was close to $40MM, along with massive disruption of their supply chain.

These events provide ample evidence that key to any program is the accuracy of data and consistent processes to measure it; selection of appropriate metrics and ones that can be measured; and a validation process to constantly review and amend, in light of business changes, technology advances, etc. 'Sustainability' in its most basic form is then a result.
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Saturday, May 03, 2008

What should I write about? (see the widget 'Skribit' to the right...)

Was checking out this new widget called 'Skribit'; it allows readers of blogs to make suggestions to the blogger on topics they would like to see covered, and also allows them to vote on other reader suggestions. Looks like a cool tool, so I thought I would upload and see if there are any responses...

For whatever it is worth: my blog currently gets about 25 users a day, with about 30 associated pageviews. It looks like most of the readers are in the US, with a smaller number in the UK, France, India, China, and Australia. Common key words to find the site: "scott boutwell" (duh), "BIM", "sustainability technology", "environmental growth trends", "AEC trends", and "building information modeling".

As I describe (somewhat) in the heading, I blog primarily on the market sectors of AEC, environmental, cleantech, and sustainability (recognizing that those terms are fairly broad in their own right). Within these sectors, I focus on external market drivers and associated company or industry initiatives; new strategies for growth; and the enabling technologies that facilitate that growth. I try to incorporate insights and anecdotes I have received from my technology clients, engineering and consulting partners, thought leaders, and people who make pithy statements....and generally aim to make posts enjoyable to read...key word: "aim"...

So, given this update on my blog and review of my blogging goals, it would be interesting to see if any readers have specific requests for blog posts. I can't promise that I will blog on them, but will certainly review and consider. Thanks.
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Friday, May 02, 2008

Who are the buyers (and users) of Sustainability Solutions?

Have had conversations with leading CSR and Sustainability technology companies in the past month or so; focusing on how this market is going to evolve, what are the technology needs, and how to sell complex solutions in an emerging space. What results in this post are some insights from specific tech firms coming at 'sustainablity' from differing business process and requrements.

That leads to the question: who is buying (and using) sustainability solutions? The answer is probably dependant upon what type of sustainability solution is being sold, as much as in how the term 'sustainability' is defined.

Credit360 is a European company with offices here in the US, and providing sustainability reporting solutions to clients such as Ford Motor Company. Christina O’Connell is the director of US sales, and had some interesting perspectives on selling these types of solutions. She mentioned that "sustainability teams are not comprised of technical staff, but have more brand management and PR teams involved". For their clients, many are using solutions to report on sustainability protocols such as GRI, but will also modify those protocols according to company - specific criteria as well.

Bill Best is CEO of Proquis, an UK based risk management technlogy firm. Given their offering in corporate governance and risk, many buyers and users are at a corporate level, and report into the chief counsel or CFO. Many of their clients are pursuing sustainability, but view it as part of a larger risk management strategy. Bill mentioned that their clients are "executives who want to see everything"; assuming a dashboard or similar portal, with the ability to drill down on issues.

From an environmental management system perspective, the usual buyers have been corporate EHS officers. With the need of managing greenhouse house gases (GHG), these EMS systems take on added importance. Users in this case may include those in the CFOs office, as well as the aforementioned EHS officers. Larry Goldenhersh, CEO of Enviance, an EMS technology firm, said that many of their clients have established a role of "Chief Risk Officer", who will oversee GHG emission monitoring and control. An interesting comment: "Many companies are going back to compliance in order to get it right", meaning that sustainability is important, but not at the expense of compliance.

There are other buyers of sustainability solutions in the supply chain and PLM (product lifecycle management space) that represent a more product - centric group of users; that will covered in an upcoming post.

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