Why Sustainability Analytics

Chris Beagly
May 8, 2024
Read: 5 min

We all like a sunny day. Kicking back in the garden with the shades on, cool drink in hand and hopefully a liberal amount of SPF on the hottest English Summer day on record.

So why, then, is reaching 1.5° global warming a problem that scientists keep harping on about? I am going to spare you the gory details, as the Internet has this well-covered in any case.

The problem, in a nutshell, is that this is an average. If we dust off our middle-school maths, we know an average is a centre point in a set of numbers. However, the unfortunate thing about summary statistics is that they do not tell us a huge amount about the numbers in the dataset themselves.

If you are well versed in data analytics, you have likely heard of Anscombe's Quartet, which highlights this exceptionally well: if you explore the datasets, you will notice that the values in some datasets are far more extreme than others. This is the exact problem with a global average surface temperature rising.

Have you noticed we seem to get news bulletins touting the ‘HOTTEST [DAY/WEEK/MONTH] ON RECORD’ more and more frequently? That is because, as predicted by clever scientists who measure these types of things, human-driven factors are prompting wilder and increasingly more extreme variations in Earth's natural cycles.

In this article, we are going to explore why sustainability analytics matters to businesses just as much as it matters to the planet and the people.

So what is sustainability analytics, then?

Contemplate for a moment, on a grand scale the world is like an intricate mosaic with each interlocking tile itself a myriad of complex and interwoven ecosystems. The pursuit of sustainability requires taking a holistic view of the raw resources available to us for harvest and finding a more equitable balance between their availability and our consumption.

In essence, sustainability is the optimisation of human processes necessary for continued and harmonious existence within our environment.

As we saw in the intro, the planet and its systems are ailing, and analytics has the power to provide profoundly insightful answers if you have the right data and apply the right techniques. And luckily for us, analytics has come a long way in the last decade, and the recent move to cloud-native computing has only accelerated that progression to match speed.

Similarly, thanks to this move to cloud computing and also any efforts by scientists and other well-intentioned groups, there is now more data available than ever before.

Cloud vendors, such as Snowflake, provide data marketplaces where data commoditisation presents new opportunities to skip the ardour of data collection and jump straight to the dataset creation and the generation of insights. So really, there has never been a better time to start thinking about sustainable analytics.

Beyond the existential problems that we touched on in the intro, there are a number of highly advantageous reasons for implementing sustainable analytics at your organisation that will set your company apart from the crowd for customers, employees and investors.

why sustainability analytics, costs, compliance


Cost reduction and efficiency

If you think about it, sustainability is, in essence, just one big optimisation problem. At its core, it is simply living within our means in relation to the physical resources available to the planet. It is about taking only what we need and not existing in excess, thereby reducing our strain throughout the value chain.

Analytics can be applied to identify areas of inefficiency, for example in your trading or manufacturing process. But this benefit is not limited to a manufacturing context, or even those with a physical work premise - this benefit is universally attainable. I will not go too far into this here, but understanding emissions scopes is a handy tool to keep in your arsenal.

We are so far abstracted today from the raw materials and inputs that form the products and services we use that we sometimes forget they did not merely appear on our shelves/pipes/cable at the point of consumption.

Emissions scopes are an acknowledgement that there is a downstream impact to our activities. Say for example that you are a remote-based organisation running your compute on a server that somebody else operates. Though you are not directly paying for the electricity yourself, the operation is factored into your bill. If you find you are over-utilising your compute due to poorly designed queries, you may need to purchase more compute power to ensure your activities run in a timely manner to facilitate key business processes.

We can see that analysing the process holistically and accounting for downstream impact can actually result in direct cost savings for your organisation upstream and free up resources for other value-adding activities.

If you are looking for a pragmatic and stratified way to implement this measurement, Infinite Lambda has a number of tools and services sure to get you started and measure your impact.

Regulatory compliance and access to capital

Governments and regulatory bodies worldwide are intensifying their focus on environmental and social regulations, placing greater demands on businesses. Leveraging analytics, companies can not only monitor their compliance with existing regulations but also forecast and adapt to forthcoming changes, thus avoiding fines, penalties and reputational harm.

Anyone who has undergone a change management process understands its inherent complexities, often exacerbated by fragmented knowledge and resistance to change. In this context, proactively utilising analytics becomes critical for streamlining and accelerating this process, ensuring readiness to navigate evolving legislative landscapes effectively.

Moreover, environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations are increasingly pivotal in investment decisions, reflecting a growing recognition of the long-term significance of sustainability in preventing and mitigating environmental problems caused by climate change. By integrating sustainable factors into their operations and strategies, companies can mitigate risks and enhance their attractiveness to investors seeking sustainable and resilient ventures.

why sustainability analytics, people, profit, planet


The triple bottom line: people, profit, planet

As mentioned above, organisations and governments are making an increased push to account for environmental factors, aiming to protect the environment but also, by extension, protect investments. But this warming sentiment goes beyond corporations: it has become increasingly important to the public and therefore to potential employees.

The triple bottom line is a theory that states that companies should increasingly look to balance their companies’ focus holistically, rather than hyper-fixate on the standard bottom line of generating profit.

There are a number of advantages to following this approach, including improved employee morale, retention, hiring and productivity.

Applied analytics is arguably the most effective way to integrate this at scale. By implementing analytical workflows to track and measure sustainability indicators, you can enrich your company with a plethora of exclusive benefits that less mindful organisations will lack. The implicit advantage to using a data-driven approach to achieve this is that analytics by nature can be automated. This way, benefits can be obtained at any scale and manual interventions will be limited, which minimises the risk of human error and provides a higher assurance of the quality of your data.

So there you have it, the main business reasons for your organisation to start leveraging sustainability analytics to unlock the business benefits that come with it.

Now you know why sustainability analytics matters to your organisation, just as it matters to the planet. If you are looking for a reliable and experienced partner to guide you on your sustainability analytics journey, reach out to us.

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