Robert Riegert founded Prima Consulting in 1991 with wife Karen to provide the tools for businesses to measure their environmental sustainability practices. They evaluate issues such as carbon emissions, employment practices and regulatory compliance. Known for its business intelligence services, Prima services Australian businesses and government institutions.
"My family have always been self employed and pioneers in rural WA," said Riegert. "Starting a company was quite a natural thing for me and my wife to do coming from a background of a self-employed family where the expectations were that you do something," he said. "I worked in the corporate world and then thought that I could do it myself."
Riegert credits his upbringing as the chief reason for his interest in sustainability. Dangerous farming methods made him think about their environmental impact. Australian farmers once used toxic products such as superphosphate, DDT and Dieldrin with little thought to the consequences.
"The thinking about practices on the farm such as spraying cattle with heavy chemicals was pretty terrible and, while those practices have changed, organisations still have to face sustainability issues," he said.
"It is incumbent on business and people to make sure what they do doesn't harm the environment they are operating in," Riegert said. "Ultimately, if you are a sustainable business, or you have sustainable business offerings, it's really good for the environment, for people and it's economically good as well."
Riegert said there is a direct relationship between business performance and sustainability of business. Government at all levels is also driving IT purchasing and tenders to include questions on sustainability practices.
He said companies' performance in sustainability is now a key issue in maintaining their corporate brand and complying with legislation.
With the economy slowing, there is also an urgent need to identify better processes, cut costs and find new products to market. Prima's goal is to manage these risks for their customers. "Often, technology is seen as mysterious, expensive and complicated. I firmly believe it does not need to be," Riegert said.
With the recent Federal Government legislation requiring compulsory reporting of emissions from last July there has been growing consumer and investor expectations that companies develop sustainability for competitive advantage. Riegert said that companies looking at sustainability issues face performance reporting and improvement hurdles.
"There is significant difficulty in integrating sustainability initiatives with organisational objectives. Prima Consulting understands that to become carbon neutral you need more than CO2 emissions reporting."
That means knowing the baseline of carbon-dioxide emissions, writing a plan to reduce emissions and modelling its impact on the business.
Then businesses must prioritise what they will do, decide how to measure their success, monitor their progress and analyse the outcomes to track how closely they shadow the projections.
That's where Prima's Sustainability SCO2recard comes into play. It uses Microsoft Performance Point technology and is based on standards from the Australian Greenhouse Office, the Global Reporting Initiative and the International Standards Organisation. It can be tailored by industry.
Prima offers sustainability reporting alongside business intelligence reporting and performance management tools. It offers sophisticated analysis of process cost centres to determine areas of opportunity for improving sustainability performance.
For companies starting down the information management path or refreshing their systems, Prima offers a technology blueprint to meet its requirements, recommends tools, organisational structures and processes to ensure the quality of the information provided. From there the company can design and implement systems to meet IT requirements.
Riegert said Prima draws on familiarity with Australian and international sustainability reporting frameworks and its experience in large-scale business intelligence reporting, expertise in balanced scorecard and strategy mapping and activity-based management.
Microsoft recently announced Prima's Sustainability SCO2recard solution as the sustainability solution award winner
for 2008. It aims to facilitate production of a GRI-compliant Sustainability Report, produce data to comply with Australian greenhouse gas emission reporting requirements and understand the relationship between financial and sustainability outcomes.
Riegert said that economic thinking is at a crossroads. "Government and business are always talking about growth but we have to be constrained by finite resources and need to find a sustainable way of living and working. Obviously if we keep on the path of insistence on growth we will use all resources and it is up to us to find a solution for sustainable growth."
Riegert said that while Australians are more aware of sustainability, the theory needs to be put into practice. Contradictions in society are evident in cases such as government-sanctioned urban sprawl and population growth when states are running out of water.
"What will happen in the future of sustainability? - I don't know. What I would like to see is change in economic thinking from business and government. Our economic models are predicated on growth. It seems to me impossible to keep growing economies in a world of finite resources."