SAS, which specializes in business intelligence, statistical analysis, and data management software, calls its new offering "the first decision-support software platform" for identifying strategies that address "complex environmental, social, and economic situations while achieving stakeholder objectives." In simpler terms, SAS has taken its Activity-Based Management application for analyzing and modeling the costs of various business activities, gained through a company it acquired called ABC Technologies, and customized it for green efforts.
The new software, for example, comes with hierarchies and metrics that have been pre-defined, and loaded into a dashboard and scorecard, to make it easier for businesses to participate in the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). GRI is a 10-year-old organization that's developed a framework businesses can use to measure and report their economic, environmental, and social performance. The GRI said it has 1,500 companies, including "leading brands," using its framework.
Companies can use SAS for Sustainability to analyze the cost of carbon emissions, model various scenarios, "and then prioritize and defend their actions for the win-win-win of people, planet and profit," said Jonathan Hornby, global marketing director for SAS performance management.
While the cost savings of using less energy are obvious, Hornby said companies will face more pressure from customers in coming months to prove they're environmentally and socially conscious. "If you're 'green washing', which means just saying it but not doing it, and don't have the transparency [into green efforts], today's generation won't accept it," Hornby said.
There's little pressure from the U.S. government for companies to become more green, but pressure could come from elsewhere. Participants at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali last December set in place targets that they're pushing nations to adopt by 2009 that could result in new laws that affect businesses.
But much of SAS's bet for the software's success lies in attracting those companies choosing to take a proactive approach to sustainability, getting their green efforts in order using an organized, centralized system before they're forced to do so because of new laws or bad publicity. Other potential customers of the software are companies with a leadership staff in place that takes the issue of sustainability seriously as part of being a good corporate citizen, whether or not it impacts the bottom line. The question is whether companies will spend money on sustainability analysis software, with no looming laws forcing them to do so, during a time of economic uncertainty and carefully scrutinized IT budgets.
SAS's offering is unique in its broad approach to centralized sustainability efforts, but it's not the first one to venture down the green path. SAP's government risk and compliance business, which now falls under its Business Objects division, offers apps that help with emissions management and recycling of electrical/electronics waste, among others.