How does software drive better sustainability reporting?
DOES A SOFTWARE SYSTEM REALLY HELP WITH BETTER REPORTING?
“If you can’t measure it, you definitely can’t report it”.
One of the core principles of sustainability reporting is that sustainability data must be usable. It means that no matter the quantity of data your business is able to collect, what matters is being able to use the data you have and translate them into some useful and meaningful tools for your business’ goals. In other words, to set a successful sustainability strategy, you have to be able to deal with your data in a proper way.
The purpose of this article is to explore what are the choices offered nowadays to sustainability professionals keen to manage and report non-financial data.
- Microsoft Excel spreadsheet
Plus side: It’s free. You have a tool (assumed that you already own Microsoft Office) that allows you to collect and manage the data of your organisation and then drive the reporting. There are companies using nothing else than Excel.
Down side: “You get what you pay for” meaning, when it comes to managing large amounts of data and getting hundreds of users involved in the collection and management processes, relying on just an Excel spreadsheet could lead to confusion.
Even if it’s very true that some organisations use Excel spreadsheets only, you have to consider if Excel is the right option for YOU.
- CSR software
CSR software is not just about data management and grabbing numbers. It’s also about the ownership of those numbers, the users and the individual sites responsible for entering, checking and submitting those data, the increasing amount of sustainability data that are not strictly numbers, the need to manage complex and non-aligned supply chain data sets… And the list could easily get longer. The good news is that software systems enable you to control more than Excel what people are entering, how and when. They allow companies and businesses to have more control over their sustainability data.
How does software drive better sustainability reporting in practice?
Specialist functionality. Firstly, the system helps you define the reporting boundaries you need to consider. You can split data when you need it, focusing on specific subjects you need or want to report on. Secondly, software systems facilitate the management of emission factors. A system can help companies set up the emission factor sets and report against each different frameworks within the same structure. Last but not least: advanced organisation structures. Automated systems allow big and complex organisations to collect and manage their data in different ways, layers, levels and accesses.
Expansive graphic interpretation. A software system looks good. The key to a successful sustainability reporting strategy is being able to communicate the data you are collecting and managing. Within sustainability systems you have a wide number of dedicated dashboards that can help you communicate your data and compare your corporate targets against corporate performances. Communication is a great tool to get users, investors, stakeholders and customers involved with what you are doing and trying to achieve. Users need to be able to understand and practically see what the sustainability data are driving. It’s important to visualise what you want to achieve. Furthermore, software systems enable users to export information into all kind of formats.
Reporting standards template. Reporting standards are growing and evolving faster and faster. New metrics and rules are constantly being introduced and presented to sustainability professionals, and keeping up to date with all the new requirements is not an easy exercise. Software systems can help, allowing companies to maximise all the technical efforts and minimise the maths involved. You will get, overall, to simplify the process of data submission. Being able to take the same core data and cut it appropriately to put into a format that the reporting standards require can be a huge time and energy saver.
To summarise, whilst we cannot say that Excel is definitely a bad option for a company’s needs, we can say that there are far better options for organisations interested in taking advantage of more specialist functionality, in communicating and sharing their results, and in reporting against various sustainability standards.
If you are now starting to think about sustainability data management options, trying out our free and 100 % independent sustainability software comparison tool might be a great way to start.