Understanding your sustainability data
21 May 2013 by Joe Jones
I’ve had a few discussions recently with existing and potential clients about how to implement a sustainability software solution and I thought it would be worthwhile spending a little time talking about one of the most important parts of any software implementation – understanding what you have to work with.
Understanding the sustainability data already available is a vital step in the sustainability journey. When SustainIt have helped clients with the selection and deployment of dedicated software then one of the most important parts of the process is being able to answer some very clear questions on what information is already available.
Sustainability reporting has such a broad remit that it can sometimes prove difficult to be able to ring fence responsibilities for sustainability data capture, management and verification and it’s by building a map of the quantity and quality of the sustainability data available that our clients have been able to understand the extent of the challenge before them, identify the potential data inconsistencies and overflows and even highlight the probable system evangelists and sceptics – all by simply understanding what kind of sustainability data is available.
One of the biggest contributors to the complexity of this part of system implementation is the very simple challenge that many departments have already established their own protocols, their own systems and their own processes for gathering the data that they are interested in. Getting environmental managers and health and safety teams to change or augment what kind of data their collecting can definitely be an uphill struggle.
The challenge of building a map of what sustainability data is available is a complex one, but there are three simple questions that go a long way to distilling the challenge into its essence.
- What sustainability data is being collected?
- Where is this data coming from?
- How robust is that data?
The intention behind these questions is to build a clear and useful understanding of exactly where sustainability data is coming from. As I alluded to, this can be particularly important if there are any pre-existing CSR, EMS, OHS, or any other kind of dedicated systems in place which are taking responsibility for the sustainability data that you need to be able to collect, manage and report on. It can also prove to be invaluable information later on in the process as you begin to work on integrating your sustainability system with existing EMS and building management systems, active metering, human resources information and all kinds of other data feeds.
Time and time again, we’ve been able to help our clients answer the question of what data they have, and it’s through answering this question we’ve been able to help them move toward implementing a sustainable software solution.