Posted: May 25th, 2022

Environmental systems in the past five years

environmental systems in the past five years. Summarize the techniques used, the assumptions and limitations faced, the potential for error and how it was minimized, and the lessons learned.

Scope/Direction of the Research

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The scope of the study extended to a review of relevant studies published within the last 5 years to provide an overview and recapitulation of the techniques that have been used in recent years to study the development of environmental systems, the assumptions and limitations that have been encountered along the way, the potential for error and how it was minimized, and the lessons learned from these efforts. The development of environmental systems includes various geospatial technologies, alternative energy systems, and other technological solutions that are designed to interact with and monitor the earth’s natural environment. This analysis is followed by a summary of the research and important findings in the conclusion.

Potential Limitations of the Research

A potential limitation of this research project was the lack of relevant scholarly studies on this topic as well as the 5-year time constraint involved which excluded several on-point studies from being included in the analysis. The search protocols employed for this purpose included Boolean searches using key words such as “environmental systems,” “quantifiable risk,” “risk management,” “analytical methods,” and various permutations of these search terms in reliable online research resources such as EBSCO and Questia, using various delimiters such as the timeframe of the published studies. Another potential limitation of the research concerned the potential for recent innovations in research approaches used to study the development of environmental systems in the pasts 5 years to be overlooked during the research process, especially given the lag between original research and the time required to be published in a peer-reviewed journal. Finally, a potential limitation encountered during the research process was dynamic nature of the technologies that are currently being used, with innovations being introduced on a daily basis that can have profound effects on the utility of existing research methods.

Purpose of the Research

The purpose of this study, as noted above, was to compare and contrast the research approaches used to study the development of environmental systems in the past 5 years, as well as the assumptions and limitations that have been experienced, the potential for error in such systems and how they were minimized, as well as what lessons were learned from these efforts.

Summary of Research Techniques used to Study Environmental Systems

Quantitative Risk Assessment

It has become axiomatic in the business world and scientific community alike that in order to improve something, it must first be measured and this is also the case with the quantitative research techniques that have been used in recent years to develop environmental systems. According to Neuman (2003), quantitative research uses “information in the form of numbers” (p. 542). Environmental management research uses a variety of quantitative research methods for risk assessment applications, including potential risk to human health as well as the environment as a result of anthropomorphic activities (Autenrieth, 2012). Likewise, quantitative risk assessment of environmental risk factors is a fundamental unit of analysis for environmental researchers (Leyk, Phillips, Smith & Nuckols, 2011). The quantitative data that results from these analyses can provide decision-makers with the information they need to conduct the requisite cost-benefit and what-if type scenario analyses, and to allow scarce resources to be focused where they will provide the maximum return on their investment (Autenrieth, 2012). Moreover, because the quantitative risk assessment method can use existing epidemiological data to measure the impact of exposure of different environmental threats on different populations, no new research is required to use this method with archived data (Corvalan, Briggs & Zielhuis, 2009).

Other increasingly popular applications of quantitative risk-assessment research methods for environmental management research include formulating timely and efficient responses to environmental disasters such as oil spills (Autenrieth, 2012). In sum, then, the quantitative risk assessment approach is “the application of a statistical relation between exposure and the associated health outcome to assess either the health risk to a population or the exposure level associated with a given risk” (Corvolan et al., 2009, p. 120).


Biomonitoring research that uses quantitative data has also become an increasingly valuable tool for environmental systems development. According to Vandenberg, Chahoud, Padmanabhan, Paumgartten and Schoenfelder (2010), biomonitoring research involves collecting the quantitative data that is needed to conduct toxin exposure assessments, an approach they maintain helps to identify health threats that might otherwise go undetected. In this regard, Lakind, Barraj, Tran and Aylward (2008) report that, “The risk assessment paradigm, which serves as the basis for public health evaluations and actions with respect to environmental chemicals, requires not only an assessment of the potential toxicity of a chemical but also an estimate of human exposure” (p. 61). With respect to their application in environmental system development and analyses, biomonitoring relies on human-produced evidence to provide the data needed to formulate expert interpretations and recommendations. In this regard, Lakind et al. define biomonitoring as “the direct measurement of chemicals or their metabolites in blood, urine, or other bodily fluids or tissues, is becoming an increasingly common exposure assessment tool” (2008, p. 61). The application of biomonitoring research methods fro environmental systems to date have confirmed their efficacy and a growing body of evidence supports the use of biomonitoring for other environmental system development efforts as well (Vandenberg et al., 2010).

Geographic Information Systems

Other research methods used to develop environmental systems in recent years that have relied on quantitative data include geospatial technologies such as geographic information science or systems, remote sensing and global positioning systems (Lambert, Munro-Stasiuk, Czajkowski, Benko et al., 2008). In recent years, geospatial technologies have been applied to the development of environmental systems for forestry, water use, wildlife management and agricultural practice, among others (Hoalst-Pullen & Patterson, 2010). According to Satapathy, Katpatal and Wate (2008), geospatial information technology systems are increasingly important research tools that can help decision makers better understand the implications of current and projected human activity on the environment. According to the definition provided by Suit, geospatial technologies are “an amalgamation of several technologies, including but not limited to remote sensing, GIS, GPS, and related fields such as computer mapping, spatial modeling, and data visualization” (p. iii). The use of geospatial data dates to the mid-to late 20th century, but serious environmental management development systems were not realized until around the turn of the century (Sui, 2007).

These geospatial research methods represent the cutting-edge of environmental system development today, and new applications continue to be identified (Sui, 2007). For example, Haining, Kerry and Oliver (2010) report that, “Geostatistics is a distinctive methodology within the field of spatial statistics. In the past, it has been linked to particular problems (e.g., spatial interpolation by kriging) and types of spatial data (attributes defined on continuous space)” (p. 7). Originally developed in France in the 1960s (Goodchild, 2008) for use in the mining industry (Gething, Noor, Gikandi et al., 2008), geostatistics has become the most widely used research method by geostatisticians because of the fundamental nature of the quantitative data that is involved (Haining et al., 2010).

The research method used by geostatisticians, though, is distinguished by several differences from the methods that are generally used by geographers for analyzing spatial variations that are associated with regional data (Haining et al., 2010). In this regard, geostatistics include a wide array of tools and modeling methods that can be used with researching various environmental management scenarios including:

1. Prediction;

2. Determination of the scale of spatial variation;

3. Design of sampling for primary data collection;

4. Smoothing of noisy maps;

5. Region identification;

6. Multivariate analysis; and,

7. Probability mapping (Haining et al., 2010).

The application of geostatistics to environmental research also has a growing body of evidence in support of its efficacy and continued use for these purposes (Haining et al., 2010), a process that will likely accelerate in the future as access to timely geospatial data becomes more widespread. Moreover, this process is being facilitated by the placement of geospatial research tools in “the cloud,” in online venues. In this regard, Internet-based GIS has describes GIS services that employ the Internet as their primary means of accessing data, conducting spatial analyses, and providing interactive services related to geographic information (Yao & Zou, 2008). Geostatistics are also increasingly being used to help identify optimal placements for wind turbine generators in wind farms throughout the United States and elsewhere (Dincer & Rosen, 2007). According to Dincer and Rosen, “Energy and exergy efficiency models for wind generating systems are used to produce exergy monthly maps. With these map for a specific system, exergy efficiencies in any location in a considered area can be estimated using interpolation” (p. 196).

