intuitshapshotBy Deborah Fleischer, Green Impact

“Save money by going greener,” is the tag line for Intuit’s Green Snapshot, a new free tool to help small businesses go green. The tool is simple, easy and free.

The catch–you need to have your financial data in QuickBooks.

Based on that data, Green Snapshot quickly and easily estimates your carbon footprint and identifies recommended actions to shrink it and save you money in the process.

Developed in partnership with Cooler, the web-based software automatically converts businesses expenditures in QuickBooks into one of 1,000 carbon categories and then calculates the carbon impact per dollar spent, based on an economic input-output model. The model is based on average emissions for key categories, giving a rough, yet accurate, assessment. The final result is displayed as a simple pie chart that illustrates the key categories of impact, along with a a list of suggested actions that can be taken to reduce emissions and save money.

You might be surprised by what you learn

The tool provides a back of the envelope type analysis based on industry averages that is fast and cheap. It might not be perfect, but for 4 million QuickBooks users with an average annual revenue of $250,000, this is a great free resource that will yield a fairly accurate snapshot of their carbon footprint.

John Joseph, a member of Intuit’s Corporate Sustainability Team, said that initial businesses who have tried to tool have been surprised to learn what their biggest impact areas were.

Opportunity to help small businesses

The new service is a creative way for Intiut to engage its customers and make a big difference at the same time. And the niche they have access to, small businesses, is often overlooked when it comes to green programs.

When Joel Makower reviewed the new service, he noted:

“Since the dawn of the green business movement, small and midsized firms have been largely left out of the picture. Regulators and activists have focused on large industrial players — the ones with the spewing smokestacks, drainpipes, and dumpsters — all but ignoring the roughly 98 percent of the companies around the world that have under 100 employees. With the exception of a relative handful of green business programs sponsored by local governments and chambers of commerce (most of which have pretty low barriers to entry), there are few robust and affordable resources to help the countless printers, dry cleaners, parts manufacturers, warehouses, hair salons, restaurants, and butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers that are the backbone of most countries’ economies.”

The drawbacks

The drawbacks?  The suggested actions include the estimated annual cost savings, but do not go as far as calculating the ROI.  And about 20% of expenses end up in an “uncategorized” category, so not all expenses are accurately captured.

But, for smaller, cash-strapped businesses already using QuickBooks, and interested in learning what steps they can take to be greener, this is the perfect place to start.

A new version will be launched in about a month that will be a platform for small businesses to connect with each other and share best practices for going greener. Stay tuned for more on this development in a few weeks.

Deborah Fleischer, founder and president of Green Impact, works with mid-sized companies to launch green initiatives that encourage innovation and grow market share. She brings expertise in sustainability strategy, program development, stakeholder partnerships and written communications. You can follow her occasional tweet at GreenImpact.

Sustainability Consulting Bay Area

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