Environmental Measures: Developing an Environmental Decision-Support Structure

Rebecca Todd

Given ever-present resource constraints, a substantial proportion of business managers' time and effort is devoted to maximizing output and profitability and minimizing risk and loss. In the increasingly competitive international markets where many firms operate, the choices about resource allocation have become ever more important to both the short term profitability and the long-term survival of the firm. In making choices, managers must continually trade off one feasible business opportunity against others, weighing the resources they expect to be consumed against the anticipated benefits for each. The ultimate quality of the decision made, that is, the relative benefits and costs achieved or realized, will depend heavily on the quality of information that the manager has available when the decision is made.

Information systems dedicated to supporting managers' decisions have long been an integral part of business. However, environmental decision making is relatively new as an intrinsic, fundamental part of ongoing business strategy development and definition. Consequently, the environmental information support that managers need to make decisions is rarely as well developed as the information available for other business areas. Most crucially, the quality of the available information may be poor. Moreover, upper-level managers, responsible for most strategy and policy formulation, may not be fully aware of the deficiencies of the information because details about the data's limitations are typically lost as the data are transmitted up through the firm's levels of management.

Few disciplines have been marked by such rapid change as those related to the environment. Many developing areas of corporate and academic research, for example industrial ecology and life-cycle analysis, were unknown 20 years ago, and today they consume significant resources. However, the relative infancy of

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