Sep 16, 2021
Six problems with sustainability reporting - solved!
Starting your company’s sustainability reporting journey can in some ways feel like navigating uncharted territory, and along the way, you may encounter some problems that stand in the way of success. Luckily, we’re here to help, with six common problems you might face when doing sustainability reporting and how to solve them.
Some common problems in sustainability reporting include:
You have to gather data from many different sources
Sustainability reporting is time consuming
You have low-quality data
Your sustainability reporting is not actionable
You’re suffering from data overload
You can't make sense of all your data
Problem 1: You have to collect data from many different sources
True sustainability reporting may require gathering data across many different teams or departments within your organization and beyond. As a result, getting the correct data that you need from data owners can be a challenge. You walk a fine line between getting the data in time and ensuring its quality, while also risking nagging your colleagues.
Solution: As with many things in life, communication is key. Make sure that you're communicating clearly and regularly with everyone responsible for different bits of data related to your company’s sustainability. Everyone responsible for sustainability data collection should know exactly what they are supposed to collect, how by what date etc. And while collecting and giving you the data is on them, making sure they have the necessary resources to get the job done is on you.
Make sure that everyone knows what kind of data they should be collecting and that they feel comfortable with their tasks. Otherwise, you may join the club of sustainability managers who have had their reports delayed due to receiving data that is different than what was asked for, or not receiving pieces of data at all.
Problem 2: Sustainability reporting is time consuming
Sustainability reporting takes time. There are many people and departments involved, and there are tons of data to be collected and analyzed. All of this is time-consuming, which is a problem since your team has a plethora of other tasks to do.
Solution: You need to automate your sustainability management and data collection techniques. Why waste valuable time that could be used actually accelerating change on tedious administrative tasks? While humans may not love repetitive tasks, computers do. A computer is both faster and more reliable to get to what you do manually way faster. The more of the process you can automate the better.
Problem 3: You have low-quality data
To generate meaningful sustainability reports, you have to be able to trust your data. Unreliable data is a bigger problem today than ever. More and more companies are using sustainability data to fuel real business decisions - as they should. Unreliable data can therefore be disastrous.
Solution: To improve the quality of your data, you need to —say it with me now— au-to-mate! Manual handling of data (aka Bob from the procurement department hand-typing long numbers into Excel) is very error-prone, which can yield low-quality results. Finding solutions to automate your data collection will reduce the risk of errors.
“How do we automate our data collection,” you ask? You need the right system support that will automate data collection from its raw source —be it a PDF, invoice, giant Excel file, or streamed directly from another system— in order to maximize the data’s quality. Equally important is making sure that you know, both internally and externally, what data coverage you have, where your data quality is low, and which assumptions are being made about the data.
Problem 4: Your sustainability reporting is not actionable
You’re generating yearly sustainability reports, perhaps even setting some goals, but struggling to implement the needed actions or pull practical value from the findings. What gives?
Most likely, you aren’t generating sustainability reports often enough.
When your company only creates one sustainability report per year, it starts to feel like a chore. Like a checklist item to cobble together a few weeks before the due date and then forgotten again for another 12 months.
Solution: Make your sustainability reporting more actionable by tracking your sustainability on a more regular basis. Shoot for once a month, but weekly or biweekly is even better. When you track your progress towards sustainability targets on a regular basis, they transform from a once-per-year project to a regular factor in how business decisions are made. Your company’s sustainability work moves to the forefront, which means your whole team is thinking about it all the time. Not to mention that increasing the cadence of data owners sending in their data will increase the likelihood of them remembering what to report and how to do it.
Problem 5: You’re suffering from data overload
As you know, sustainability is about a lot more than fighting climate change. The triple bottom line includes the environment, yes, but also social and economic aspects as well. And each of these umbrellas can have dozens of metrics and KPIs to track. That’s a lot of data. Perhaps you’re pouring all your resources into collecting data from all these different sources. But the reality is, that measuring alone is not enough. It’s just the first step of the process. So now that you have all this data, what do you do with it?
Solution: First and foremost, you need to make sure you're focusing on the right areas of sustainability. Ensure that you understand what your company’s biggest areas of impact are, so you’re not inflating smaller, less important things. You can only find this out by having your data in order, this is where data transparency and traceability come into play. Once you have the data, look at which areas are really material and move the needle. Focus on checking up on those KPIs most regularly. The other, less material, KPIs can still be important to get the full picture, but it might suffice to follow those on a less regular basis.
Problem 6: You cannot make sense of all your data
As mentioned, your company is probably collecting all sorts of data for sustainability reporting. The problem is, how to get the most out of it? How do you understand all of the data you've just collected? It really helps to be able to visualize it to see trends and the room for improvement. But how do you visualize it? Trying to generate graphs and pie charts on Excel may leave you bleary-eyed, and hiring a graphic designer may not be of much help, especially if they're not so data-savvy.
Solution: Utilize a sustainability reporting platform like SustainLab to visualize your data. Whether pie charts, line graphs, or bar graphs, with just a few clicks, SustainLab’s powerful sustainability reporting platform collects and processes your data and produces high-quality graphs to help you visualize your sustainability progress. You can compare different variables and data points in different visualizations.
Graph of the amount of Scope 2 emissions divided by emissions type among several buildings of a company from the SustainLab sustainability management platform.
Want to see a breakdown of your Scope 2 emissions among different company buildings? Done. Want to see the change in the average age of your employees over the last five years? No problem. Want to track how much your monthly energy expenditure has changed in the last 12 months? We got you covered. We make it easy to maintain an overview, so you stay on track towards reaching your sustainability goals.
The Bottom Line
As you probably guessed, SustainLab’s powerful sustainability reporting platform can help you overcome these obstacles. Our tool makes all steps of the tracking and reporting process easier, which helps you juggle collecting data from many different areas of your organization and makes your team feel more comfortable about what their responsibilities are.
Our platform automates your data collection, which increases the data quality and decreases the time you spend on collection. All this means that you can keep track of your sustainability on a regular basis, helping your reports to be more actionable. Finally, we help you visualize your data, so you keep an overview and focus on the most important aspects of sustainability for your business.
Get in touch to understand how SustainLab can help your company achieve data transparency and traceability for impactful reporting!
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