Emerging Metrics, Business Resilience

Sustainable Brands just completed their New Metrics conference, which highlights the role and value of metrics in the business movement.  We see the scrutiny and stress over metrics all the time.  People want to understand project status, understand progress, report internally and externally where they are accountable, and simply manage themselves.  Metrics tend to drive what we do (or drive what our superiors, customers and stakeholders expect us to do), and so choosing the right metrics is important.

Emerging metrics:
1. Carrying capacity as well as efficiency:  It’s not enough to chart out 20% improvement normalized by pound of product.  If product’s gone up 30%, overall footprint is increasing (by 4%, in fact).  Absolute impacts matter and that needs to be part of a business’s story.  And carrying capacity is relevant to the “shed” which is being used – carrying capacity of the watershed from which water is drawn, the land where an organization deposits toxics, and the global airshed into which all emit carbon.

Some examples:
* % of water from local sources
* Gallons of water draw from local sources
* % of open landfill capacity
* Absolute MTCO2E (rather than simply normalized)

2. Resilience.  For cities, planning for climate adaptation is well underway for many.  Translate this to your business.  Understand what risks climate poses to your supply-chain, resource inputs (raw material, energy, water), and your distribution channels.  Consider:
* Non-renewables: Amount of raw material currently available out of amount in original stocks (e.g. what portion of the original resource remains)
* GHG per ton-mile (and hence, GHG risk from regulatory or other reasons) for supplier and customer distribution channels

3. Carbon negativity.  We know we’re ~50ppm above where we need to be.  Carbon neutral goals are still laudable, and yet it’s time to sequester carbon.   Metrics:
* MTCO2E removed from atmosphere
Keep an eye on Project Drawdown, where more is to come.

In any case, metrics are a robust area for inquiry.

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