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Why Regionality is Key to Accurate Resource Consumption Decision Making

There are three things that matter in property: location, location, location. It’s pretty important to environmental sustainability as well.

While public awareness of environmental sustainability may have begun with the energy crisis of the late 70s, there’s no doubt that the movement has evolved from trend to business reality.  It’s gotten to the point where shareholders and investors are beginning to expect environmental reporting information along with financial reporting. In fact, a recent Ernst & Young survey on the topic found that in the past 12 months, 66 percent of companies reported an increase in inquiries from shareholders and investors around environmental sustainability-related issues.

The bottom line is that, in today’s competitive marketplace, businesses need to clearly communicate their resource consumption decisions– and more importantly– have in place the technology to accurately quantify the resulting environmental and financial impacts. The financial impacts are easily calculable.  If you implement, say, an energy efficiency program and install a solar array, you (or your utility) can easily calculate the total projected and realized financial savings from the two initiatives. Voila – financial impact reported.

But what about environmental impact?  Are businesses any closer to using their data to accurately report the true impact of their environmental sustainability initiatives?  The simple answer is yes…but.

With the advancement of today’s information technology, CSO's now have valuable access to data sets and knowledge that enable detailed analysis of cost and environmental impacts. However, one of the reasons for the aforementioned “but” is that today’s companies largely are failing to account for regionality and are not applying a metric that is universal across environmental resource domains.

Why Location Matters

Today it seems as if just about everything we do revolves around detailed, location-based data—from our smartphones and computers to our social media and satellite radio. To ensure that resource consumption data is equally accurate and being used to its full potential, businesses environmental sustainability projects and programs must be both data driven and location based while maintaining  an overall universality and simplicity of the front-end. Just as a smart phone has an intuitive front end and a complex back end, so should the project decisions and reporting we provide around environmental sustainability be just the tip of the iceberg in what is actually being measured.

Each year, millions of corporate dollars are invested in environmental sustainability initiatives and programs, ranging from energy efficiency to waste water reduction. Most of these projects do have an impact on bottom-line environmental sustainability. When it comes down to the data, even the most savvy sustainability manager can be left equating (and reporting on) the proverbial apples and oranges—kilowatt hours, tons of carbon,  gallons of water, etc.—making it extraordinarily difficult to achieve a holistic view, and even tougher to make year-on-year or project-to-project comparisons.

Consider for example – a CSO deciding between a wastewater reduction initiative and new HVAC system at two facilities. Initial cost impact analysis being equal, how does he or she determine which initiative will provide the greatest benefit for both the company and the environment at each location?

While it may seem logical to stick to evaluating gallons of water saved and potential tons of carbon abated, doing so fails to account for an essential piece of the puzzle.

Location.

Ultimately, understanding the vagaries of the environmental resources at a given location, and being able to analyze the associated impacts is critical to understanding and accurately measuring sustainability.

Let’s assume, for the sake of comparison, that the facilities in question are located in the Northeast and Southwest, respectively.

While the price of water may be cheaper in the Southwest, data shows the resource itself is more plentiful in the Northeast. And, while costs and associated permitting for geothermal for the HVAC system are perhaps more tenable in the Northeast, data indicates resource favorability is greater in the Southwest.

Therefore, while costs and initial impact analysis of the two projects may be similar, location is the determining factor in which ultimately will prove most environmentally sustainable for each facility.

Simple enough, right? Well, yes and no.

To reach the point where a CSO can say that “all else is equal,” companies must embrace an intuitive, universal measurement tool for comparison across resources. Without a universal metric to calculate the total impact of our myriad data sets and streamline with our financial reports, we’re back to apples and oranges before even contemplating location. 

Until every company, in every corner of the globe is embracing the necessary technology to define and measure their environmental sustainability data with the same ruler and to account for the impacts of regionality, we’ll all be relying (and reporting) on the incomplete caption in the realtor’s ad rather than getting the big-picture view of what we thought was our dream house…that, as it turns out our smartphone tells us, is next to the fire station and across from the railroad tracks.


Founder and CEO of Energy Points Inc. The company uses BIG data and analytics to improve enterprise environmental decision making. Its integrated source-to-site energy analytics directs intelligent use of electricity, water and materials.
Prior to Energy Points was the Founder and… [Read more about Ory Zik]


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