A big project (big for a small business like mine, anyway) that I worked with Wal-Mart's sustainability team to create launched today. Sustainability: Starting the Journey is a Flash 8 sitelet designed to help clarify the global retailer's environmental and business sustainability initiatives and to set the baseline for the energy consumption and carbon emissions metrics that they will be reporting on over the coming years.
The site launched in conjunction with The Carbon Diclosure Project's 4th Annual Report meeting held on Monday at the New York offices of Merrill Lynch. At this meeting, the CDP announced several milestones in businesses becoming more transparent in their reporting of carbon emissions:
- This year's report saw the highest-ever response rate, with 72%, or 360 of the FT500 companies responding, up from 47% of the companies that responded when CDP first surveyed the FT500 in 2003.
- Several major US companies responded for the first time to CDP's request for information, including American Express, Boeing, Home Depot, Disney and Wal-Mart.
- 87% of responding companies indicated climate change represented "commercial risks and/or opportunities".
As for the Wal-Mart project I and the Wal-Mart team developed, it is intended to convey three main messages:
- The first is to show to all interested audiences that Wal-Mart recognizes the importance of minimizing carbon emissions as a step towards mitigating massive climate change, and further recognizes the leadership role Wal-Mart can play in influencing other businesses to act similarly.
- Secondly, the site is intended to convey the complexities of the Wal-Mart global supply chain in the clearest manner possible and illustrate where the company has already identified carbon reduction opportunities across that supply chain.
- Third, the site illustrates clearly the actual measure of carbon emissions by Wal-Mart globally for the year 2005.
In designing this site, my personal goal was to come up with a way of making the massive data sets come to life, and to literally "show" information in such a way that viewers "get it" long before they even have to think about it.
I pulled several pages from my own upcoming book on "thinking with pictures" to find ways to meet this goal. Among other things, we've included both '3D' and '2D' visualizations of the same complex metrics, the first to help viewers immediately get a sense of the scale and global location of emissions, and the second to provide an immediate side-by-side comparison of various country metrics.
Now that we've got this starting point launched, Wal-Mart and I are discussing possible future versions of the site that might include ways to monitor ongoing carbon measurements and report them over time, as well as ways to increase the interactivity of the supply-chain model, perhaps to even allow for the viewer to see what the emissions impact might be of changing certain supply-chain variables.
If anybody has any comments on how to improve the sitelet, please feel free to share them here. It's both too easy and too hard to criticize one's own work, so if anybody sees something that could benefit from a change (or even a total re-think), I'd appreciate heating about it.
Getting this little site out the door has been a far bigger task than anybody involved first anticipated, and all credit goes to the Wal-Mart team: Brian Kaufman for relentless cheer-leading and keeping the project moving ahead at all times, Serena Green, for handling the countless technical challenges we faced, Felicia Saenz for pursuing perfection and accuracy in the numbers regardless of difficulty, Tyler Elm for keeping us motivated and on-track (and accurate), Harriet Hentges for providing executive support, and Andy Ruben for recognizing the need to make this project happen. Also huge thanks to Thaniya Keereepart for the Flash production: it was worth the ocassional pain.