Wednesday, 25 June 2008

The Power of Feedback

About twenty years ago I came across an electrical engineering textbook entitled Feedback Control Systems. It was a highly technical piece about how to design thermostats, automatic doors, alarms and the like. The key to such devices, of course, is that they monitor local conditions and adjust their operation when those conditions change. These feedback systems can be surprisingly simple, but imagine our lives if they didn't work properly. Imagine the waste and frustration if the automatic door at the supermarket had to guess when a trolley was approaching, or if the heating unit in your home couldn't detect the temperature.

One of the things I like about my five year-old hybrid car is that it includes the driver in an energy efficiency feedback system. In everyday terms, there's a simple but informative fuel economy display mounted in the dashboard. This system doesn't take control - the petrol and electric motors will work together and provide a boost if I need to out-accelerate the huge truck bearing down on me. But the feedback is always there, and I can use it to change my behaviour. If I get caught up in the rush-hour road rage, the display shows my fuel economy dropping - 48 mpg, 45 mpg, 43 mpg... And that's my cue to take action. By maintaining a steady speed, coasting on the downhills or slowing down gradually at traffic lights, I can see the numbers go up - 50 mpg, 60 mpg or more. Since my last tank of fuel, I've been averaging 57.2 mpg. Getting regular, visible feedback on my performance gives me a strong incentive to change behaviour and reduce waste.

When Carbon Clear measures your company's carbon footprint, we are helping you design a powerful feedback tool for tracking environmental and financial performance. Our standards-compliant analysis identifies those activities - flights, vehicle fleet, outsourced manufacturing, etc. - that make up the lion's share of your carbon footprint - and are probably costing you money. Of course, knowledge alone is not enough. We help companies take action, developing plans to tackle those emissions sources that will give the fastest or most cost-effective reductions. And we'll help measure progress over time.

Every company has the potential to achieve significant, absolute reductions in their carbon footprint. At Carbon Clear we'll help you get there. Measuring your carbon footprint is the first step.