The usefulness of advanced data analytics — Big Data, small data and everything in between — is converging with the needs of corporate sustainability, and this is creating new opportunities for companies pursuing ambitious sustainability goals.
Ecosystem services — or the flows of natural capital from the environment into human economies and societies – have traditionally been thought of and treated as ‘free,’ resulting in their mismanagement and degradation. Emerging research is beginning to change this paradigm by quantifying the values of ecosystem service flows — and the implications are becoming especially relevant for corporations.
As many stakeholders — including investors, employees and consumers — begin to re-evaluate their perception of value, it is becoming imperative for companies of all industries to credibly measure, analyze and interpret the entire range of costs and benefits for which they are responsible. Below are 13 fairly (as of yet) uncommon types of data analysis that help businesses do just that. You have nothing to lose and much to gain by learning how to:
Errors using inadequate data are much less than those using no data at all.— Charles BabbageDo you break the timer when your boiled egg is cooked?Our economy does; it is like a broken hourglass. We collect together valuable materials, apply energy and labour, put them into products that have yet more added design and brand value and spew them out into the world before starting again (mostly), from scratch.This of course would all be fine if scarcity was not a problem: If the materials, energy and inputs we rely upon for industrial production were either eternally abundant or safe to distribute and use. However in our current industrial models this is simply not the case.
Many innovators want to express the uniqueness of their pioneering breakthroughs - a new organic product, a sustainability initiative, a green-building retrofit. But these new, exciting ideas are likely emphasizing benefits that are not easily heard. "New" and "exciting" are two words that typically attract attention to gain new customers and market share, like your latest mobile device or electric car.But CFOs, CEOs and Boards are skeptical of new and exciting; they like "old" and "boring" — like delivering on budget, on time and on the expectations of promises to Wall Street analysts and investors.
While there are myriad perspectives on sustainability and corporate responsibility, each with its own unique value, I often find myself focusing on sustainability’s operational aspects: What can we do to increase the pace at which belief in sustainability translates into concrete actions that benefit the environment, society and business? To me*, a key question is how we get more done, how we “hardwire” sustainability into the way businesses operate.
All businesses stay alive by being price competitive. After all, if there are no customers to pay for your product, you can’t make sales and without sales there are no revenues. In an ideal world, a business sets its pricing based on the costs it incurs to produce but other businesses compete by offering different pricing (some do choose strategies based on servicing or other value-added activities).
Advancement in big data and analytical technologies has opened up many new opportunities to support sustainability advancement in large, complex organizations. The high volume of performance data from facilities, buildings, supply chains, operations and logistics subsystems can be gathered to trace the impact of sustainability initiatives at a very granular level. This information can be rolled up into a series of “green dashboards” allowing managers and employees to track costs savings and monitor performance enhancements across the organization.
UK businesses could secure £100 billion pounds (nearly $156 billion USD) in annual productivity gains generated by innovations designed to address environmental and social challenges, according to a new report by Accenture, Business in the Community and Marks & Spencer.Fortune Favors the Brave argues that companies must go beyond conventional corporate and social responsibility programs and place sustainability at the heart of business strategies and operations to unlock the full commercial potential and sustainability benefits.
When Avila Government Services, Inc. (Avila) decided they wanted to improve the sustainability of their meeting/event planning efforts, they turned to the latest event sustainability guidance. However, as many planners have discovered, the roughly 400 pages of long-awaited guidance can be overwhelming and confusing. The three sets of guidelines fall short of providing the necessary metrics for conducting and evaluating the event planning process. They lack specific policies, goals, measurable objectives and scoring systems for sustainable meeting planning. Instead, they require the organization and its planners to develop their own procedures and metrics for the process.
Our economy assigns values to just about everything except for the things that matter most. As far as the current economy is concerned, a tree holds value only if it is cut down, an animal only if it is slaughtered and a person only if they contribute to the GDP. When we are given the price of an item, many values and certain costs are often excluded, which results in the destruction of natural resources, decline in human health and an economy that is less productive than it could be.
Many experts have observed in recent months that innovating for sustainability seems to be attracting mainstream attention, particularly at Fortune 500 companies and among forward-looking social entrepreneurs. The growth of the Sustainable Brands community certainly supports that claim, with an audience of over 2,800 boasting more than $4 trillion in combined annual revenue represented at SB’13 earlier this summer. At the same time, however, in the majority of cases sustainability is still not part of firms' core strategies. And we can’t expect to be on the right long-term trajectory if all we do is encourage employees to switch to double-sided printing.
Open the news in the US and you hear two conflicting messages: “We are on our way to becoming energy independent using fossil fuel” and “The biggest challenge we face is getting off fossil fuel.” The inconvenient truth is that we don’t know how to quantify our dependence on fossil fuel nor do we have a metric for Energy Productivity and Environmental Performance.
There’s been a lot of talk about the power of Big Data in our modern digital economy. But tech experts will be the first to tell you “Big Data” is a marketing term, not a magic bullet. While it’s important to know how to best aggregate and make sense of the massive amounts of information available about your customers, there’s a more critical point you need to address right away about the nature of people’s data:It’s going to disappear.
Calling all innovators & implementers! This month, Sustainable Brands will relaunch an Issue in Focus editorial channel dedicated to showcasing the New Metrics of sustainable business success (#NewMetrics).With the help of our guest editors, corporate sustainability architect Bill Baue and Paul Herman of HIP Investor, the SB editorial team is seeking features, interviews, columns and case studies to publish throughout the year. This is a great opportunity to showcase the innovations you and your organization have pioneered — sustainable business metrics that strategically link to financial, ecological and social performance.
As a growing slice of a larger corporate push to develop more creative solutions to sustainability challenges, impact investing encourages financial actors to consider social and environmental issues when making investment decisions.These financial actors can range from first-generation entrepreneurs who have already integrated sustainability into their company DNA to foundations, family offices and institutions that invest in portfolios that align with their mission, as well as Fortune 500 companies.
Cross-Posted from Marketing and Comms.
Companies that set tangible sustainability goals do a better job of improving both their financial and environmental performance, according to a new white paper by CH2M HILL, a global consulting, design, construction and operations firm.Sustainability Goals That Make an Impact focuses on the link between sustainability goal-setting, environmental and financial performance, and stakeholder recognition, making the case for setting more tangible goals.
Bob Willard is an expert on quantifying and selling the business value of corporate sustainability strategies. He serves on the advisory boards of The Natural Step Canada and Forum for the Future US, and his fourth book, The New Sustainability Advantage was published in 2012.
Every now and then, as I discuss various products Sustainable Brands has to offer to our growing community of brands and solution providers, I mention our New Metrics of Sustainable Business conference and I detect either a blank stare or a confused nod. When I pause to find out why, I typically get a response gravitating around these questions: “What exactly are these New Metrics you speak of? How do they affect my company, and why should I care?”Simply put, New Metrics (#NewMetrics) is an umbrella term for the latest and most successful ways businesses are creating and capturing entirely new forms of value, or quantifying previously ignored economic, social and environmental impacts and opportunities.