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Tracking Carbon Emissions: The Next Big Reporting Challenge

With new greenhouse gas regulation looming, SAP, Microsoft and Accenture help the Carbon Disclosure Project with a SaaS-based BI platform.
One thing the platform purposely does not do, at the insistence of CDP, is give SAP, Microsoft, Accenture or any other vendor a proprietary lock or edge in the wider market for carbon emissions reporting technologies and services -- a market that some technology forecasters say will exceed $10 billion by 2012.

"This is a platform-neutral, interoperable reporting framework, and you don't have to be an SAP, Microsoft or Accenture customer to [upload or access data in] the system," said Rob Bernard, Microsoft's chief environmental strategist. "To CDP's credit, that was a condition of participation from the start."

Dave Abood, Accenture

CDP executives said they are intent on working with any and all enterprise software vendors to make it easier for their customers to gather and report carbon emissions information.

"We expect to have partnerships with all the blue-chip technology vendors and service providers so they can offer functionality and assistance to their clients to help them upload data to CDP," said Nigel Topping, CDP's chief development officer.

CDP is a non-for-profit organization, but it does have to fund its own operation. One potential revenue source envisioned is value-added licensing of the greenhouse gas data. All data is freely available to the public online in PDF-based reports, but the organization also licenses data in computable spreadsheet and database formats. The new platform is expected to make it easier for CDP to offer enriched or industry-specific data sets for competitive comparison.

"Our customers are always interested in benchmarking, and this will enable them to compare their emissions results against peers in their industry and business sector," Etzel said.

The technology executives attending the press conference agreed that carbon-tracking capabilities will increasingly be built into enterprise software and applications just as raw materials, expenditures and purchases are tracked. And as companies implement systems to collect data on their carbon emissions, that information could be used for more than just CDP reporting.

"One purpose for the data would absolutely be [carbon credit] trading and risk management functions," said Dave Abood, executive director of Accenture's Climate Change group. "Another is making sure they are under their caps if it's a regulated entity. And as product labeling evolves, you might also see information on the carbon content of products that you are considering buying."

CDP's Dickinson suggested it is no longer a question of if but when the United States will join other industrialized nations in tracking and regulating greenhouse gas emissions. Such regulation would likely involve market incentives such as a cap-and-trade system, whereby companies could buy and sell carbon credits.

"Just one of the U.S.-based utility companies in our latest report will emit 150 million tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere this year at absolutely zero cost," Dickinson noted. "We think that's going to change."