Call me crazy, but there's a revival of interest in sustainability underway. Despite the Collapse in Copenhagen, the Demise of (US) Cap & Trade, and the ongoing Great Recession, companies around the world continue to invest in IT solutions to improve their operational efficiency and reduce their environmental impact.
My travels these past few weeks had me visiting with two sustainability practice leaders at large consulting/integration firms, the product heads for two of the leading energy and carbon management software providers, and the internal sustainability champions at a very large IT systems company.
In all five instances, folks were surprisingly chipper given the economic environment and its drag effect on sustainability spending. One of the sustainability practice leaders, for example, told me of their plans to grow from 150 people at the end of 2011 to 1,000 people three years hence.
What's going on? Here's my theory: Sustainability is becoming embedded in corporate behavior, metrics, and strategy. It's not a separate investment line item, a separate set of metrics, a separate organization . . . it's embedded into mainstream operations. As one of the software leaders put it, "Sustainability is sitting at the adults' table now."
What does that mean for these suppliers and their brethren? A big change in the way they go to market.
Eighteen months ago, I wrote a market overview report, "The Advent of Enterprise Carbon and Energy Management Systems." Returning from vacation last week, I was sifting through the recent news from suppliers in this nascent market, and thought it would be an opportune time to revisit the principal predictions I made in that report. It's actually something that we in the industry analyst world do not do often enough -- take a look back at our predictions and see how events have or have not conformed with our forecast.
So here goes:
Prediction No. 1: IT is the buyer of ECEM systems. "During the next few years [I wrote in December 2009] we believe that enterprise IT organization will emerge with the clear ownership role [for] ECEM systems. IT will bring its expertise in data analysis, data integrity, network connectivity, and overall systems architecture to bear on the corporate sustainability challenge. The faster that data sources for ECEM become more instrumented, more granular, [and] more real-time … the faster IT will move to the center of ECEM system evaluation, implementation, and operation."