BEER! (It Networking + Social = Beer, why not for me?)
Andreas Vogel from SAP spoke on an ASUG webcast Thursday, 17-Jan-2008, on tracking carbon dioxide emissions through the supply chain. He cited press releases from major retailers on efforts to label products they sell, disclosing how much energy was required in the production and transportation (but possibly not including subsequent warehousing costs such as soda can refrigeration). What does this mean to me as a consumer, and as an information technology professional?
Raising awareness of previously hidden costs of production, or side effects, gives consumers data to make informed decisions. I typically prefer stores that list unit cost for items so I can see what are bargains, and what may be overpackaged convenience or impulse buys. Given 2 similar toothpastes, would I be more likely to buy the one that cost less to produce? Probably. When will this information be available to consumers? That is less clear, and leads to the technical side of the topic of carbon footprint labeling.
I don’t yet have copies of the slides Andreas showed, but many thoughts he shared are in this PDF document in the SAP repository [updated offsite version – 15 pages]. One example Andreas uses is food production (here’s where the beer comes in), with supply chain steps such as Farming/Suppliers to Production, and Production/Suppliers to Distribution. A dilemma he points out is integration problems between software packages used in these 2 steps, which are just a portion of the entire chain. Web services are a possible solution, but the realization of this is down the road. Standards for data exchange in energy or carbon dioxide units are fuzzy (to me anyway), and hampered by political and competitive concerns (anyone recall Enron?). Having the end consumer or the retailer demand the data will force solutions to evolve.
For further reading, I’m listing references found either directly from SAP research publications, or indirectly from citations in Andreas’ works.
- Carbon Disclosure Project – Supply Chain home page
- “Cradle to Cradle” – William McDonough and Michael Braungart
- Tesco vs. Wal-Mart vs. carbon emissions – Carbon Commentary
- Carbon labels: www.carbon-label.co.uk methodology PDF document
- Andreas’ blog
- SAP Green2 wiki
In a September 2007 Washington Post article, “Wal-Mart said it would start by looking at seven categories that are ubiquitous in its shoppers’ lives: DVDs, toothpaste, soap, milk, beer, vacuum cleaners and soda.” (EMPHASIS MINE)
[All opinions expressed are mine, not my employer’s]