ISO 14001

Besides the foregoing approaches, a growing number of companies around the world are basing their environmental system development efforts on the analytical framework provided by ISO 14001 (Zsoka, 2007). The ISO 14001 framework provides a number of auditing and other analytical tools that companies can use to qualitatively and quantitatively evaluate their compliance with governmental regulations as well as the provisions of ISO 14001 itself (ISO 14000 essentials, 2012). Although the research tools provided by the ISO 14001 framework are both qualitative and quantitative, this approach is consistent with the guidance provided by Neuman (2003) who points out that, “Both qualitative and quantitative research use several specific research techniques (e.g., survey, interview, and historical analysis), yet there is much overlap between the type of data and the style of research. Most qualitative-style researchers examine qualitative data and vice versa” (p. 16). Indeed, researchers have used qualitative and quantitative surveys to assess consumer reactions to proposed environmental initiatives at the local level (Neuman, 2003).

In fact, quantitative and qualitative research methods are characterized by a number of similarities that lend themselves to environmental systems analyses and development (as well as some differences) (Neuman, 2003). The distinct differences in the qualitative and quantitative research suggest that the use of quantitative data for environmental system development is highly appropriate, but that such data must be interpreted by taking into account a wide range of potentially qualitative factors that will not be possible using one approach to the exclusion of the other research approach (Neuman, 2003).

A summary of the foregoing research methods for environmental system development is provided in Table 1 below.

Table 1

Summary of Research Methods Used for Environmental System Development: Past Five Years to Date

Research Method



Quantitative risk-assessment methods

1. Risk assessment for potential risk to human health;

2. Risk assessment for potential damage to the environment from manmade activities;

3. Formulating timely and efficient responses to environmental disasters such as hazardous waste spills and their management.

4. Biomonitoring and exposure assessments of environmental threats to human health ( al., 2010).

Two types are quantitative risk assessment methods are available that make it valuable for environmental system analyses:

1. Risk analysis. The first type of quantitative risk assessment involves computation of the risk corresponding to a given level of exposure or dose; for example expressed in terms of excess risk or the number of extra disease cases.

2. Hazard analysis. The second type involves calculation of the exposure or dose corresponding to a given level of risk; for example the exposures estimated to cause adverse health outcomes in a certain percentage of exposed subjects (Carvalan et al., 2009).

Geospatial data

Geospatial technologies is an umbrella term that includes:

1. Remote sensing,

2. GIS,

3. GPS,

4. Computer mapping,

5. Spatial modeling,

6. Data visualization (Yao & Zou, 2008); and,

7. Wind farm siting (Dincer & Rosen, 2007).

.In addition, Internet-based GIS is becoming increasingly accessible to business, governments and consumers around the world as well (Yao & Zou, 2008).

These technologies rely on global information and positioning systems to create maps and three-dimensional visualizations, among other applications (Yao & Zou, 2008). The use of geospatial data by geostatistics for environmental system development include the following:

1. Prediction;

2. Determination of the scale of spatial variation;

3. Design of sampling for primary data collection;

4. Smoothing of noisy maps;

5. Region identification;

6. Multivariate analysis; and,

7. Probability mapping (Haining et al., 2010)

ISO 14001 framework

The standards and guidelines in the ISO 14001 framework that address specific environmental aspects, include the following:

1. Labeling,

2. Performance evaluation,

3. Life cycle analysis, and

4. Communication and auditing (ISO 14000 essentials, 2012, para 1).

The two standards, ISO 14001:2004 and ISO 14004:2004 deal with environmental management systems (EMS). ISO 14001:2004 provides the requirements for an EMS and ISO 14004:2004 provides general EMS guidelines (ISO 14000 essentials, 2012).

In sum, then, the research methods used during the past 5-year period have included conventional risk-assessment methods using quantitative data as well as biomonitoring techniques, geospatial data analytical methods such as geostatistics, and the qualitative and quantitative methods provided by the ISO 14000 family of environmental management evaluation and auditing tools. Each of these systems has its respective advantages and drawbacks, though, and these issues are discussed further below as they apply to their application in developing environmental systems.

Assumptions and Limitations Encountered in Developing Environmental Systems

Assumptions. Any type of research enterprise will require some fundamental assumptions about the phenomenon being modeled, and the enormous array of variables that affect environmental systems makes such research problematic from the outset. Indeed, identifying what should be measured and how it should be measured requires a comprehensive knowledge of the most salient environmental factors that are involved, but even the most careful approach cannot predict every possible outcome in such complicated systems.

Limitations. Many of the limitations that have been encountered in developing environmental systems using geospatial data have been associated with a paucity of timely and accessible data, as well as expert interpretation of this data (Satapathy et al., 2008). Although there are a growing number of uses for geospatial data, Satapathy and his colleagues (2008) cite a lack of access to such timely data, at least in India. This view is countered by the report from Sui (2007) that found geospatial data is readily accessible, at least in the United States, and that these technologies will continue to redefine how environmental systems are developed in the future. Furthermore, Goodchild and Janelle (2004) report that a number of other research tools have become available in recent years that provide geospatial data directly to researchers and consumers alike, including Space Imaging Inc. IKONOS (launched in 1999) and Digital Globe’s Quickbird (launched in 2001). Both of these systems provide commercial satellite imagery products that are offered to the general public and the research community (Goodchild & Janelle, 2004). Despite its increasing availability, there remains a lack of expert interpretation of geospatial data that takes into account the specialized needs of local communities (Brinegar & Popick, 2010).

According to Brinegar and Popick, the world’s 200 or so countries are defined by arbitrary geopolitical lines drawn on the globe, and these boundaries continue to shift, making the analysis and interpretation of geospatial data especially challenging. In this regard, Brinegar and Popick report that the need for defined areas is an essential requirement for developing environmental systems that take into account population growth trends and other human factors, but these analyses are complicated by the fact that such human-created boundaries tend to change over time. According to these analysts, “Unfortunately, human-defined boundaries vary over time and among data sources, complicating geographic inquiries. Spatial data issues occur, for example, when municipal boundaries expand and diverge from static census blocks, or when variables of interest are recorded in noncontiguous geographic units” (Bringer & Popick, 2010, p. 273).

These are increasingly salient issues in the application of geospatial data to environmental systems that focus on anthropomorphic impacts over time. This type of research has become possible in recent years through sophisticated modeling applications that include both geospatial as well as temporal data in formulating a variety of potential scenarios (Goodchild, 2008). Indeed, Goodchild even goes so far as to characterize this type of environmental system research as a “paradigm shift” and emphasizes that this trend is driven in large part by the introduction of specialized software for this purpose, among other compelling reasons. According to Goodchild, this trend is “driven in part by a new abundance of spatiotemporal data, in part by the development of improved methods of analysis and improved software tools, and in part by the realization that the dynamic aspects of the Earth’s surface are in many ways more interesting and important than the static aspects” (2008, p. 312).

Moreover, although several approaches have been developed to help resolve these constraints, there remains a need for comparative studies to determine the accuracy of these models in real-world settings (Bringer & Popick, 2010). These arbitrary geopolitical national boundaries have also adversely affected the ability of geospatial data to be used for environmental system development for more effective disease control methods (Leyk et al., 2011). .In this regard, Leyk and his associates (2011) emphasize that recent attempts to analyze geospatial data over time have been impacted by the influence of regional risk factors include climate and the prevailing socioeconomic conditions. According to these researchers, “Often the unit of analysis for such studies are administrative reporting units (states or larger) used in disease reporting, resulting in highly aggregated outcomes with limited representation of the underlying environmental phenomenon that might be more realistically reflected by analytical units defined by natural barriers, ecological systems, and other important factors in pathogen occurrence, exposure, and transmission” (Leyk et al., 2011, p. 224).

