2011 CIO 100 Winners: Innovating With IT to Create a Greener Enterprise

A greener enterprise requires new tools for managing critical business processes. Three 2011 CIO 100 winners turned to IT to meet the need.

To create a greener enterprise, you need the right tools. But as with any emerging area of technology, you can’t necessarily pick them off the shelf. Three of this year’s CIO 100 winners found ways to advance sustainability in their companies or industries by crafting new IT-enabled business practices that not only improved efficiency but also set the stage for business growth.

Modernizing the Power Grid

Electric utilities must modernize just to meet growing demand, including for alternative energy sources. “Consumer patterns of buying energy will change when they start plugging in hybrid vehicles,” observes Tony Giroti, CEO of Bridge Energy Group. Utilities need data to manage electricity generation better and deliver new services to customers.

As Bridge Energy worked with utility clients to update their operations and integrate siloed systems, the company found a void. The utilities were missing enterprise architectures that could actually guide their integration efforts, whether internally or among industry partners and customers. So Bridge Energy created its CIO 100 Award-winning open Smart Grid Reference Architecture, which is being used to create a standard for the industry. “Every organization will have different tactical needs,” says Giroti, but a reference architecture provides a common framework for addressing them.

A New Supply Chain

The supply chain for distributing fossil fuels is well established—and well automated. Not so for renewable fuels and supplements such as ethanol and biodiesel. “The technology and the accounting and the administrative and regulatory compliance was an absolute requirement to get that product into the fuel supply chain efficiently and economically,” says Mansfield Oil CIO Douglas Haugh.

To fill the gap, the fuel-distribution company created Renewable FuelNet (RFN) a cloud-based Web service for managing the renewables supply chain. Among its other features, RFN enables buyers and sellers to make deals, track shipments and comply with regulations.

Since last year, when RFN went live, Mansfield Oil’s renewable fuel volume has increased by a third. As the renewables industry expands, it will likely include many more small producers, Haugh says. “That makes being able to plug into the fuel supply chain more important for the local facility,” he adds, and RFN provides Mansfield Oil with a competitive advantage.

Savings Behind the Scenes

Some consumer companies, however, may avoid certain green technologies because customers don’t like them. When Leisure Sports, which develops and manages high-end fitness clubs and hotels, installed low-flow shower heads, the effort backfired. “It’s forced us to look at other areas where we can save energy and not impact the guests,” says Director of IT Travis Shannon.

For its CIO 100-winning project, Leisure Sports teamed with Pelican Wireless Systems to retrofit the hotel room thermostats in its Renaissance ClubSport Walnut Creek facility (which the company manages for Marriott) and integrate them with the hotel property-management system. Now, when a guest checks out, the thermostat is turned down until a new guest checks in—cutting heating and cooling costs by about 25 percent in June alone. Shannon says guests haven’t noticed any change.

Companies like Leisure Sports, Mansfield Oil and Bridge Energy are leading the way with IT-enabled green business practices. What’s holding your company back from doing the same?

Contact Executive Editor Elana Varon at evaron@cio.com. Follow her on Twitter: twitter.com/elanavaron.

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