IBM recently ran a 'Jam' - an online discussion - on environmental sustainability and why it is important for CIOs, CEOs and CFOs to address it. The Jam involved thousands of practitioners and subject matter experts from some 200 organisations. It focused primarily on business issues and practical actions. Unlike many environmental and climate change debates, this one cleverly sidestepped the science, politics and personal beliefs that get involved.

The confused mind says "no". This could be a slogan for the paralysis that grips many organisations when it comes to environmental sustainability matters, but take a look at the check list below and it becomes rapidly apparent, C-level management need to tackle the issue before it is foisted upon them.

IBM's Institute for Business Value will fully analyse the 2080 Jam contributions, but this is the essential CIO checklist derived from comments made during the Eco-Jam.


Ten thoughts for the board

Nothing substantial will be achieved without the commitment of C-level executives. Here we look at some of the ways of securing that commitment:

• Financial benefits are good but include the reputational consequences of inaction
• Identify the future remedial costs of inaction to build the business case
• Businesses will only act to avoid risk or capture opportunity
• Don't wait for stakeholder (customer, shareholder, staff) pressure: it will be too late
• Identify actions in terms of investment and make the returns tangible
• Make eco-efficiency part of business philosophy as well as strategy
• Prepare a long term strategic road map for credibility
• Drive appropriate actions by changing departmental priorities
• Plan for both the short term and the long term concurrently
• Use the liberated cash from quick wins to fund longer term strategies


Ten benefits

Most benefits come directly from savings of various kinds, but many are very valuable and come as by-products of taking positive actions:

• Save money on energy consumption, water use, waste disposal...
• Reduce carbon taxes
• Get grants, rebates and free technical advice from utilities, vendors, etc.
• Improve company image
• Improve reputation
• Have better brand stories
• Increase staff loyalty - "for doing the right thing"
• Attract better employees
• Cut executive travel and stress
• Avoid negative media comment


Ten assorted things to bear in mind

• Our climate is changing anyway: adapt*
• Mitigate your organisation's impact
• Be ready when insurers, lawyers and regulators ask for disclosures
• Take a holistic view of the business, its suppliers, its partners and its customers
• Benefits can accrue to different departments to those bearing the cost
• Ensure financial credit is given to those who earn it
• Give some of savings back in order to incentivise more improvements
• Don't just move environmental harm elsewhere
• Don't wait for green accounting standards to emerge
• Establish baselines for everything and audit/record progress

* Acclimatise (2009) ‘Building business resilience to inevitable climate change'.
Carbon Disclosure Project Report 2008. FTSE 350. Oxford
http://www-05.ibm.com/uk/green/cdp2009/pdf/ftse-350_carbon_disclosure_project2008.pdf

This checklist was distilled from 22,500 words. As you can imagine, it is far from comprehensive. However, we hope it gives you a flavour of the subject and an appetite for more. We'll let you know when IBM's full report comes out.