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BEER! (It Networking + Social = Beer, why not for me?) 

[prior blogs: CSR & Me | Carbon Footprint at Home]

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. 

  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]

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    1. Jim Spath Post author
      Ignacio: If you are saying CO2 measurement requirement could be carried to the point of absurdity, I agree, and this reminds me of one of the late Mitch Hedberg’s best jokes, the one about getting a receipt for buying a donut (“How did paper and ink enter this transaction?”).  But I will argue that there are direct and indirect emissions that we as consumers are responsible for, when we exercise marketplace demands.  Direct energy uses (house, car) are easy to measure, although changing habits and practices may be very difficult.  Indirect emissions, those generated while our goods are produced, are hard to measure unless the producers and retailers commit to what will likely be elaborate record keeping systems.  But just like the nutritional contents of the food we eat, knowing how much CO2 was generated in what we buy can help us make changes.
      Jim
      If I misunderstood you, please accept my apologies in advance!
      (0) 

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