Using Business Data to Drive Better Environmental Decisions
by Dave Westbrook,
"It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land."
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Assessment Report 6, 2021
As the latest IPCC report takes the headlines, it is a sobering reminder that businesses have a responsibility to minimise their influence on climate change, and that of their customers.
In fact, according to the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol—by far the leading global standard for corporate emissions reporting—decisive action makes for good business. Companies can discover ways to bolster their bottom line, eliminate or reduce risk, and discover advantages over their competition.
Some of the world's most successful companies have woken up to the fact that environmental reporting is more than just a compliance requirement. Understanding the data is vital to ensuring long-term success and sustainable growth. Aware that environmentally relevant data can help drive better business decisions and improve performance, these organisations are now using the information they hold to achieve greater competitiveness.
Companies are using the information they hold to deepen their business insights, enhance risk assessment, and create competitive differentiation.
Choosing The Right Tools
Businesses are using data in a wide range of different ways, and while there is no standardised method to how this can be done for environmentally relevant data, some common trends emerge. Using the right tools for the job helps ensure success—most companies already use data management systems to report on performance metrics, and integrating these with your environmental data is easier than some might expect. Others use geographical information systems to provide spatial visualisation; or use open-source software to generate automated reports based on structured input data files. There are now also numerous commercial providers who offer advanced visualisation and analytics services that can help businesses make sense of this diverse information. All these can be used to begin unravelling and making sense of environmental data.
Data visualisation is quickly becoming the new norm in environmental reporting, and it's clear to see why. It brings meaning by transforming data from a series of numbers into an interactive, meaningful experience that can be easily understood. Organisations can use data visualisation to build and validate their assumptions, identify patterns and trends, and predict future outcomes before they materialise. In short, by using data visualisation to gain a more holistic understanding of complex information, companies are discovering how they can make better business decisions in real time.
Developing Better Insights
Let's say you're interested in determining where your organisation stands with its carbon footprint or other compliance-related measures (such as hazardous waste disposal), but can't find clear answers.
Many companies face the challenge of complying with environmental legislation without understanding its impact. Many have come to realise that they can only do this if they start to connect the dots across all their key data sources—such as regulatory reports, emissions data, and customer and supplier information—which enable them to generate more comprehensive environmental insights.
When you're able to make sense of this diverse information, you can begin verifying what data is telling you versus what your assumptions are based on—helping identify where there may be gaps in reporting, explore opportunities for improvement through benchmarking against similar organisations, and identify new risks and opportunities.
An example of this is analysing supplier data and sustainable supply chain initiatives alongside regulatory reporting, and uncovering opportunities to reduce emissions by procuring more sustainable products and services. The same is true for customer-facing activities. By comparing purchasing behaviours with energy usage, companies can better target environmentally aware customers through tailored messaging—aiming to drive new business opportunities while also reducing risks such as product liability claims.
The use of analytics has boomed in recent years, allowing organisations to gain real-time insight into environmental performance at an ever-increasing level of granularity than ever before. As an organisation's ability to collect data improves, so does the need for analytical tools that can move beyond basic summary statistics. To manage multiple facilities, activities and assets across diverse regions, it's vital to be able to interact with data from a centralised platform that spans the breadth of your organisation, supporting the consistency of reporting while ensuring compliance and maintaining control over all your important data, whether stored in internal systems or third-party repositories. As well as these benefits, adopting cloud technology is now an essential step for many businesses looking to increase their capacity to collect data on sustainability issues in near real-time.
While compliance reporting and the drive to be more sustainable can be seen as distinct entities (and indeed they can at times be in direct conflict), most businesses acknowledge that it's important to see the link between environmental performance and overall business performance. Meaningful information from environmental data not only supports compliance efforts but also underpins sustainability strategies by providing corporate-level transparency for stakeholders while ensuring future success through insights provided on growth opportunities. As more organisations become aware of this, the window of opportunity for disruption is closing.
The benefits of utilising environmentally relevant data to drive better business decisions are clear when you look at how well-positioned firms gain competitive advantage by identifying where they perform against their peers, which can then help them benchmark performance over time and identify areas for improvement and foster a culture of collaboration and learning.
And, well, you might even help save the planet in the process.
Begin a discussion around leveraging your data by contacting us today.