The cynics among us will question whether or not some of the world's larger companies can continue reducing their carbon emissions once the economy picks up steam again. Indeed, there already has been some evidence that reductions might be harder to pull off than first anticipated when companies experience appreciable growth in their business. Burt's Bees is an example I reported on a couple of months ago.
Software company SAP, however, managed another 4 percent reduction in its greenhouse gas emissions levels last year, even though it just reported a rather appreciable growth in revenue for 2010. During 2010, the company reported 430 kilotons in emissions, off from 450 kilotons in 2009. Since 2007, SAP has cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 24 percent. The company tracks its progress on emissions quarterly, which is something that I wish more companies would start doing because I think true progress will be made only when this becomes more than a once-per-year data-gathering exercise.
I realize that software companies might have an easier time than manufacturers when it comes to continuing with reductions during growth phases. They don't have the same industrial profile. But as software businesses shift to offering more of their applications via the cloud, or Internet, their data center footprints will change -- which causes a whole new set of challenges when it come to increased electricity use and the impact on emissions.
More than anything, I believe SAP's example underscores the importance of ongoing scrutiny. We likely won't realize the full impact that renewed economic growth will have on emissions until sometime in early 2012.