Similarly, a recent study by Goovaerts (2010) confirmed the challenges of using geostatistics for epidemiological applications based on regional or national boundaries that can shift. While there are some indications that geostatistics can be used for a wide range of environmental systems analyses, there have been some problems in applying the methods that were originally developed for analyzing earth properties to health-related research precisely because of these arbitrary boundaries. In this regard, Goovaerts emphasizes that, “Transferring methods originally developed for the analysis of earth properties to health science presents several methodological and technical challenges. These arise because health data are typically aggregated over irregular spatial supports (e.g., counties) and consist of a numerator and a denominator (i.e., rates)” (p. 32).

Potential for Error and Resolution Techniques

According to Benz and Newman (1998), the potential for error in quantitative analysis can be minimized by the use of computer-based applications, but humans remain a potential for error at every step of the process. Moreover, there may be some trial-and-error involved in formulating quantitative metrics that accurately measures what is intended. In this regard, Benz and Newman report that, “Some types of data are more difficult to quantify and, therefore, are not quantified; while other types of data are not initially quantified but are quantified at a later point” (1998, p. 111).

Once accurate quantifiable measures are identified and applied, though, the results of such quantitative research, including the use of these methods with geospatial database analyses, can then be used by the researcher for a wide variety of environmental management applications, including system development, implementation and administration (Hoalst-Pullen & Patterson, 2010). It should be noted, though, that geospatial databases are not free from errors and each image from space may include a minor positional error that will affect the cumulative accuracy of the mapping and other models that are generated (Goodchild, 2008).

Nevertheless, this potential for error is typically resolved by further statistical analysis that will smooth the data and allow for informed human interpretation. In this regard, Goodchild (2008) reports that although the precise positions of GIS-located objects can be distorted in absolute terms, the general shapes of these objects will be generally retained. Although this concept extends to elevation data as well, there are some constraints involved in the interpretation of the data but statistical methods provide a reasonably acceptable estimation of elevation nevertheless (Goodchild, 2008). In many ways, these methods continue to build on the work of previous researchers and while the use of some of them such as geospatial analyses are of fairly recent origin, some valuable lessons have been learned in their use and these issues are discussed further below.

Lessons Learned

Perhaps the overriding theme that emerged from the review of the literature concerned the wide variety of research methods that have been used in various ways for environmental system analysis and development. Although of these research methods was shown to have its respective strengths, they were also shown to be balanced by corresponding weaknesses or constraints when they are applied to real-world settings. The use of strictly quantitative methods, for example, in analyzing environmental systems provides researchers with the data they need to formulate expert interpretations that are sorely needed by others who want to apply these findings to their own unique situations.

Other lessons learned from the review of the literature included the inaccuracies that can be introduced in the research through the vagaries of arbitrary geopolitical boundaries, a constraint that becomes especially pronounced over time. Although specialized software applications have been developed that taken such variations in time into account, there remains a need for human interpretation of the data that results in order to make these findings relevant and credible. In sum, then, the most important lessons learned to date include the following:

1. Biostatistical research methods must include interpretation of quantitative data by experts in the field;

2. The use of both quantitative and qualitative research methods provides a more holistic perspective of environment issues and their impact on humans; and,

3. Although geospatial data is becoming increasingly accessible, some regions of the world continue to lack access to such data, as well as the expertise needed to apply appropriate research methodologies in ways that can provide them with the insights they need at the local level.

As the body of evidence concerning the effectiveness of the various research methods continues to grow, additional lessons learned will help define a set of best industry practices that can help organizations of all sizes and types develop improved environment systems that are based on real-time information and expert analyses.


By and large, the research showed that environmental research involves quantitative methods that are used to analyze natural and anthropomorphic patterns over time, a process that has been facilitated greatly in recent years by the introduction of specialized software tools that can use geospatial data that is also becoming increasingly accessible. Although the use of quantitative risk assessment and biomonitoring research methods is fairly well established and both enjoy widespread acceptability, there is less confidence in some of the other research methods reviewed, especially the use of geospatial data over time given the vagaries of human occupation in a given region. Taken together, recent trends in the use of quantitative data provided by geospatial technologies as well as biomonitoring research methods have provided researchers with a robust set of information upon which to make qualitative assessments. Just as more and more so-called “apps” are being developed for smartphones in a “build-it-and-they-will-come” mentality, the research also showed that as access to reliable geospatial data increases, there will likely be researchers lining up to use this information. It is reasonable to conclude that beyond the foregoing research methods, additional innovative approaches will be forthcoming in the years ahead that will use geospatial data in ways that can benefit local environmental sustainability efforts because there is money to be made in this industry and these research methodologies are the modern tools of the trade.


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QUESTION 2: Value creation is defined as the method used to conceive new ideas for new products. Evaluate the value creation theories relating to environmental sustainability.


Scope/Direction of the Research

The scope of this research extends to value creation theories in general and those theories applied to environmental sustainability in particular to determine how different companies have taken advantage of the growing interest in environmental sustainability to create a competitive advantage, generate additional revenues and grow their market share.

Potential Limitations of the Research

Truly innovative solutions that create value may be proprietary and therefore difficult to analyze beyond a general description of their utility and recent applications. In addition, it is likely that analysis of many of the most recent successful initiatives has not yet found its way into the peer-reviewed and scholarly literature, making this study’s findings a snapshot of recent events in this area but certainly not an exhaustive one.

Purpose of the Research

The purpose of this study was to evaluate the value creation theories relating to environmental sustainability through a review of the relevant peer-reviewed and scholarly literature in this area which is provided below.

Review and Analysis

Theories of Value Creation

A consistent theme that quickly emerges from the value-creation literature is that all value is created by humans, and this competency varies dramatically from situation to situation. Nevertheless, some of the common features that characterize the value-added theoretical literature indicate that an organization’s workforce creates value in a sustainable fashion to the extent that it:

1. Creates value;

2. Is unique or rare among competitors;

3. Is difficult to replicate;

4. It is not readily imitated or substituted.(Elsdon, 2003, p. 156).

The value-creation theories used for marketing are basically economic and experiential (Russell-Bennett, Previte & Zainuddin, 2009). The economic theory uses the results of a cost-benefit analysis to determine the actual utility gained from a given initiative, meaning that to the extent that the costs exceed any gained benefits is the extent to which less value is created vs. The amount of benefits gained (Russell-Bennett et al., 2009).

More recently, a growing number of scholars in the field have reexamined conventional economic theories of value creation and have expanded these concepts to include other, less discernible outcomes, but which have value of some sort anyway. In this regard, the experiential conceptualization of value has redefined it to include additional factors besides money such as the value of the interaction itself rather than its outcome alone (Russell-Bennett et al., 2009). As a result, in recent years, a number of marketing researchers have reconceptualized value creation using the experiential value creation theory to include six basic sources that that influence value creation at each stage of the consumption process: (a) information, (b) product or service, (c) interaction with employees and the larger systems in which the enterprise competes, (d) environment, (e) co-creation, and (f) social mandate which have various social, emotional and functional dimensions as described in Table 1 below.

Table 1

Experiential sources of value creation

Source of Value Creation



This source of value creation relates to the marketing materials produced by the organization that convey information. This includes promotional materials), Web sites, packaging, brochures, and instructions. Information can influence economic value by educating and informing, as compared to emotional value, which can be influenced by the creative execution or sensory experience of the information. Information can also help consumers identify with peers or social groups, thus creating social value. Finally, it can create altruistic value by showing the benefits to society that the interaction provides.

Product or service

While many conceptualized are goods-focused, this can be extended to services as well. Services provide value in terms of the benefits and needs they meet though core and supplementary service delivery. Functional value may be created by the service solving a problem for the consumer (i.e., a water-use monitoring service solves the problem of locating where excess water is being used within a home). The service may provide sensory experiences for the consumer, such as the relief of pain by a medical service that provides medication, thus creating emotional value. Social value may be created when the service allows a consumer to express themselves to others through the experience of the service, and altruistic value may be the sense of ‘doing good’ that is created by receiving the service.

Interaction with employees and system

This source of value creation is the relationship-based and interpersonal aspect of the service, which also relates to interaction and systems service quality. This may influence functional value because the service performance is enhanced by the interaction, or it may influence the emotional and social value of the service by creating relational bonds.

Physical environment

This source of value creation includes the atmospherics, social servicescape, and the physical aspects of the consumption experience such as the building. Functional value may be influenced if the physical environment facilitates the consumption of the service (i.e., the lighting allows the consumer to read instructions more clearly). Emotional value may be created by the affective state invoked by the environment (i.e., a non-crowded reception may put the consumer at ease and relieve anxiety). Social value may be created when the environment increases a consumer’s status or protects their ego (i.e., in situations where the service being consumed is prestigious). Finally, altruistic value may be created when the environment allows the consumer to be pro-social (i.e., when a consumer chooses a service that recycles building materials, thus creating altruistic value),


The penultimate source of value creation can range from joint problem-solving to the development of a personalized service. An example of co-creation in the consumption of a health service may involve the customer searching the internet prior to a medical appointment to understand their symptoms and assist in a diagnosis when they interact with their doctor. This may reduce the level of anxiety being experienced and thus increase emotional value. During the consumption of the service (i.e., the appointment), the customer may suggest remedies or activities they can undertake to alleviate the problem, and this may provide functional value. Finally, in the post-consumption stage (i.e., after the appointment) the customer may explain the medical condition to family and friends whilst implementing the treatment recommended by the doctor. If the consumer feels confident of both the recommended solution and their ability to enact the solution, this may generate social value as they explain it to others.

Social mandate of government social marketing services

The final source of value creation is the role of government which is to shape society in a positive way by implementing policies and strategies that ultimately lead to the creation of social good, including the provision of consumer services. Government services contain additional layers of complexity that add to the expectations and attitudes of consumers and influence their satisfaction with the service.

Source: Adapted from Russell-Bennett et al., 2009, p. 212

Clearly, not all of the foregoing sources of value will be of interest to all organizations, but the variety of value sources identified by the experiential theoretical perspective does highlight just how diverse the opportunities are for gaining a competitive advantage in various ways. Taken together, it is apparent that both the economic and experiential value-creation theories involve a number of variables, some of which are difficult to quantify and with others being fairly nebulous with respect to their immediate impact on value creation. In some cases, though, the positive outcomes are more amenable to quantification, including the specific dollar amounts involved, and these issues are discussed further below as they relate to value creation opportunities in environmental sustainability.

Value Creation in Environmental Sustainability

The term environmental sustainability is generally defined by Buckingham and Theobold as “a particular aspect of the broader sustainable development debate, where environment sustainability refers specifically to measures to ensure that the environment is not depleted or damaged further than it has already been and the latter encompasses a broader range of social economic and environmental goals” (Buckingham & Theobold, 2003, p. 1). As Whitford and Wong point out, though, “Environmental sustainability is value based, and because values change over time there is no one measure of environmental sustainability” (p. 190). This observation suggests that what is considered to be “value creation” today may be viewed far differently a few years from now, just as the impact of the Industrial Revolution was felt differently as its environmental effects became more pronounced over time.

Despite these constraints in analysis and shifting definitions of value, when considered from the conventional value-creation theory perspective described above, companies will most likely attempt to maximize their profits assume environmental-related prices and government regulations as the costs of doing business; as a result, these organizations have little motivation to spend anything extra on environmentally sustainable initiatives that are beyond the scope of these mandatory oversights (Henriques & Sadorsky, 2008).

In response to increasing governmental oversight, regulatory requirements, as well as growing consumer demand for products and services that are known to be produced in environmentally responsible ways, Craig and Dibrell maintain that “sustainable development will become a source of competitive advantage. Central to this ‘natural’ resource-based view of the firm is that firms that are better able to understand the role of the natural environment will attain a sustainable competitive advantage” (2006, p 37).

Therefore, while it may be an intuitive conclusion that adopting environmentally responsible practices are in an organization’s best interests, the conclusion is not foregone. According to Housman and Zaelke (1999), a competitive sustainability theoretical framework provides a useful approach to evaluating the effects of mutually reinforcing economic and environmental systems. In this regard, Housman and Zaelke (1999) report that one of the fundamental tenets of the competitive sustainability theoretical framework is a simultaneous increase in domestic and international environmental standards. As these authors point out, “The theory provides that the best mechanism for encouraging this is the use of competitive forces to create a level playing field for commerce at consistently higher levels of environmental and social protections through a set of incentives that reward the cleanest and most efficient economic actors for their efforts” (p. 545). The use of incentives, though, must be tied to other efforts that will serve to encourage companies to internalize the importance of environmentally sustainable practices in order to be effective (Housman & Zaelke, 1999).

Despite the challenges that are involved, when environmentally sustainable practices are carefully integrated into an organization’s business model, it is possible for them to achieve a competitive advantage over those that do not in a variety of ways. In this regard, Craig and Dibrell conclude that, “Successful integration of the natural environment into a firm’s strategic planning process offers a firm the opportunity to develop a valuable, potentially rare, and not easily imitated organizational capability” (p. 37), a definition that is congruent with the value-creation economic theory, but the cost-benefit analysis of such initiatives must take into account other factors as well. For example, the integration of environmental sustainability practices may involve high costs initially and the payback period may be lengthy; conversely, companies that place little emphasis on integrating environmental sustainability practices may free up resources that can provide them with a short-term competitive advantage over their more environmentally minded counterparts in ways that can encourage their competitors to do likewise — just to stay afloat (Craig & Dibrell, 2006).

It is reasonable to suggest that a struggling business owner faced with making payroll and paying taxes will be less interested in the “feel-good” aspects of environmental sustainability in favor of some hard currency that can provide the return on investment that is needed in today’s economy. These are especially compelling points for many companies today that continue to suffer from the lingering effects of the recent global economic downturn, but there are some success stories available that can help model the way for companies interested in creating value through environmentally sustainable practices and these issues are discussed further below.

Environmental Sustainability to Create Monetary Value

While there are a number of positive outcomes associated with the integration of environmentally sustainable practices and methods in organizations today, many of these are difficult to quantify and some of them are only realized over time. Recent experiences in the environmental sustainability field, though, show that there is indeed money to be made in the short-term by expanding a company’s efforts beyond the minimally required compliance steps required by government regulatory agencies in ways that also involve experiential outcomes. In this regard, Henriquez and Sadorsky (2008) cite the following desirable outcomes that have been associated with increased environmentally sustainable initiatives in recent years:

1. Relief from existing environmental regulation (like a burdensome tax);

2. The preemption of regulatory threats, or the influencing of future regulations;

3. Cost-efficiency;

4. Improved stakeholder relations; and,

5. The possibility of receiving technical assistance in kind or via some kind of incentive mechanism such as government grants or low-interest loans (Henriquez and Sadorsky, 2008, p. 143).

