How Better Data Management Can Boost Corporate Sustainability Success

From Environmental Leader, Published on July 21, 2016

If it seems like corporate sustainability programs are quickly becoming the new currency for business, it’s because they are. What was once something “extra” is now a must-have, as investors and consumers alike increasingly look for sustainable businesses.

So how is your corporate sustainability program doing? Do you have a handle on the data? For sustainability managers, these two questions go hand-in-hand.

Sustainability Programs and Data Are Two of a Kind
No matter how you look at it, you can’t separate data from sustainability programs. As a program manager, you need data to achieve goals like reducing costs, communicating performance to stakeholders, maintaining transparency and initiating new projects. And we’re not just talking about any data. Comprehensive, accurate and timely data is needed to meet these objectives.

However, gathering and analyzing this data can be quite the task. Consider this: To run a successful corporate sustainability program, you need data about your business interactions, data about the environment in which you operate, along with an understanding of how all of those thousands of data points relate to one another. Easier said than done.

Effective Data Management is a Must
While effectively managing all the data required to run a corporate sustainability program isn’t easy, it is necessary. Remember: You can’t measure what you can’t manage, and measuring performance and progress is critical for sustainability professionals.

The urgency of proper data management extends beyond measurement too, because what happens if you can measure the data, but it turns out you’re using inaccurate, incomplete or outdated data? The costs — including ill-informed decisions, oversights or extra time spent cleaning data — are high.

Enter Data Automation and Visualization
Fortunately, in the age of big data, the solutions to overcome these challenges do exist, and they come in the form of automated data aggregation and data visualization tools.

First, an automated data aggregation solution can handle the entire data collection process for you and even standardize data from different sources, eliminating the time and errors that come with completing these tasks manually.

Second, a data visualization solution can help you and your stakeholders make sense of all the data by taking it beyond its raw format, putting it in context, and enabling you to compare data points over time. At the end of the day, this slicing and dicing makes the data more actionable and informative.

With Effective Data Management Comes Numerous Benefits
Beyond helping solve many of the day-to-day challenges that sustainability managers face, effective data management can also lead to several other benefits. It can help you uncover savings in utility bills, respond faster to RFPs, be in a better position to attract and retain top talent, improve market position due to transparency, increase access to capital and enhance your overall decision-making capabilities. The possibilities are truly endless — but it all hinges on the data.

For additional reading regarding data management, please refer to the following links:
Down to Size: How to Manage the Big Data Behind Your Environmental Sustainability Reporting
A story of data, data storage, and data visualizations
Defining a Dynamic Data Center for Sustainability Strategies