A data-driven approach to climate and sustainability will help you pull others along
By Josh Matthews | Mon Jun 07 2021
Progress on tackling Climate Change and reaching broader sustainability goals continues to be inadequate. In order to get a grip of this problem, data and its use in tracking our progress (or lack of) will be vital. Several technology and service providers are emerging with useful tools for tracking our climate and sustainability efforts. Liberals in all walks of life may benefit from investigating how to record and demonstrate progress on sustainability goals to pressure others to follow suit.
As Liberal Democrats we could take a leadership role on measuring, monitoring and reporting our climate and sustainability actions, perhaps in the councils that we lead or in our ‘day jobs.’ Daisy Cooper MP has recently commissioned a ‘climate policy dashboard’ to monitor the government’s policy progress on the Climate Crisis and there is more we can all do to drive this approach more broadly in society.
At a high level, we know what we need to do to tackle climate change and move toward all 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which cover all aspects of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) sustainability. On climate change, for example, we need to reduce our worldwide emissions to net-zero by 2050 at the absolute latest to have a chance at staying below a 1.5-degree global temperature rise (since pre-industrial times) and avoid further, more catastrophic, and irreversible ecosystem breakdown and extreme events.
“Roadmaps” or “pathways” are frequently used to plan this journey, but equally frequently, they come unstuck because of data. Measuring the current ESG footprint of a business, region, or country is tough enough—but add on continuously monitoring progress, optimizing performance, and reporting in line with varying global standards… and it’s an even tougher problem.
Eventually, regulation will force businesses to act, and (I hope…) society will force governments to act on that soon. But it’s not enough to wait for government to force our own change.
This year, the UN’s flagship climate summit, COP26, will be in the UK. It comes six years after the famous Paris Agreement, and there’s widespread condemnation that not enough has been done. There is a lot of uncertainty about what might be agreed in Glasgow this year or whether it will be enough.
There’s still an opportunity for businesses and governments to lead in transitioning to sustainability. The opportunity, responsibility, and need are so vast that leaders can drag their ecosystems along.
Such leadership will require strong data. We need well recorded starting points if we’re to move along a roadmap. Mastering data will allow any industry or government leader to move past short-term token actions that only look good on press releases and put together the plan we all need for long-term sustainability.
There’s a growing ecosystem of service provider solutions for sustainability measuring, monitoring, reporting, and improvement.
I’ve identified some headline examples of platforms and solutions addressing the data, measuring, monitoring, reporting, and optimization aspects of a sustainability transition, and the ongoing demands:
- Salesforce Sustainability Cloud platform is positioning as a “one-stop-shop” for business leaders and auditors to assess enterprise emissions from the shop floor (via internet of things [IoT] sensors, for example) through to supply chain emissions (collated via company-wide processes and ERP systems).
- Google Cloud Platform (GCP) combines its technology and services to drive sustainability internally and for its customers. GCP’s operations and innovation work with implementation partners and enterprise leaders is a massive opportunity to build blueprints that align sustainability with improving IT and business processes. The blueprints can then be replicated throughout industries that all need to make sustainable transitions. GCP has developed a roadmap to meet execs’ sustainability demands for projects.
- KPMG Climate Accounting Infrastructure (CAI) covers the measuring, monitoring, and reporting of sustainability, and KMPG adds further road-mapping and strategy services. Like GCP above, CAI brings in multiple data sources for benchmarking against industry peers. Automated reporting to different entities under different regulations combines with key metrics, and it gives users the ability to drill down into detail. KPMG has patented CAI as a system, but not the software, so as not to reinvent the wheel when others, including cloud and instrumentation companies, have cracked the code.
- Infosys Cobalt cloud platform uses technology and services in combination for sustainability. Infosys is improving the sustainability of those offerings, which improves the sustainability of its enterprise customers. Infosys can alternate the source of Cobalt’s computing power based on “load balancing” to reduce the emissions footprints of cloud storage and operations.
- Accenture Sustainability Hub acts as a warehouse for its own procurement team’s sustainability appraisals of suppliers, reducing the need for excessively manual RFP submissions and sustainability assessments. Accenture’s suppliers can simply update their status and maintain it “live” in the warehouse. Third-party data also links in for predictive analysis and objective scoring of potential suppliers’ sustainability against predefined metrics and weighting and to predict any undesirable future events.
- TCS Clever Energy is an enterprise-level energy and emission management system, to aid evidence-informed decision making without compromising their business needs to drive energy conservation initiatives and recognize cost-savings in the broader shift toward decarbonization.
While these examples apply to enterprise-scale decarbonization challenges – the mindset and approach applies to all walks of life: measuring a starting point, road-mapping towards your goals, and continually monitoring and improving progress is something we can all take onboard professionally, politically (locally and nationally), and our personal day-to-days.