Consumers are demanding action, with 86% in one survey saying they’ve decided not to purchase from companies that are doing too little to tackle climate change. What’s more, 28% think most brands they buy from aren’t doing enough to fight the climate emergency, and 54% of decision-makers, who undertake Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) and Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) programmes within their company, believe failing to take action means their businesses won’t exist in 10 years. So how can organisations effectively tackle the climate crisis?
As we face the moment of truth, business leaders need to use data-led insights to understand how climate change will affect their organisations and what they can do to help make change, says Peter Jackson, chief data and analytics officer at Exasol. There are immediate actions that businesses can take to ensure they meet their CSR objectives and deliver on their ESG metrics in order to ensure a sustainable future for both themselves and the planet. Here’s where you can start:
1. Build the tech stack that’s right for you
Our research makes it clear that data and technology are powerful and crucial tools for tackling climate change. As organisations build their credentials in key CSR and ESG areas, it’s critical for decision-makers to be aware of the digital tools at their disposal, and how each can transform their operations and results. Not every tech stack will look the same nor should they. They should be tailored to the specific needs of businesses and their existing environments.
Your stack should provide insights to the right teams so they can make the best possible decisions that includes teams dealing with CSR and ESG.
2. Arm your CSR and ESG team(s) with insights
Businesses today collect data from a multitude of sources on a daily basis, it’s difficult to identify what really matters when grappling with large and complex data sets. Simply collecting data isn’t enough, organisations need to conduct analysis, data modeling, create scenarios, and critically glean actionable insights. This applies to teams dealing with CSR and ESG, too.
Those responsible for making decisions around climate action internally believe having access to accurate information is crucial, with 81% of respondents agreeing they’d make better climate action decisions if they had access to data-led insights. If used the right way, data can shed light on what initiatives will have the largest and most positive impact. This is even more important when organisations are under-resourced.
Properly equipping teams who deal with CSR initiatives or ESG metrics within the business will not only improve decision-making, but will also help organisations to build a reputation around sustainability, demonstrating the efforts being taken to care for our planet, its people, and the societies they operate in.
3. Show the love through data storytelling
We know the vast majority of consumers want data-backed evidence of brands committing to climate change initiatives, with 91% saying they’d research a business’ approach to climate change and sustainability initiatives before purchasing. At the same time, humanity is connected by storytelling. Stories command attention, but those that are verifiable also command action.
One of the most powerful things businesses can leverage is their own ESG data to tell stories about their advances against climate change. Simply presenting data to the business and the public won’t have much impact but telling a story that resonates on a personal level will really convince people.
4. Build a green team
Ensuring green credentials are in place emerged as one of the leading factors for businesses to consider in the immediate future, with two-thirds of customers saying they’d stop buying from businesses who lacked credentials in climate change and other sustainability practices. For this reason, executives should recognise the potential of green teams, also commonly referred to as sustainability committees.
These teams should consist of individuals from every business unit, including CSR, ESG, HR, IT, Sales, and the leadership board. Perhaps most importantly, each green team should also incorporate the expertise of the chief data officer. By working closely with CDOs, green teams will have access to ESG-relevant data to prove their credentials and provide the business with tangible evidence of the value of sustainability and climate action.
5. Entrench a data-driven culture
Our research showed there’s still a lack of direction on how to use data for effective and sustainable decision making, with 49% agreeing that business and industry directives are still absent. We know by working with our own clients that those who’ve instilled a strong data-driven culture managed to do so from the top down.
Entrenching a data-driven culture relies on having the right people in the right roles, and on organisations investing in embedding data scientists and data citizens across the business. These individuals should function in different departments in order to understand the entire organisation, and how to solve varying challenges. Whilst promoting data literacy across departments, data teams also need to communicate effectively with the rest of the business, hence the advantage of multi-disciplined participants.
Action for the future
With UN secretary, general Antonio Guterres, referring to our climate position as “the edge of an abyss,” it’s more important than ever for organisations to realise their CSR and ESG commitments and data-led insights are the trump card that’ll allow them to do so. Not only can data science help in tackling climate change but adopting data-led insights will improve the reputation of businesses and guarantee consumer trust.
The author is Peter Jackson, chief data and analytics officer at Exasol