CloudApps CFO, Simon Corley, explains how the Cloud helps make Sustainability easier in CFO Insight. You can read the full article in CFO Insight here.
By Ritobaan Roy
CloudApps is a Software as a Service (SaaS) that helps the chief financial officer to monitor and manage the company’s sustainability obligations and reporting requirements. CloudApps CFO Simon Corley explains why the usual sustainability audit for a company is not enough.
Many companies already do sustainability audits, engaging, for example, Big 4 firms to carry out half yearly or annual audits. In that case, what is the added value that a CFO is going to get by procuring a solution like Cloud Apps?
If you’re going to bring in an organisation to audit something, then you have to have the data in a format that can be audited. Just like financial data, you need an application to ensure that [sustainability] data is captured in an efficient and consistent way. CloudApps can provide comfort to the CFO that [sustainability] data can be easily audited. If it can be easily audited, it also reduces the cost of audits.
Also, what’s important is that audits tend to be retrospective, and what our application does is that enables data to be captured on an ongoing, real time basis so that you can see during the course of the year, where you are in relation to your sustainability targets. Frankly there is very little point in getting to the end of the year and looking back and asking ‘How did I do?’ What you need is an application that captures the data and enables analytics on an ongoing basis so that you can change the [organization’s] behaviour accordingly.
Many of the costs that the CloudApps solution tracks are energy related and employee travel related. But these are recorded anyway in the accounts department and many companies who, due to the crisis, are trying to cut budgets have already focused on these cost heads. What additional insights can CloudApps give the CFO in these areas?
You are right, there is data that is captured but it’s all cost related. That’s important clearly but a lot of the reporting that is now required under, for example, the UK’s Carbon Reduction Commitment, are looking at disclosing greenhouse gas emissions. To do that you must be able to capture not the cost but the underlying unit whether that is kilowatt-hours or cubic metres of gas or miles travelled by air. So we need to capture that data and convert it into a common currency called tCO2e (Tonnes of CO2 Equivalent) and you need an application that can convert the multitude and complexity of data out there into this common currency.
Also, while energy costs may be tracked, I think travel costs are a bit harder to measure and control because of the larger number of employees and travel services providers involved. CloudApps enable employees to take the right decisions on sustainability based on good information. And I believe that most people inherently want to take the right decision when it comes to sustainability.
What are some of the statutory sustainability reporting frameworks that are pre-built into the CloudApps solution?
We come with pre-prepared reports that deliver on the UK’s Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency Scheme (CRC) or the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) requirements. CRC is statutory while CDP is voluntary but these two are the most widely used reporting frameworks by the Fortune 500. One of our customers, the Ashridge Business School, is using 70 Key Performance Indicators to measure and report on it sustainability–related activities. The analytics in CloudApps lets you drill down from a regional report to a department report right down to an individual meter that is recording the data. You can also use CloudApps to build customised reports internal reporting or bespoke reports for other stakeholders.
How long does it take in your experience to implement CloudApps for a large company of, say, 10,000 employees?
I don’t think employees are the right metric. The bigger determinant is the complexity of the organisation and the complexity of their environmental impact. A relatively straightforward organisation which could be large with relatively few areas of impact can be implemented in a few weeks. For example, we completed the implementation for Sears Canada in less than a month.
An organisation in multiple countries consuming multiple energy types from multiple energy sources would take longer. For instance, Amec, another customer, an oil and gas company with 27,000 employees located in different countries took longer. But it is still quicker to implement CloudApps than installed software because of all the benefits of cloud computing in terms of not having to invest in hardware or the speed of upgrades.
In an environment of economic crisis, where do you think the sustainability solutions market is headed?
I think in the past sustainability was viewed as a nice-to-have or luxury item but there are some hard, cold financial reasons as well. The reason for people to go down the sustainability route isn’t just that it makes people feel good but that there are hard cost savings to be had here. At the end of the day if you are controlling carbon emissions which come from energy consumption and that has a cost so, by definition, if you reduce your carbon emissions, you are reducing energy consumption and therefore you are reducing your costs.
Also, it is the employees in an organisation who tend to consume energy and if you can influence their behaviour to reduce consumption then you are going to have hard savings. By giving people information in a fun and informative way by using components from social media and gaming mechanics, organisations will encourage employees to behave in a way that is not only good for the environment but will actually result in cost savings for the organisation. In the past, sustainability had a history of pejorative terms such as tree huggers but it’s not about that at all, there is a hard business case for why adopting sustainability measures makes sense.