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For many companies, the biggest challenge in managing eco impacts is getting started. While there’s little question that you can’t manage what you don’t measure, it can be tough to decide what to measure and value — and how to do it. Even companies that have been tracking their impacts for years, may find it difficult to move beyond meeting basic compliance and regulatory requirements in order to achieve more meaningful improvement in environmental performance.
A new report from the Network for Business Sustainability, based at the University of Western Ontario in Canada, provides help for companies on two fronts:
The full 82-page report, “Measuring and Valuing Impacts,” in effect presents a crash course on the existing body of knowledge. It distills the network’s systematic review of 180 studies on the subject published since 2000 and identifies 20 measurement and valuation tools. The report also offers a close look at the two most-studied measurement tools — lifecycle analysis and ecological footprinting — and the two most-studied valuation tools — environmental input-output modeling and ecosystem service evaluation. In addition to describing the industries that typically use the four tools, the report also lists advantages and disadvantages for each one.
A 20-page executive version of the report serves as a guide for company leaders who are embarking on the process of managing their firm’s environmental impacts. The high-level how-to provides a four-step framework for senior executives and decision-makers. It also includes charts that outline the process, case studies, advice on tools and lists of further resources.