Look for the Green Label

Last Updated Nov 12, 2008 6:46 PM EST

Do you know how green your suppliers are? You're going to have to find out. And right now, there might not be a good way to do it -- we're data blind.

That's a problem much on the mind of E2Open, which automates elements of the supply chain. I met with some of its executives today and they said they're expecting to see mandates for companies to label their products with carbon content and energy consumed in the not-so-distant future.

If that seems far-fetched, remember that Wal-mart held one of its Sustainability Summits in China in late October, and told suppliers, in effect, go green or get lost. That goes for suppliers in the U.S., UK and Canada, too. A nice post by Andrew Winston, author of "Green To Gold," got into some of the problems Wal-Mart suppliers will face in trying to measure their greenness, at least in China. But he also linked to a Chinese site Wal-mart is working with to track water polluters in China. It seems likely that a great deal of data on how companies affect the environment is soon going to be digitized, and in databases.

Does anyone doubt that Wal-mart will be alone in seeking such data? If governments are serious about creating cap-and-trade markets for emissions, there will be requirements for those, and for tracking the emissions caused by shipping parts and finished goods, and so on. E2Open presumes that there will eventually be requirements to create carbon impact labels on products, and it has already built software to track such data. So far, though, it has found that companies don't actually know how green their suppliers are, which makes it hard for the database to work (and for companies to know their real green footprint). But if its executives are correct, lots of businesses big and small are going to have to figure out how green their products really are.

What do you think, BNET? Is the Green Label likely to emerge?

  • Michael Fitzgerald

    Michael Fitzgerald writes about innovation and other big ideas in business for publications like the New York Times, The Economist, Fast Company, Inc. and CIO. He’s worked as a writer or editor at Red Herring, ZDNet, TechTV and Computerworld, and has received numerous awards as a writer and editor. Most recently, his piece on the hacker collective the l0pht won the 2008 award for best trade piece from the American Society of Journalists and Authors. He was also a 2007 Templeton-Cambridge Journalism Fellow in Science and Religion.