Would you trust a farmer to fill in the right field on an Excel spreadsheet?
I know, I know. "Agriculture is a modern, technologically savvy industry filled with IT literate professionals." But, seriously, would you?
I'm not picking on farmers. Would you trust a haulier, or a manufacturer, or a shipping firm to fill in the right field, either?
Nope, thought not.
Personally, I wouldn't trust 90 per cent of office workers – myself included – to fill in the correct field in an Excel spreadsheet, and yet this appears to be the tool the vast majority of firms are using to keep track of their carbon emissions.
Speaking at last week's Corporate Climate Response conference, Peter Klein, vice president of carbon management software specialist Carbon View estimated that around 90 per cent of the company's the firm engages with are using Excel spreadsheets to try and calculate and track their carbon footprint.
In a previous life I spent four years covering the IT industry and always felt much of the knee jerk criticism of Microsoft was driven as much by envy as legitimate concerns. Yet it is hard to argue with Klein's view that the flexibility that makes Excel such an attractive tool for so many tasks also ensures that it is ill suited for handling carbon data, particularly when that carbon data necessarily originates from countless different sources.
CSR departments using Excel to try and work out the carbon emissions of a product or supply chain are likely to have to regularly consolidate countless different spreadsheets provided by countless different suppliers and partners, all the time knowing that one rogue digit or field filled in incorrectly could undermine the integrity of the entire exercise.
Of course, using the advanced functionality offered by modern versions of Excel can limit these risks and help ensure it is easy for suppliers to input the right data in the right fields, but if truth be told most CSR departments probably lack the expertise to make full use of such functionality.
As I outlined last week, there are a large number of measures that need to be adopted to give firms and their customers greater confidence in carbon footprinting calculations, not least the adoption of clear international standards, but the development and installation of dedicated carbon management software tools that simplify and streamline the processes by which suppliers provide firms with carbon data has to be one of them.
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