The carbon management software market has seen a flurry of activity in the past year. A number of vendors have introduced applications that help companies measure their emissions of carbon dioxide, the gas often blamed for global warming. And it's not just established players that have jumped into this market; the entrants also include startup ventures formed just for that purpose.
The software vendors are betting that companies will want to continue proving they are good corporate citizens by reducing their carbon footprints—or that they'll be required to do so by law. Since the key processes for bringing products to market—manufacturing and distribution—depend heavily on fossil fuel, most of these carbon mapping applications target the supply chain. The software aims to cut down on the carbon dioxide escaping factories' smokestacks or the exhaust pipes of delivery trucks.
Most applications start by establishing a baseline figure for the amount of carbon dioxide generated by a company's supply chain. Once the software establishes that baseline, it analyzes the makeup of the supply chain and recommends more carbon-friendly alternatives—for example, switching certain shipments from truck to rail.
Although switching suppliers or transport modes can have a big impact on emissions, those steps may not go far enough for some companies. To achieve truly significant carbon reductions, they may have to take a holistic look at their distribution networks. Because of the relationship between carbon reduction and distribution network design, vendors of supply chain network design software are also expanding their functionality to include carbon mapping.