Data is the powerhouse for sustainability success

Handle your data right to hit your ESG goals, says Damien Brophy, VP EMEA, ThoughtSpot.

2022 was the hottest on record for the UK, with the average annual temperature passing the 10°C mark for the first time. The climate crisis has made these soaring temperatures 160x more likely and temperatures across Europe are reaching unparalleled heights.

This is a wake-up call, and one we all need to take seriously. The walls are closing in on companies that aren’t doing enough to tackle ESG concerns within their business. On the one side, pressure is coming from legislators and regulators, with important developments such as the UK’s eagerly anticipated green taxonomy on the horizon. On the other side, we’re seeing the eyes of the public narrowing in on companies’ activities and thrusting the worst offenders into the spotlight. There’s nowhere to hide.

When it comes to a business’s responsibility, delivering for the environment can seem like an overwhelming task at times.

Transforming sustainability into a business challenge

What can any one business do to help stem the tide?

The key is to start not by looking outward, but inward. To become a part of the big picture solution, businesses must first be able to understand, on a granular scale, their own contribution to the problem. This of course encompasses grasping the impact of any current or proposed sustainability initiatives, just as other areas of activity are tracked and measured.

When viewed from this perspective, it becomes easier to view massive political or social challenges in terms of being a business problem of the kind that organisations deal with all the time. This is where data comes in.

We are in the defining decade of data where – behind people – data is said to be the most important asset a company can possess. But data for data’s sake isn’t enough. To reap the full benefits, data needs to be collected, processed and understood meaningfully. Overhauling legacy data, reporting CO2 on all activity and increasing accessibility on company data are key ways in which organisations are making a difference amid the climate crisis.

Tools we often think of as being ‘just’ business tools, like business intelligence and analytics platforms, can actually be very salient for sustainability. This makes it vital for businesses to add sustainability to traditional areas of analysis like sales and revenue, and emphasises the importance of a data and analytics function that is flexible, usable, intuitive, and fast.

Beyond the dashboard

Modern analytics needs to go beyond the relatively static dashboards of recent years. Companies need to overhaul legacy technology to do this, building a modern data stack with best-of-breed vendors and a front end experience that delivers accurate real-time insights to support decision-making. The right solutions will not just be ‘good enough’ or merely functional; they will offer improved ROI by optimising processes and resource efficiency. This has the dual benefit of driving better business results and sustainability performance simultaneously.

Self-service analytics enabled by search is a great way for domain experts to ask a question, gain an insight, then refine and ask again. This offers users the chance to access a much greater amount of data at a faster pace, and also provides greater insights.

Utilising cutting-edge self-service tools, everyone in the business, from product development to sales and marketing to finance, can test-and-learn to understand relationships between sustainability and other business metrics. They don’t have to be stuck in a process and wait for a data scientist to tweak the parameters. They can obtain the data they need and act on it as and when required.

The result of implementing these solutions is better knowledge, new ideas, and flexibility in how the sustainability challenge is addressed in both the day-to-day and long-term. And, happily, it means that tackling sustainability might also have a business performance uplift.

It doesn’t have to be seismic and overwhelming; by treating sustainability like other traditional metrics and implementing the right technology to track and use the data surrounding it, business leaders can empower the entire organisation to contribute to a more positive impact.

For example, Carbon Statement, the hospitality sector’s leading provider of carbon analytics, is transforming the industry by helping organisations reduce emissions, outperform carbon reduction targets and even increase profits. By embedding ThoughtSpot into their portal, Carbon Statement helps management teams better understand their environmental impact, which informs and drives meaningful change within the business.

The big picture

Environmental performance, and the reporting of that performance, is more important than ever.

To optimise sustainability performance and vastly improve reporting, companies need to reinvent the way they manage and use their data. By implementing cutting-edge, self-service business intelligence technology to track the environmental impact of operations across supply chains, leaders can empower every employee to better understand the relationship between sustainability and other metrics. As the decade ahead looks to be defined by data, this insight will be vital to building the foundations of a more sustainable business, and a safer world for all.

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