Shifting Baselines? Recommendations for Green IS
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In 1995, marine biologist Daniel Pauly warned against shifting baseline syndrome, or the tendency to assess environmental sustainability against biased or inappropriate baseline data. Today, digital systems have a strong potential to make new Green Information Systems (IS) solutions possible. However, these systems also require in-depth analysis, to prevent Green IS from falling into shifting baseline syndrome. We draw on a qualitative study of distributed systems for environmental monitoring during oil and gas operations. We problematize the creation of baseline data against which the environmental sustainability of operations is calculated. Based on a performative understanding of technology in practice, we illustrate the material-discursive conditions of the data production and use. We present four recommendations for future research in Green IS, inviting researchers to critically investigate the way in which sustainable business processes are mutually constituted by the digital technologies, monitoring practices, and knowledge in organizations and societies.