Midsize businesses too financially squeezed to keep an environmental consultant on retainer could be helped in the quest to become environmentally friendly by the launch of the Environmental Sustainability Dashboard for Microsoft Dynamics AX.
Creating environmentally friendly or green IT infrastructure has been an increasing focus as companies come under regulatory pressure to reduce their carbon footprints, and also find they can benefit from cost savings and an "eco-friendly" image.
Microsoft joins IBM, Google, Cisco, Hewlett-Packard and other companies in promoting "Green IT" initiatives that either reduce their own environmental costs or offer products and services that help their enterprise clients do the same.
The Environmental Sustainability Dashboard for Microsoft Dynamics AX centers on a customizable page titled "My Role Center," which displays environmental information of relevance to the user's organization. In a demo, metrics on this screen included "Actual Energy Costs," "KPI List," "Greenhouse Gas Emissions" and an "Energy Consumption" graph.
Data can be entered into the system by hand, or taken from meters or purchase orders. For example, an accounts payable clerk can open a new tab for a utility company and input the substance being consumed (such as electricity or gas), the units and quantity, and the dates over which the substance is being used, and then that data will be tracked.
The system tracks data related to energy used on site, and also indirect energy from utility companies and other off-site sources. If conservation measures are taken, such as activating the Vista Power Management feature for a network, the user can click back to "My Role Center" and see graphs of the energy usage falling off.
Clicking on data points within the dashboard's graphs will reveal details such as which type of energy consumed is producing the most greenhouse gas emissions, or how fuel oil factors into overall costs. Customizable metrics, such as daily tons of waste produced, can also be added to the system.
"We're looking at this as an ideal way to look at environmental sustainability functionality in a way that adds to the bottom line and decreases the footprint on the planet," Jennifer Pollard, senior product manager for Microsoft Dynamics, said in an interview. "Getting environmental information into the system is the only way you can arm [business leaders] to make more well-balanced decisions."
Pollard added, "With the dashboard, we wanted to make people more proactive and see how energy costs apply to their business, and see not only their risk but their opportunities. Companies who look at this are being seen as forward-thinkers."