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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