To get more sustainable – start measuring

Data is key to sustainability

As Earth Day arrives more businesses are working towards greater levels of sustainability than ever before. 

The Green Business Bureau (https://greenbusinessbureau.com) has some good advice for those businesses wanting to push on down the sustainability path.  Set it as a proper strategic objective and implement it on that basis. E.g.  with vision, mission and values and goals – with specific initiatives to achieve them.

Smaller and newer businesses appear to be leading the charge.  Less hampered by scale and history they are seeking ways to build economic value that do not impact the environment. 

Sustainability credentials however have to be genuine and stand up to scrutiny.  It means that any claim, e.g. ‘our raw materials are sustainably sourced’, has to be backed up with evidence.

This can be a tough ask.  Critical attention paid to supply chains, for example, may reveal issues about which the business is unaware. No matter how sincere the original claim, reputations for sustainability that have taken years to develop can quickly evaporate (e.g. https://www.truthinadvertising.org/six-companies-accused-greenwashing/).

Evidence however is becoming easier to find. 

Three of the key areas that businesses focus upon are waste reduction, resource efficiency and sustainable sourcing.

Within each area data can be captured that reflects the level of activity underway, and datasets exist which can confirm the validity of the activity undertaken.

E.g. waste reduction data can include actual items recycled, composted, used within the circular economy.  It can be extended to include the impact upon CO2 emissions from manufacturing less or sourcing fewer raw materials.

Publicly available datasets can reveal the extent to which the choices made are echoed across other businesses, the likely size of any beneficial impact experienced further afield, and therefore the extent to which the business is ahead of the curve when it comes to sustainability practice.

Even if the data isn’t perfect, and issues are discovered within the supply chain, the act of collecting relevant data indicates proactivity and an intention to be as transparent as possible.  

This is because it can be benchmarked, used to develop strategy and drive improvement, and published to demonstrate compliance with international standards for sustainable operations.

You will be signalling to Stakeholders that your business is genuine in its desire to operate sustainably and is doing everything it can to get there. 

Some businesses are already experiencing a tipping point with respect to customer sentiment.  Within some sectors, customers are choosing almost overnight to switch their attention towards suppliers that are conspicuous in their attempts to operate sustainably.

This need not come as a surprise.  Your customers may already be talking about it.  If so, by being prepared with the right strategy, measures and indicators, you can be there for them when their switch comes .

Paul Clarke

Director

FiguringOutData.com