Thinking Tech

Using big data to score companies on sustainability

Posting in Design

What if we created an environmental score for every company on Earth? Big data enterprise AMEE has a platform and a vision to do just that.

“What if we created an environmental score for every company on Earth?” That’s one of the questions Gavin Starks posed at last week’s VERGE conference in Washington, D.C. Starks is the founder of environmental data company AMEE, and he’s not only asking questions, he’s working to turn his own “what ifs” into a new reality.

AMEE has been around since 2008, and at the heart of the enterprise is the AMEE Platform. This platform combines infrastructure, data and developer toolkits into a single package designed to help people and companies measure environmental impacts. The company says the platform includes more than eight million data items from more than 300 sources, and Starks is now talking about combining that data with global economic figures to benchmark corporate environmental performance.

Starks envisions using supply chain analysis to galvanize companies into taking action on sustainability issues. If his company (presumably in partnership with others) could make environmental insight relevant to CFOs, he believes it would be possible to use the arguments of reducing risk and increasing efficiency to affect change. By measuring the environmental impact of a company’s supply chain, and providing the tools to figure out where and how to make adjustments, Starks sees a way to get executives engaged.

(In a somewhat harsher light, one might also see Starks’ scorecard idea as a way to create public relations pressure on companies – the proverbial stick to counter the carrot incentive – but we’ll leave that debate for another time.)

However AMEE’s environmental data is used in the future, the possibilities for combining data sets are certainly intriguing. In a world of big data, the ability to map information across domains is what will help people find new solutions to increasingly tricky problems. AMEE’s open database will certainly make further environmental data mash-ups and experimentation possible. And Starks – with his “what if” ponderings – appears happy to encourage that at every turn.

Curious how the AMEE platform works? Take a trial run with AMEEdiscover, a free tool the company is billing as “the world’s first search engine focused on energy and greenhouse gas emission information." You can create your own personal scorecard, or at least estimate the environmental cost of that next vacation you have planned.

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Mari Silbey

Contributing Editor

Mari Silbey is an independent tech writer based in Washington, D.C. With a background in cable and telecom, she's a contributor to several trade publications, and part of the GigaOM analyst network. She also writes for the long-running digital media blog Zatz Not Funny, and has written for both corporate and association clients focused on broadband networks, mobile apps, and video delivery. She's a graduate of Duke University. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure