Alan Spray looks back over this sustainability reporting season and encourages companies not to stop now.
And so another reporting season staggers to a close. I hope you have had the great satisfaction of seeing all your hard work over the last few months be signed off through verification, go off to the printing presses, and be uploaded through various convoluted tables to reporting web portals.
Having worked with many clients, such as Intercontinental Hotel Group, Ecolab and Elopak, to help them through this sometimes painful time, I know that this season is not always the easiest. From data collection and validation, ESOS energy audits, emission factor updates, giant analysis spreadsheets, filling data gaps and QA/QC, there’s often a lot of work and manual processing which goes into producing a few numbers in a flashy report.
But once you have done all this data collection and analysis, you should use it - and not just in reporting. You should be able to dig into the results to identify hotspots, track the performance of your energy saving initiatives and develop new strategies for innovation.
What we are increasingly finding is that, in many cases, spreadsheet solutions are not up to this task. As soon as a business has more than a handful of separate facilities and wants to calculate the impacts of more than a couple of metrics, this becomes incredibly complex. The required spreadsheets make it overly time consuming, error prone, and give little more insight than just getting to the final answer.
This effect has only been augmented by the new GHG Protocol Scope 2 Guidance . The revised Guidance now means that we all need to start using supplier and tariff specific electricity emission factors and including savings for contractual instruments (like Guarantee of Origin certificates). The outcome of this is that we now have to produce two numbers for our own emissions where previously we were calculating one.
The alternative to Excel solutions are web-based enterprise software. These tools attempt to harness the power of big-data using cutting-edge analytics. They have their drawbacks however: many of the tools have expensive licenses; can be inflexible to the specific data collection requirements of businesses, and are restrictive over outputs.
The advantages of taking this leap can be significant though. In building the business case for and deploying the FootprinterTM data collection and analysis system, the Total Cost of Ownership of the tool and analysis has consistently been found to be significantly less than Excel alternatives. Additionally, the results deliver a lot more value. The big-data technology turns distributed data collection into formulaic reporting templates like CDP and into simple, interpretable charts and tables which can be used to identify hotspots, track initiatives and forecast performance.
A recent FootprinterTM deployment enabled the senior director for global EHS at a pharmaceutical company to have a report of carbon and waste performance, which he can drop straight into a slide for the leadership team on a monthly basis. Previously, he used to find this a monthly headache because it was impossible for him to collect and calculate at this frequency using their Excel tool.
So, what to do next? Sticking with your spreadsheets can be the right solution at a small scale, but they have limitations associated with business size and increasing calculation complexity. It may be time to consider a big-data solution.
Three things which I think we should all have on our minds as we slump into our chairs at the end of this season are:
- Don’t stop now – you’ve collected all the data and done all the analysis. You should use the results!
- Improvement and innovation should be the focus – if your method for calculating your impacts doesn’t let you track initiatives and identify the key areas for innovation, or takes so long that you can only deliver the total and move on, there may be a better way.
- Scope 2 is getting harder – the new guidance means more detailed data collection and a lot more analysis. This is going to push a lot of Excel models to the brink.
Alan Spray is a Senior Analyst at Anthesis. This blog was first published by Ethical Performance.