Alyssa Farrell, sustainability management product marketing manager at SAS, gave me an example: At the University of North Carolina, environmental specialists assumed that their biggest problem was the bus system that carted students around campus. A plunge into analytics led them to realize a cluster of lab buildings was in fact the top priority for improvement by a wide margin.
One of this year's winners of a Green 15 award provides another case in point. Con-way Freight created a simulation application in house that lets load planners model changes to the company's freight distribution network. It took only two months to come up with more efficient routing, reducing the overall size of the long-haul distribution network by 10 percent without affecting freight throughput. Every year, this will mean a savings or 4.9 million gallons of diesel fuel, which translates to 108.8 million pounds less carbon emissions and a savings of $14 million.
I'm not being naïve. Unless businesses see costs savings like those, or at least significant green marketing value, sustainability initiatives will stay in the "nice to have" category forever. Fortunately, we have no shortage of green case studies that show impressive ROI. If government is too in thrall of industry lobbyists or flat-earthers who fear black helicopters to act, then it's up to business to take the lead.