Sustainability software – is your system working for you or against you?

Top tips to ensure you have the right system in place to help reduce the reporting burden

Pathway to COP26 report

By Naomi Rich, Consultant at EcoAct 

Image: Eco-Act

The net zero agenda is driving awareness of carbon emissions and ways to reduce them up the management chain. This means that many of the companies we work with are finding themselves under increased scrutiny and facing demands to demonstrate proactivity on climate-related sustainability. For many sustainability and energy managers this sudden focus can bring a sense of delight as programmes and solutions they have been trying to push for years to bring down energy bills and reduce carbon emissions are finally getting the notice they deserved. However, this new attention can also mean increased pressure to report complex information quickly and clearly.

At this point many people tasked with carbon reporting and energy management within the business find that their current methods of working are no longer keeping up with demands and look to purchase an energy management/carbon reporting software system. Having an effective system can reduce the data collection and reporting burden and help to drive climate and commercial performance. It also enables clear tracking and reporting of performance and the path to net zero.

Tips for ensuring your system is right for you

There are different software systems out there and it is important to find one that fits your unique requirements best. Choosing the wrong system can lead to problems further down the line.

  1. Make sure it is future fit: You may find that as you evolve as a business your energy management and carbon reporting requirements are no longer met by a particular system. This often leads to additional work being done outside the system in spreadsheets to add in additional data types and metrics that are not supported by the software. Ensure that you are able to include all the KPIs and data points that you need to monitor at your organisation. Completing reports and analysis in spreadsheets means that you are increasing the risk of human error being introduced into the reporting. While there is increased focus on carbon reporting, errors mean reputation risk to the business.


  1. Make sure it has the right level of capability for your requirements: Lack of system flexibility can also impact reporting, making it harder to extract the required information quickly and thus requiring further analysis or multiple spreadsheets of data to be extracted. As well as reporting now taking additional time, the software increasingly becomes redundant as work is required to be done outside of it. This means that you are paying for something that is not entirely fit for purpose. Conversely, a system may do more than required due to original unrealistic plans for the use of the system, this means that you may be wasting money through paying for functionality that you’re not using.


  1. Establish clear ownership of the system: Ownership and identifying end users at the outset is a key consideration. Often system users can be identified to enter data, review energy meters and provide reporting when required. However, the users may not have time to access the system on a regular basis or undertake sufficient training to use the system effectively so ensure that responsibility does not lie solely with one individual and is appropriately managed. A lack of ownership can mean that data is not available when required or that skills are lost when a key user leaves the business if knowledge has not been passed to colleagues. Getting an external provider to manage the system might be another way to avoid these issues and get the most out of a new or existing system.


  1. Consult a solutions agnostic expert: Working with a consultant at the outset means that they can objectively take all these considerations into account when recommending an appropriate system or auditing your existing one. A solutions agnostic consultant also means that you will get the best solution for your needs rather than trying to adapt a system to fit. They can also work with you to implement the system to the most effective design and manage it going forwards. This negates issues with time poor users and loss of knowledge with team changes, while meeting reporting requirements and enabling you to focus on key business decisions to drive forward carbon and energy reductions.

If you already have a system and there is little appetite to change it, independent consultants can help you work objectively with an existing system, removing some of the pain points. This may include looking at other ways of reporting and collecting data or finding ways that your existing system can be improved to better fulfil its requirements.

Ultimately your system must be able to make the data monitoring and reporting process easier especially as the demands upon sustainability and energy professionals increases. Your choice of system might be one of the most important decisions you make to support your climate journey.

About EcoAct

EcoAct is a privately held international sustainability consultancy and project developer, headquartered in Paris, with 120 employees in offices across France, the United Kingdom, Spain, the United States and Kenya. The company has unmatched depth and breadth in delivering solutions to enable businesses to reduce their carbon emissions while driving commercial performance.

EcoAct has undertaken carbon reduction and sustainability projects for some of the world’s leading brands while also developing and partnering with carbon offset, biodiversity and economic development programmes across Africa, Asia, China and South America. EcoAct is a CDP gold partner, a founding member of ICROA, a strategic partner in the implementation of the Gold Standard for the Global Goals and reports to the UN Global Compact.

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