As a result, a growing number of companies of all types and sizes have recognized the value-creation opportunities that can accrue to increased emphasis on environmental sustainability in ways that provide them with improved internal efficiencies and enhanced external legitimacy that can provide them with a competitive advantage and shareholder value creation (Henriques & Sadorsky, 2008). The size of the enterprise involved affects what value creation theory will likely be applied to generate increased revenues and provide a competitive advantage, and it may be possible that more than one theoretical perspective will be operative at any given point in time (Lewis & Cassells, 2010).

Based on their analysis of small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and their take-up rates of environmental sustainability technologies and techniques, Lewis and Cassells (2010) concluded that the smaller the organization, the more it will tend to lag behind others in their adoption rates, with many owner-managers in small companies in particular being primarily motivated by simply doing the minimum necessary go comply with government regulations and nothing beyond. This approach, though, ignores the several desirable outcomes that can be achieved through the adoption of environmentally sustainable practices that extend beyond a company’s financial bottom-line. For instance, according to these environmental sustainability analysts, “A number of studies examining the adoption of environmental practices by SMEs have concluded that they tend to lag rather than lead, and that owner-managers are typically more motivated by achieving compliance with legislation/regulatory measures than they are by any competitive advantage that might be gained by being a ‘green leader’” (Lewis & Cassells, 2010, p. 7).

These findings suggest that even smaller enterprises which ignore the benefits of “going green” do so at their peril because they may be left behind by their competitors that recognize these benefits and take advantage of government grants, private investors and other resources to model the way for others. Beyond the broad spectrum of other benefits that can be achieved through environmentally sustainable initiatives, the basic incentive for most companies continues to be improved efficiencies that reduce costs and contribute to higher profits (Lewis & Cassells, 2010).

Although minimal compliance with government regulations continues to play an important role in how these companies viewed environmental sustainability, it was viewed as being less important that the companies’ obligations to the communities in which they competed and the individual commitment levels of the companies owner-managers (Lewis & Cassells, 2010). Based on their analysis of these survey results, Lewis and Cassells concluded that, “The fact that these two values-driven drivers ranked so highly, and are related to the owner-manager of the firm, alludes to the potential for this to be an advantage for SMEs in terms of improving environmental responsibility” (2010, p. 7).

This finding also indicates that the degree of commitment in any given organization, especially smaller enterprises, will be inordinately affected by individual owner-manager, with these individual preferences for environmentally sustainable initiatives outweighing the other driving factors reviewed by Lewis and Cassells (2010). In this regard, Lewis and Cassells conclude that these findings indicate “the importance of future work that examines the attitudes of owner-managers towards the environment, and the nature of the link between owner-manager attitudes and action in the business. Overall, the dominant drivers for environmental practices in this group of respondents were internal to the firm” (2010, p. 7). This finding is also highly congruent with the observation by Elsdon (2003) that, “In this emerging world, people become the main source of value creation. The engines of value creation are shifting from economies of scale or scope to economies of ingenuity and innovation” (p. 11).

Other influential drivers that affected the uptake of environmentally sustainable initiatives by the SMEs surveyed by Lewis and Cassells included the following:

1. Lack of customer demand for environmental improvements;

2. Central and local government; and,

3. Scarcity of resources (i.e., time, money and other resources) were also identified as the dominant barrier to implementing environmental practices (2010, p. 7).

These findings suggest that to the extent that resources are available and the commitment exists to pursue environmentally sustainable initiatives exist in a given organization will be the extent to which growth and added value will occur in its targeted area. According to Ekins (2000), there are four general categories of value-added opportunities that are possible through environmental sustainability initiatives as follows:

1. Growth of the economy’s biophysical throughput;

2. Growth of production;

3. Growth of economic welfare; and,

4. Environmental growth (p. 57).

As with any macroeconomic model, the relationship between these four groups is convoluted and complicated. In this regard, Ekins emphasizes that, “The relationship between these four kinds of growth is complex. It is also variable. A given flow of environmental resources (E) can produce different structures of production, with different levels of value added (as measured by GDP) with different environmental impacts (W) resulting in different levels of welfare” (p. 58). Moreover, the fossil fuel-intensive infrastructure that is in place today makes it difficult or even impossible to determine with precision the ultimate effects of an environmentally sustainable initiative on humans and the environment, but it is likely possible to determine with near precision the bottom-line impact that such efforts have at the organizational level through some straightforward before-and-after analyses. The entire value-creation process can be facilitated, though, when organizational members are informed of the process and its importance to the leadership team (Zsoka, 2007). Therefore, by closely aligning organizational goals with environmentally sustainable initiatives, a culture will be created that places increased emphasis on “going green” for both altruistic as well as financial reasons, perhaps emphasizing the “what’s in it for them” aspects of these goals (Zsoka, 2007), and these issues are discussed further below.

Recent Trends in Environmentally Sustainable Value Creation

A growing number of companies are helping homeowners reduce their heat loss through innovative insulation techniques (Frey, Moomaw, Halstead & Robinson, 2003). Likewise, there are significant growth opportunities for building contractors that specialize in using new materials that regulate their own temperatures in ways that improve energy efficiency and reduce energy costs; these materials can also be retrofitted to traditional residential housing and commercial buildings as well (Tucker, 2006).

In addition, increased applications of biomonitoring for environmental sustainability purposes could provide growth opportunities for companies specializing in these technologies (Sclove, 2010). Even passive technologies are providing niche opportunities for a growing number of environmental sustainability focused enterprises. For instance, consultants are in increasing demand who can provide guidance concerning the proper siting of buildings to optimize alternative energy sources, as well as recommendations concerning how to conserve energy loss, improve operating efficiencies and reduce energy costs (Save the environment the GreenSmart way, 2010).

In other cases, nonprofit organizations are increasingly playing an important role by providing essential services that are frequently not being delivered by governmental agencies in ways that promote environmental sustainability and create social value (Mort & Hume, 2009). Similarly, a growing number of school districts across the country are creating value by reducing waste at every opportunity, increasing the efficiency of automated processes and incorporating computer-based monitoring applications that reduce human oversight requirements and apply conventional fuzzy logic methods to the regulation of building maintenance needs (Riedel, 2008). Because the public school infrastructure represents an enormous consumer of energy across the country, environmental sustainability practices adopted in these settings stand to contribute a great deal in reducing energy needs and associated costs. In this regard, a growing number of schools districts have created value in environmentally sustainable ways by:

1. Reducing their paper usage, employee time, and copier toner usage by transferring printed materials for teachers, school board members and parents online;

2. Using motion sensor devices to detect when buildings are empty so that high-energy usage devices such as vending machines can be turned off (this one simple step can save up to two-thirds of electricity costs);

3. Installing solar panels in strategic locations to reduce electricity costs;

Costs savings of up to $1 million a year are projected for many school districts that apply these techniques in an integrated fashion (Riedel, 2005).


