The sustainability management software market has grown significantly over the last few years. This is partly due to the increasing pressure on companies, both regulatory and social, to report their emissions and sustainability data, but also due to the huge advances in cloud based SaaS solutions. In this guide, I want to go through five things you need to know when choosing your next sustainability software package.

1. Plan, Plan & Plan Some More

Having a proper plan in place is a must before you even start looking at software options. This means mapping out your data and your requirements in detail. What are your business processes and how is data currently handled and by who? Every one of the stakeholders involved in these business processes needs to have an input when it comes to the planning stage. Planning doesn’t just involve mapping out your business processes as they stand today. Future proofing any decision when it comes to sustainability software choice, means projecting data requirements into the future so you can get a better understanding of whether your software will still be viable in five or ten years to come.

2. Who Will Be Using The Software?

It might not seem the most obvious thing to think about when deciding what sustainability management software to go with but it’s crucial you work out who is going to be using the software, as well as who will have ‘ownership’. It’s likely that the majority of users will not be sustainability experts so training is a real consideration, as is the skillsets that may be necessary to use the software. Sustainability management software brings many datasets and elements of a business together so understanding who will have ownership of the software in terms of training users, maintenance and budget is important. Will this be your chief sustainability officer? If you don’t have a CSO will this fall to the CIO, CFO or COO? Implementation and rollout will also necessitate getting IT involved from the offset as well.

3. Reducing The Impact Of Future Audits

Is your company or organisation affected by specific legislation on mandatory greenhouse gas reporting, the carbon reduction efficiency scheme, the EU Emissions Trading System, as well as any local requirements? Understanding your regulatory requirements will help inform your decision about what kind of reporting functionality you require when choosing a software package. Many sustainability software solutions will use templates to produce reports already compliant with frameworks such as COP, CDP and country specific, saving you time and money. For more information on what mandatory reporting on greenhouse gas emissions means for your company, take a look at this guide from the Carbon Trust.

4. Understanding What You Need

There are quite literally hundreds of options out there when it comes to picking a sustainability software package and knowing what kind of functionality and features you need it to have will save you a lot of time when it comes to picking the right package. Below are some things you will almost certainly need to know:

  • Which modules you need can vary, but start with your requirements
  • Whether the system will need to integrate with existing business software
  • All the datasets you need to collect as well as the collection method and frequency
  • What type of dashboard and reports you need
  • What standards and regulatory requirements your datasets and reports need to adhere to.

These are just a few pertinent questions to think about when choosing a software package, but there can be more depending on your requirements. Knowing what to look for and what to ask the vendor will come down largely to how much time you’ve spent on stages 1-3.

5. Comparing Software Packages

Make no mistake there are a lot of options out there when it comes to sustainability software and every vendor you talk to will be keen to talk about ROI and all the wonderful features their software has. It’s worth remembering that sustainability software packages come with a ton of pricing options, charges for extra licences and technical support costs. In other words the price on the tin isn’t necessarily the price you’ll pay. Setting a comprehensive and realistic budget is a start but you also need to consider the amount of time you’ll need to dedicate to the project.