How the power of data is key in reducing your carbon emissions

Image by Elias from Pixabay

This article by Katie Potter and Adam Finch is about IT sustainability, focusing on the power of data, the key to reducing your carbon emissions. Katie Potter has been working in Climate Technology since 2019. Adam Finch is an expert in carbon and ESG with four years of experience in Climate tech. Both Katie and Adam work at SWEEP. Sweep is Europe’s leading carbon management and ESD platform.

When we think about IT sustainability, there’s been a transformation in the technology landscape in the last few years; it’s been accelerating in line with the ever-changing regulations and business requirements. Scope one and two emissions are emissions that are in your direct control, e.g.

How you power your office and your factories or the fuels you’re putting into your fleet. In 2019, customers worked with Excel spreadsheets to handle the data for analyzing emissions. But the forward-thinking ones and the innovative ones, were leaning towards technology and a platform approach to be able to tackle scope three emissions.

Scope three emissions are the ones that your business directly touches. This is a bigger challenge in two different ways – the scale of data and where the datasets sit. Where these datasets sit is a challenge because it is not always your data; it’s through your purchase of goods and services. It’s your supplier data, or it’s the way that your employees are working and commuting. So you need to connect with them. A new theme about collaboration is coming to the forefront, making pulling together all these complex datasets and wrangling all this tricky data together a powerful way to solve the challenge. Technology has caught up with these ever-changing regulations and business demands.

The whole foundation of SWEEP is about simplifying the complex and steering data-driven decision-making. Typically, when working with clients, we deal with two key scenarios. The first is connecting large datasets processing large utility or logistics databases into one consolidated view. The other becoming more prevalent is the need to build greater stakeholder engagement and collaboration in the sustainability journey, which is becoming increasingly important.

When we think of connecting large datasets, the number one requirement is that people want the ability to consolidate and process their data flexibly from multiple systems without requiring access to excessive development. The upside of this type of automated footprint calculation is super clear. Having that complete, automated calculation gives you a lot of energy, efficiency, savings, and time. But it’s worth considering a few things when you’re doing this. One of those is the quality of the footprint that comes out of this process. You want a scenario where data collection doesn’t come at the cost of inaccurate reporting. With this in mind, we see a lot of key drivers within our client base when it comes to system integration, and the platform they’re looking for in delivering this.

The key things they are looking for are:

  • The ability to track data points from upload through the platform to the outputs.
  • The ability to evidence methodology and have a strong methodological base.
  • Normally aligning to greenhouse gas protocol.

Once the data is in the platform, it’s coming from all these different places; you need the ability to measure with data quality behind these footprint calculations.

On the flip side, when we start thinking about stakeholder engagement, the driver for this comes from not all data residing in a system. Regulations and frameworks in this space are pushing companies towards tracking data across their supply chain, not just for the activities they directly influence. In this regard, a platform can effectively manage supplier engagement. At a basic level, this might involve delivering high-level carbon footprint requests to different suppliers. But we’re seeing more and more complex use cases around this where our clients request the reduction targets of their different suppliers to incorporate that within their forecasting. Whatever the level of supplier engagement or any type of engagement you’re looking to do, the number one area to focus on is having a user-friendly data request.

At SWEEP, we have seen clients benefit in results when you think about the data quality they’re receiving and the response rate of different people they’re engaging with because they’ve moved away from clunky XML-based engagement and towards a streamlined approach through a system. With this in mind, regardless of the stakeholder you’re trying to engage with, having access to that powerful survey functionality in many data platforms is a real advantage of moving towards this way of managing your carbon footprint.

Swisscom is Switzerland’s largest telco, and they have won “most sustainable telecommunications company” more than once. Sustainability is a key part of their values. Before working with us, they tried to manage the supplier base and collect this data using Excel and email. This was no small task, as they managed over 4000 suppliers that way. Ultimately, they wanted to move to a platform approach because they saw a way to streamline this. They were using the surveys to easily track which suppliers responded and which ones needed a little nudge to share that data. You could also set alerts so as that data is coming in, if it looks glaringly wrong, if there’s an extra zero, if it’s wildly different from the last report, you can set those flags so that this erroneous data isn’t making it into your carbon footprint measurement. Not only did they see these benefits in the efficiency of the process, but by pulling together all of that data into a platform, they could identify and reduce a million tons of CO2.

If this is new to you, you can move to a platform and get your process right from the beginning. Suppose you’ve already dipped your toe in the water regarding footprinting. In that case, there’s always likely to be room for improvement with the types of processes you’re delivering, particularly around the efficiency in which you bring outputs. The benefits of using any type of SAS platform are well-versed when you think about the greater autonomy available to different organizations, the associated financial savings, and the scalability of solutions for large tasks.

You need to choose the right platform, as many options are available. First, you must remember that every company has different sectors, ways of working, and organizational structure. Each company may have different reporting requirements from specific regulations or sectors. Your platform needs to cater to your requirements. In addition, the platform should be adaptable to change. It is important to think of a platform as a long-term investment.

When sustainability is new to your company, you feel you need to get access to some data. If you decide on your key goals and work towards them, your platform will help you achieve them. If some disclosures or regulations need to be adhered to, your carbon management system will support you. So, a carbon management system is the way ahead.

Adam Finch

Adam Finch

Solutions Engineer at Sweep
I am a tenacious Economics graduate, with a Masters in Industrial Ecology, who thrives in a team and enjoys the challenge of driving innovation. I am passionate about the development of a more sustainable environmental future and am looking for a job in environmental consultancy, sustainable finance or climate policy. I have previous experience in renewable infrastructure asset management and my key areas of expertise are in carbon pricing, life cycle assessment theory, waste management, sustainable urban design and analysing carbon data.

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