Sustainability and energy professionals are increasingly reliant on big data to shape decision making. Disruptive technologies, stakeholder demands for higher levels of transparency, and sustainable business strategies all place pressure on companies to collect, manage and communicate data regularly.
For sustainability and energy managers, data is key to communicating progress on key company targets like GHG emissions, waste, or water consumption, to adhere to 3rd party certifications like ISO, to complete annual stakeholder reporting, to comply with regulations, or to track the success of investments on sustainability and energy initiatives. Yet, despite the necessity and value for granular and easily accessible data, companies may find themselves with a disjointed and cumbersome process of data collection, storage and analysis. Sustainability and energy is inherently complex so separating data responsibility across lines of corporate structure or reporting adds further complexity. On top of that some data is collected daily, some annually, other data has manual inputs, another is fully automated; all this data could be stored in different excel sheets with ranges of access for different personnel, or in a 3rd party cloud that is not easily accessible.
The potential for such variability means that corporates with increasingly progressive strategies on sustainability and energy, spend significant resources managing their data streams instead understanding data trends that’ll make the decisions that matter.
A system that aggregates a wide range of data has the potential to decrease associated costs, improve operational efficiency, accelerate positive impacts and elevate a company’s brand value by providing credible and transparent progress reports to key stakeholders.
How can data enhance sustainability?
Big data is great in theory, but in practice, sustainability and energy data outputs need to be intelligently collected and managed. To have useful data that drives action, it’s important to evaluate the following:
- Inputs: How data is stored? What is the quality/ accuracy of the data? A detailed gap analysis or data audit of the existing system will help build a baseline of assets, and map out requirements and protocols clearly.
- Transformation: How data is gathered, and stored? Often key sustainability and energy reporting metrics, asset registries, and business KPIs are tracked separately via spreadsheets, which creates confusion and can impact accuracy. Understanding how and where data is stored will transform data into reliable outputs that drive decision making.
- Output: Access to data? Granular or macro presentation? The data analysis and data visualisation process ensures that the right people have access to accurate and updated information in formats that can be easily utilised for their requirements be that internal reporting, stakeholder engagement, or completing 3rd party certifications.
Collaboration Aggregated systems with standard reporting that can be accessed by stakeholders across the Sustainability and Energy functions, which in turn will help to identify conflicts and synergies. Best practice, cross collaboration and ideas sharing is key to effective energy management and an aligned group strategy
The process of designing an effective sustainability and energy data infrastructure begins with understanding business target, data requirements, work flows and processes and company ambition to establish a systems map. The systems map provides a clear high-level overview of data infrastructure. Developing a systems map will also streamline the process of procuring a software or platform that is capable of meeting the full or targeted scope of data requirements; additionally, this type of mapping process makes it easier for platform or software providers to respond to business queries in a timely and accurate manner.
Almach can manage this process and optimise your data management for better sustainability and energy integration, get in touch and we can share our insights with you.
Camden Brown, Sustainability Director
Almach – Clean Energy Innovation
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