Measuring Sustainability Leads to Action

Measuring Sustainability Leads to Action

Leading sustainability analysts Connection Research is looking at developing a new sustainability rating and ranking for cities and businesses in Australia.  Metrics, frameworks and benchmarking sustainability needs more measurement tools, says Graeme Philipson, as metrics, he argues, are a prerequisite to action.


Article specially written for abc carbon express by Graeme Philipson of Connection Research:

I spent most of my adult life – more than 25 years – as an analyst in the computer industry. IT has a large and mature sub-industry of journalists and analysts who dissect it, measure it, comment on it, and categorise it. The computer industry has more market research and market analysis than probably any other.

Such is not the case with sustainability. While not a clearly defined industry like IT, sustainability is similar in that it encompasses a range of technologies and practices which have the potential to affect every part of business, and indeed of life. But sustainability is almost devoid of the sort of rigorous market analysis that we find in the IT industry, and in many other industries.

We started Connection Research to bring some of the techniques and disciplines of IT industry market analysis into sustainability. As we move into a carbon-constrained world, the issues of the measurement and management and reporting of energy and of carbon emissions is becoming more important, but what is still lacking is a way of analysing the effectiveness of many of these systems.

This year we introduced a number of methodologies to help us analyse and understand what is happening in various aspects of sustainability in Australia. Most of these draw on our experience as IT industry analysts – in benchmarking, measuring, categorising, and the like. The old business maxim says “you can’t manage what you can’t measure”. Very true – and you certainly can’t measure what you can’t even define.

Here are some example of what I mean, drawn from some of the work Connection Research has done in 2009:

  • We have developed a Green IT Framework, a two-dimensional overview of the many aspects of the sustainable usage of Green in medium to large organisations. One dimension looks at the scope – end user, departmental and data centre, purchase and disposal, and the very important aspect of using IT as an enabling tool to reduce the carbon footprint of the whole organisation. The second dimension looks at the approaches to each of these – attitude, policy, behaviour, technology, and metrics.
  • From this framework we have developed a benchmarking tool, which allows us to measure an organisation’s maturity, or readiness, in each area compared to other organisations in the same industry sector or of the same size. This benchmark, called the Green IT Readiness Index, is based on a database of over 300 Australian organisations.
  • We built a taxonomy, or categorisation, of the types of work covered by the much-abused term “green collar workers”. This taxonomy, which we developed for the Environment Institute of ANZ and the NSW Department of environment, Climate Change and Water, is the first attempt we are aware of to look at the different types of green collar worker, by categorising them by their skill set, the organisations they work for, and by their level of training. The report can be downloaded at no cost from our website (
  • We have conducted an analysis of the emerging Carbon Emissions Management Software (CEMS) market, categorising the 70 or so tools now available international for carbon emissions reporting by their capabilities and their scope. We have developed a website listing all the products ( and written a 70 page report on the subject, which is freely available at the website.
  • Recently we have conducted an analysis of the views of Australian consultants, farmers and academic on carbon sequestration in soil. As part of this process we are developing a taxonomy of the different techniques, which will be available in the new year. This area will be huge!

Connection Research is in the process of developing a number of other benchmarking tools and categorisation systems in various aspects of the sustainability sector. We and our clients find them useful ways of understanding what is happening. Our corporate mantra is “Measure, Monitor, Manage, Mitigate”. You can’t have one without the other!

Graeme Philipson is founder and research director of Connection Research.

In November 2009 Connection Research announced that it launched the most comprehensive analysis available on the energy consumption of the Australian business market, based on a direct survey of over 1000 companies.

The survey covered business attitudes towards such issues as:

-   Climate Change

-   Contestability

-   Smart Meters

-   Consumer Attitudes, Actions and Trends

-   The Built Environment

-   Carbon Emissions Reporting and Trading

-   Education and Awareness

-   What the Australian business sector wants from energy retailers and governments

The Business Energy Consumption in Australia report comprises the latest round of analysis in Connection Research’s Consumer and Community Sustainability portfolio “The evolving energy market impacts the consumer, the utility, the state and federal governments, and consultants in the field”, said Cassandra Phillips, Sustainability Portfolio Manager of Connection Research.

“We have investigated the strategies in place for the reduction of energy consumption and determined the affects of the rising price of energy on the Australian business market. We have asked the need-to-know questions about what Australian businesses are doing to measure and monitor their environment and what they are doing to reduce carbon emissions.”

The state and federal governments are now developing new initiatives and incentives to educate Australian business on how to reduce their power bills and carbon pollution. Consultants are struggling to keep abreast of the fast-changing issues. The big winners are supposed to be Australian businesses and consumers – but are they?

The size of the overall market, and many of the initiatives, are well documented. What is not understood is the relative importance of each of the drivers of and barriers to energy consumption, and how this varies to the relative size, type and nature of Australian businesses.

“The purpose of this research is to measure the importance of these drivers and inhibitors across a broad spectrum of organisations, to identify patterns of energy consumption behaviour, and to understand better how to develop long term relationships with the Australian business sector by knowing what they want and how to deliver on their expectations” said Ms Phillips.

“Sustainability and best practice within all consumer and community environments is what we investigate on a regular basis in our Consumer and Community Sustainability portfolio. Connection Research is in the process of developing the 2010 research platform which includes primary research in the areas of Energy, Water, Waste, Sustainability, Residential Energy Management, The Digital Home, and Climate Change”, said Ms Phillips.

“Over the next twelve months we aim to provide the most comprehensive market research available, we have delivered on these initiatives over the past twelve months and we are currently looking for interested parties to participate in the 2010 subscription model either by way of sponsorship or investment in the research platform.”


Leave a Reply