The research showed that value can be added at any point along an organization’ supply chain, but economic and experiential theorists suggest that the precise value of any given initiative will involve a wide array of variables that make exact calculations difficult if not impossible. Despite these constraints, there were a number of value creation opportunities identified in the relevant literature, including a reduction in the impact of current environmental regulation, the preemption of regulatory threats, improved cost efficiency and stakeholder relations as well as the potential for receiving technical assistance, governmental grant or low-interest loans. Many small- to medium-sized enterprises, though, may not enjoy the luxury of waiting for environmental sustainable practices to pay off over the long-term and will likely be more motivated by those practices that can provide a more immediate return on their investments. The examples of recent enterprises that have found ways to take advantage of the growing demand for goods and services produced by environmentally responsible companies indicates that there are a number of ways that organizations of all types and sizes — including for-profit and nonprofit alike — can create value through environmentally sustainable approaches to doing business themselves, or through the provision of such products and services to others. As more companies carve out niches in this burgeoning market, it is reasonable to suggest that those which are most successful will provide a model for others. The cumulative effect of these environmentally sustainable approaches will eventually produce a positive cost-benefit outcome along the entire continuum of sources of value, including both economic and experiential values


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QUESTION 3: Assess the circumstances under which the business organization can adopt environmental sustainability software. Propose a mechanism by which the value of the adopted software can be measured.


Scope/Direction of the Research

The scope of this research project extends to for-profit enterprises in general, but with a specific focus on small- to-medium sizes enterprises since these companies form the bulk of business organizations today.

Potential Limitations of the Research

Environmental sustainability software continues to be refined and improved, and even the location of the software is shifting from computer-based settings to online venues in the “cloud.” This means that the results of this study are applicable only to the software that is available for review at the time of writing and may not take into account improvements that will be on the market next year, or even next week, that integrate geospatial technologies or biomonitoring techniques that will create further considerations for adoption at the organizational level.

Purpose of the Research

The purpose of the research was two-fold as follows:

1. To assess the circumstances under which these types of business organizations can adopt environmental sustainability software; and,

2. To propose a mechanism whereby the value of the adopted software can be measured.

Review and Analysis

Setting the Stage: Organizational Culture and Environmental Sustainability

Business organizations are faced with some complicated questions when it comes to the need or even the desirability of adopting environmentally sustainable practices and the costs that are associated with such efforts are well documented, and typically require a long time to be recouped. These constraints mean that in order for environmental sustainability initiatives to succeed, there must be an appropriate organizational culture in place that places a high value on the effort and internalizes this value over time. In this regard, Sullivan and Wyndham emphasize that, “Maintaining enthusiasm for environmental management initiatives requires the successful management of change within the organizational culture” (p. 226). Generally speaking, when references are made to organizational culture, they are intended to mean “how things are done around here” in a given business organization. In this regard, Recardo and Jolly (1997) report that, “When people talk about corporate culture, they are generally talking about a set of values and beliefs that are understood and shared by members of an organization. These values and beliefs are specific to that organization and differentiate it from other organizations” (p. 4).With respect to the adoption of environmental management software and an organization’s readiness to do so, the organizational culture that is in place will play an important role in whether the effort is successful or not. As Recardo and Jolly (1997) add, “An organization’s culture helps to shape, and quite frequently to determine, the behaviors of the members and the practices within the organization” (p. 5). The various dimensions of an organization’s culture are described further in Table 1 below.

Table 1

Dimensions of Organizational Culture and Implications for Software Adoption



Implications for Software Adoption


This dimension involves the number and types of communication systems and what information is communicated and how, including the direction of communications (top down or bottom up vs. three-way), whether the communications are filtered or open, whether conflict is avoided or resolved, and whether formal (meetings, memos, etc.) or informal vehicles are used to transmit and receive communications.

Organizational culture is created from the top-down, suggesting that communication concerning proposed environmental sustainable software solutions must also originate with the business organization’s top leadership team.

Training and Development

Employee success is to a large extent dependent on new skill acquisition. Key indices to assess are management’s commitment to providing developmental opportunities and how well the organization allows new skills or behaviors to be applied on the job. A key index to review is management’s focus on education; e.g., is management focused on providing education for employees’ current or future developmental needs?

This aspect of organizational culture will involve how much training and support top management provides as part of the software adoption and degree of employee willingness to participate in the adoption.


This dimension concerns what behaviors are rewarded and the types of rewards used. Are employees rewarded individually or as a group, are all members of the organization eligible for bonuses, and what are the criteria for advancement? Other criteria measured include the degree to which employees are involved in developing performance standards, the perceived equity of rewards, and the degree to which the organization provides performance feedback

A consistent theme in the organizational culture literature concerns the need for stakeholders to truly have a stake in the adoption of environment sustainable software solutions in order for these types of initiatives to succeed.

Decision Making

This dimension addresses how decisions are made and conflicts resolved. Are decisions fast or slow? Is the organization highly bureaucratic? Is decision-making centralized or decentralized?

This dimension of organizational culture will affect how responsive the business organization’s leadership team is viewed by the stakeholders, a dimension that can affect adoption positively or negatively depending on how well the lines of communication are maintained during the implementation and administration of the software.

Risk Taking

This dimension concerns whether creativity and innovation are valued and rewarded, whether calculated risk-taking is encouraged, and whether there is openness to new ideas. To what degree does management encourage suggestions for improvement? Are people punished for trying new ideas or questioning existing ways of doing things?

This dimension can reasonably be expected to adversely affect the willingness of stakeholders to participate in the decision-making process concerning the adoption of proposed software solutions if business leaders are unresponsive to feedback, even if such feedback is actively solicited.


Does the organization emphasize long-term or short-term planning, and is planning proactive or reactive? To what extent are the strategy, goals, and vision shared with employees? Is the planning process informal or structured? To what degree are employees committed to achieving the business strategy and other organizational objectives?

This dimension would define how well the organization planned for the transition to the use of the environmental sustainable software solution; if employees are required to simply “do without” while the implementation is taking place without access to needed data for other business operations, the software may never have a chance to be adopted as a result of lost business opportunities and unproductive downtime for employees.


This dimension relates to the amount, type, and effectiveness of teamwork within the organization. It includes, but is not limited to, the amount of cooperation among different departments, the amount of trust between different functions or units, and the level of automation currently used to support work processes. Note that an atmosphere of teamwork does not, in itself, necessarily mean that formal teams should be used in an organization. For instance, research scientists may foster an atmosphere of collaboration and teamwork but may not be a team and may operate quite independently.

By definition, an integrated environmental sustainable software solution will require team work in order to make it function properly. Certainly, over time, these systems eliminate the need for a team approach to their management, but their deployment and implementation will require careful collaboration between various organizational departments, making this dimension especially important for any software acquisition.

Management Practices

The final dimension measures the fairness and consistency with which policies are administered, the accessibility of management to employees, the degree to which management provides a safe working environment, and how well management encourages diversity.

Any change initiative proposed by a hated management team will likely be sabotaged at every turn, including the adoption of environmental sustainable software solutions.

Source: Adapted from Recardo & Jolly, 2003, p. 5

For most business organizations, developing, implementing and administering environmental sustainability initiatives, whether to improve internal efficiencies or deliver environmentally responsible goods and services, will represent an enormous change in their conventional business model. Therefore, the first step to the adoption of environmental sustainability software is an organizational culture that accepts it as a legitimate tool that can create value, especially for the employees who are affected by the change. According to Sullivan and Wyndham (2001), though, this level of organizational changes “requires that all employees have a stake in the organization’s environmental performance” (p. 226). In addition, although existing employees may need to be convinced over time concerning the value of such environmental sustainability initiatives, business organizations can help ensure that their culture reflects this goal by communicating it to new hires before they start work (Sullivan & Wyndham, 2001). Assuming this first step has been achieved and everyone is ready, willing and able to use environmental sustainability software for value creation purposes, the next step involved is selecting the right tool for the job and these issues are discussed further below.

Types of Environmental Sustainability Software

The type of environmental sustainability software that is envisioned will also dictate what changes are required in the organizational culture in order to facilitate its adoption and use. Today, there are a growing number of environmental software applications that can be used by business organizations competing in different industries that fully integrate environmental, quality assurance, control and occupational health and safety systems and more offerings continue to be developed every year (Sullivan & Wyndham, 2001). In some cases, environmental sustainable software is geared towards monitoring environmental systems and identifying problems areas and opportunities for improving performance while in other cases the software focuses on compliance and reporting requirements as well as associated management report generation. In yet other cases, vendors offer a comprehensive suite of software applications that operate in an integrated fashion across the entire organization. For instance, some environmental software is designed to improve energy efficiency in buildings, a goal that has two desirable outcomes:

1. Buildings account for 65% of electricity use and improving efficiency can reduce energy use by 25%; and,

2. Efficiency increases can reduce carbon emissions by 33% (Singleton, 2011).

A representative sampling of current commercially available (the four top sponsored listings in Google at the time of writing) is provided in Table 2 below.

Table 2

Representative Examples of Commercially Available Environmental Sustainability Software

Software Vendor

Software Description

Applicability for Type of Business Organization(s)

ERA Environmental Consulting (

There are several environmental sustainability software solutions available from this vendor, including:

1. Air emission management (including greenhouse gas emissions);

2. Water management;

3. Waste management;

4. Chemical inventory management; and

5. Production tracking (among others).

Organizations that have compliance requirements for emissions; vendor reports 75% reduction in man-hours required for this function by adopting these software solutions.

Intelex (

Environmental Sustainability Management Software with following features:

1. Monitor and report waste streams, energy, air emissions and wastewater data instantly through real-time dashboards and instant reporting tools.

2. Track and maintain detailed records of usage, costs, and quantities of all metrics associated with your sustainability activities, initiatives and programs.

3. Built-in scheduler to schedule and assign sustainability-related tasks.

4. Integrated report generation used in combination with data from other Intelex applications to gain further visibility into sustainability performance.

5. Monitor Supply Chains by expanding the scope of the sustainability program to the entire supply chain by monitoring sustainability performance across entire business operations.

In reality, any business organization that requires oversight of an existing environmental sustainability program can benefit from this software. The vendor states that this software will save money and allow employees to focus on improving sustainability performance by virtually eliminating the time spent managing the nuances of a sustainability program, from tracking, entering and analyzing data to generating accurate, in-depth reports.

ProcessMAP Corporation


This vendor offers cloud-based software tools that organizations can use to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of their environmental sustainability programs.

This vendor maintains its software is appropriate for any business organization that is interested in reducing its carbon footprint and reducing its carbon emissions. The software package offered by this vendor allows business organizations to establish an end-to-end platform to streamline every aspect of collecting, verifying, tracking, normalizing, and analyzing company-wide energy consumption and carbon emissions.

KMI Process (

This vendor offers an EHS software suite that includes:

1. Incident Management;

2. Corrective Action;

3. Auditing;

4. Compliance; and,

5. Sustainability.

Vendor claims this software is suitable for public and private sector settings and claims a 50% reduction in costs and time required for implementation compared to competitors.

To help illustrate the functionality of these environmental sustainable software packages, a sample screenshot from a competitor’s (Intuit) environmental software package user interface for building management applications is provided in Figure 1 below.

Figure 1. Screenshot of environmental sustainable software for building reporting applications

Source: Smith, 2011

It goes without saying, of course, that these environmental sustainable software solutions are not necessarily inexpensive, though, and depending on the size of the business organization involved, the costs that are associated with initially acquiring, implementing, training and administrating these systems may be prohibitive, particularly for companies already struggling to stay solvent; however, there are some other open source (i.e., free) software versions available as well and reliable versions are available from industry-sponsored software-sharing sites (McComb, 2010).

Irrespective of whether commercial software or open source solutions are adopted, McComb (2010) recommends that business organizations use the following steps to help define what is needed and how it will be used before making a purchase decision:

1. Define what the software is supposed to do;

2. Identify the required dashboards or user interfaces;

3. Identify the integration or external interfaces that are required;

4. Provide a basis for a bidder to estimate costs;

5. Identify the required performance levels for the software; and,

6. Identify the testing, acceptance and handoff process.

Once these steps are completed, the next step is deploying the environmental sustainable software in a real-world setting, a step that has been met with mixed results by business organizations in recent years as discussed further below.

Real-World Examples of Environmental Sustainable Software and Lessons Learned

A series of mini-case studies provided by Singleton (2011) concerning the adoption of environmental sustainable software in recent years reveals some common features among the success stories to date. One such organization, Bentley University, established a laudable goal of achieving carbon neutrality through improved efficiencies, reducing energy usage and by purchasing a sufficient amount of carbon offsets to balance the university’s carbon footprint. In order to facilitate the organization-wide adoption of the environmental sustainable software package needed to achieve this goal, the leadership team at Bentley created sustainability task force that was tasked with identifying which operational factors were most responsible for the university’s environmental footprint. The results of this initial evaluation revealed that nearly half (49%) of the organization’s greenhouse gas emissions were caused by its energy usage, a rate that was slight higher than the national average (Singleton, 2011).

This finding made targeting electricity consumption a first step in realizing its goals of carbon neutrality (Singleton, 2011). For this purpose, the university determined that Infor’s EAM environmental sustainability software was best suited to their needs, particularly since it was a straightforward matter to integrate this new software addition with the university’s existing legacy system that was also provided by Infor. According to Singleton, “The results were impressive. In their first year, Bentley shaved energy consumption by 10%. This amounted to a reduction of roughly 2 million kilowatt-hours (kWh). This reduction translated to having the same impact shutting off the electricity in all 48 facilities for a month” (2011, para. 3).

Another business organization that successfully adopted environmental sustainable software was Nokia which dates to 2003 when the company wanted to reduce its energy usage and improve its office space utilization (Singleton, 2011). To determine where such efforts would best be applied, the company used Tririga’s TREES environmental sustainability software to monitor workforce operations in the company’s more than four hundred far-flung locations in the Middle East, Europe and Africa. The software monitoring office space usage rates and energy consumption levels at all of these sites, providing Nokia’s leadership team with the exact information they needed to identify where improvements in operational capacities were most needed and where reductions in energy usage were most feasible (Singleton, 2011). Once again, the results of this application of environmental sustainable software were highly impressive, both in terms of its effectiveness in doing what it was intended to do, but in helping the company saving significant amounts of money in the process. In this regard, Singleton is also quick to emphasize that, “Building monitoring, coupled with energy reduction suggestions from the [EMS] system, led to Nokia reducing electricity use by 8,000,000 kWh (a 7% reduction)” (2011, para. 5). In addition to this impressive results, Nokia has also successfully used the Tririga TREES software to benchmark its performance levels and compare them to facilities of comparable sizes elsewhere to ensure they are modeling the way for others as part of its Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star framework for environmental management (Singleton, 2011).

Not all companies have enjoyed the same level of success with the adoption of environmentally sustainability software applications, though, at least initiially. For example, one company that experienced some significant challenges in the implementation and administration of its environmental management systems (EMSs) early on before achieving complete integration and seamless operation was Bonlac Foods (hereinafter alternatively “Bonlac” or “the company”), one of Australia’s leading food marketers (Sullivan & Wyndham, 2001). The company is a consortium of 3,400 dairy farmers that generates more than $1 billion in revenues each year (Sullivan & Wyndham, 2001). The company currently markets its products in 1,600 retail outlets domestically, as well as in Japan, Korea, North and South America, Asia, the Middle East and a few other countries (Bonlac Foods, 2012). During the early 1990s, the decision was made by the company’s leadership team to develop and implement an environmental management system as part of its larger ISO certification process (Sullivan & Wyndham, 2001).

Based on the company’s need to monitor a wide range of supply chain variables and to comply with numerous government regulations, one of the factors that has contributed to Bonlac’s consistent growth to date has been its focus on the careful computer-based management of various environmental issues. In fact, the company was among the first Australian companies to achieve ISO14001 certification in 1996 (Sullivan & Wyndham, 2001). Since that time, the company has endeavored to maximize the benefits of this management approach through various quality assurance initiatives that have targeted inefficiencies and sought to identify opportunities for improvement (Sullivan & Wyndham, 2001). The company’s initial approach to implementing their EMSs required each of Bonlac’s sixteen domestic manufacturing facilities to develop their own environmental management systems as well as the requisite methodologies for their implementation (Sullivan & Wyndham, 2001).

Not surprisingly, this uncoordinated approach at implementing this environmental management system resulted in numerous redundancies in system capabilities, personnel effort and duplicate expenditure of resources (Sullivan & Wyndham, 2001). Other constraints that Bonlac experienced during its initial deployment of an environmental management system included a failure to carefully align the various EMSs with the company’s legacy quality management systems (Sullivan & Wyndham, 2001). In this regard, Sullivan and Wyndham emphasize that the company “paid insufficient attention to the importance of aligning the environmental management system with its existing quality systems. Paying more attention to this issue would have greatly facilitated the integration of quality and environmental management systems” (p. 213).

Based on the hard and expensive lessons learned from this early exercise in developing, implementing and administering its environmental management system, the company has subsequently made the process more efficient by standardizing the implementation for all company sites (Sullivan & Wyndham, 2001). Although a standardized implementation process was completed initially, a more pressing issue for the company was the lack of a fully integrated environmental management system throughout the organization. Therefore, the next step in resolving the challenges encountered by the company in deploying its EMS initiative was to develop the necessary company-wide database needed for the project to facilitate the integration process (Sullivan & Wyndham, 2001).

The company’s efforts to resolve the problems it encountered along the way have clearly paid off. Using the lessons learned from this EMS imitative, Bonlac constructed a state-of-the-art milk-production facility at Darnum Park in Victoria that achieved the company’s goals of developing environmentally sustainable processes for its operations. According to Sullivan and Wyndham, “The Darnum Park facility is not only a showcase of technological excellence in the food processing industry, but it also represents an excellent example of the manner in which the integration of environmental issues into business decision-making processes is enabling Bonlac to deliver the goal of environmental sustainability” (p. 212).

Based on the experiences of the ISO 14001-certified company analyzed by Zsokas, a number of valuable lessons were learned including the “need for a stable and unambiguous integration of environmental values into the organizational culture, in order that pro-environmental organizational behaviour appears in a consistent manner in reality” (2007, p. 110).

Finally, company size appears to have some direct bearing on how environmental management data is collected, or if it is collected at all, with medium- to larger-sized enterprises being more likely to have an environmental management system in place and more likely to routinely collect environmental data compared to their smaller counterparts (Lewis & Cassells, 2010)

A common theme that characterizes the environmental system development literature, though, is the manner in which the data is used. For instance, based on his case study of a now-certified ISO 14001 environmental management system certified company, Zsokas identified a number of serious limitations to the implementation process that adversely affected its subsequent administration and effectiveness as well as the costs associated with these steps that were similar to those misadventures, failures and adverse outcomes experienced at Bonlac, including the following:

1. The company failed to solicit feedback from all stakeholders (including members of the community);

2. The company applied motivational tools in selective ways; and,

3. A number of executives and employees were skeptical concerning the efficiency of the proposed environmental management software based on the available data (Zsokas, 2007).

In other words, the company failed to communicate the goals of the ISO 14001 initiative from the outset, and more importantly, it failed to provide those who would be most affected by the initiative with a voice concerning how the environmental management software should be used and what needs it should satisfy. Because humans are highly resistant to change of any sort anyway, it is little wonder that such failures can derail even the best-intentioned environmental sustainability initiatives unless the organizational culture exists that embraces the need and provides a framework in which all stakeholders have the opportunity to voice their concerns, needs and “dream scenarios” to help grease the bureaucratic skids and overcome well-entrenched resistance at the departmental level.

Proposed Mechanism for Measuring the Value of Adopted Software

One straightforward approach for measuring the economic value of adopted software is to conduct a before-and-after adoption calculation. This approach was used by a school district in Texas that adopted energy accounting software. This software application facilitates energy consumption tracking across the entire school district (Riedel, 2005). When the software is used in conjunction with so-called “data loggers” (these are small devices that can be deployed throughout the school district to automatically measure temperature, light, and humidity, the software can be used to identify opportunities for energy reductions and improved accountability (Riedel, 2005). Cost savings of up to two-thirds in electricity costs have been reported by school districts using this software in an integrated fashion (Riedel, 2005).


The research showed that adopting environmental sustainability software can provide business organizations of all types and sizes with a number of valuable outcomes, including reducing energy costs, improved energy efficiencies, reduced carbon emissions and more efficient compliance regimens. Even the most sophisticated and user-friendly environmental sustainable software package, though, will likely be ill-received by those employees who will be forced to use it unless an organizational culture is in place that facilitates its adoption and use. In fact, one of the major constraints to the adoption of environmental sustainable software was the failure to solicit feedback from all of the stakeholders that were involved, while the success stories were characterized by business managers taking the time to actively seek out these opinions and ensure that everyone has a voice in these types of change initiatives. This does not mean, of course, that a company’s leadership team should be deflected by the first signs of discontent when software solutions are proposed for environmental sustainable applications (because there will be some), but it does mean that business leaders must recognize that there is more involved in deploying these information systems beyond the immediate impact involved in their implementation. In the final analysis, business organizations that are not yet ready to adopt environmental sustainable software applications had better get ready or they will face fierce competition from their competitors that have adopted these technological solutions to ongoing business operations of all sorts. .


Bonlac Foods. (2012). Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved from

McComb, S. (2010). Green building & green business informatics tool. Elusor. Retrieved from

Recardo, R. & Jolly, J. (1999). Organizational culture and teams. SAM Advanced Management

Journal, 62(2), 4-5.

Reidel, C. (2008). The color of money: School districts are discovering the abundant financial gains to be had by going green the Journal, 35(6), 28-30.

Singleton, D. (2011, October 31) Creating a smarter building with environmental sustainability software. Software Advice, Inc. Retrieved from / cafm/creating-a-smarter-building-with-environmental-sustainability-software-1103111/.

Smith, J. (2011, November 21). Total energy costs far exceed utility and fuel. Environmental Leader. Retrieved from

Sullivan, R. & Wyndham, H. (2001). Effective environmental management: Principles and case studies. St. Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin.

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