Creating a data strategy to spur sustainability

5th January 2022

Creating a data strategy to spur sustainability

As the focus on sustainability grows, creating more sustainable products and operations has come to the fore. As part of this, businesses are recognising a complementary data strategy is the best way of facilitating this.

Almost every organisation is examining how they could become more sustainable. Whether driven by a quest for greater brand awareness, customer demand for action or the view that it can create value and competitive advantages, it is on every executive’s agenda.

Understanding how data can support a business achieve its strategic objectives has always been important. Sustainability is starting to play a more prominent role in any overall business strategy and having a well-defined data strategy is critical in achieving that.

Circular Economy

Businesses have a variety of ways to move towards more sustainable operations. The concept of a Circular Economy introduces a focus on the business value of:

  • More efficient use of products and energy
  • Extending a product’s useful life
  • Recycling products at end-of-life into high-grade base resources

Numerous examples range from Zipcar, which makes more efficient use of idle cars, to Ahrend, a modular office furniture designer, whose worn-out elements can be replaced cheaply to extend its overall lifespan. Similarly, Aquafil recycles used nylon into new nylon yarn without the loss of product quality.

Managing increased data volumes

Most of the new technologies and processes that support these sustainable ways of operating are highly dependent on gathering and processing large amounts of data.

For example, Bundles, a provider of IoT-enabled washing machines as part of a pay-per-wash subscription model, or Caterpillar monitoring modular component performance in engines that can easily be replaced. Kaer, meanwhile, manages office buildings’ air conditioning through air conditioning-as-a-service, keeping ownership of air conditioning installations in buildings and managing these efficiently through the Internet of Things (IoT) and analytics to constantly fine-tune the system.

All these applications rely heavily on turning data into usable insights that can inform, automate and make better decisions.

Progressing a sustainability journey

This requires any organisation starting or progressing its sustainability journey to think about an overarching data strategy.

The additional data gathered as part of becoming more sustainable creates a real risk of being inundated by the amount collected or not managing it correctly, potentially destroying more value than is created.

A well-thought-out data strategy is essential in embedding and managing these new, more sustainable, operations into existing ways of working. Clearly defining a data strategy will help a sustainability journey by:

  • Understanding which data and insights are needed to make effective and timely decisions at a strategic and operational level.
  • Defining uses of the different data available and how to derive business value from it.
  • Being clear on where data and the insights it provides delivers the most value.
  • Providing clarity on where data forms a core part of operations is crucial to the way those processes function. For example, automated systems stop working if they receive no data to base their decisions on.

Defining a data strategy

A true focus on a data strategy, how it is connected to and helps deliver an overall business strategy is even more crucial when moving to sustainable business models. It will help provide a clear thread across all various applications, IoT-enabled products and automated processes that will unquestionably be a key part of moving closer to being more sustainable.

The first step is to define a data strategy tailored to supporting the business in understanding and achieving its core strategic objectives. Failure to do this could derail a sustainability journey before it has even begun.

About The Author

Eelco Spinhof is a senior manager at Arca Blanca. He has a strong track record of leading teams in delivering key business projects for clients, employing a varied and robust skillset from business & service design (including BPO), change & project management and contract & C-suite stakeholder management.

About Arca Blanca

Arca Blanca is an integrated consulting and data company, resolving complex growth and profitability challenges. We help businesses of all types thrive in the face of unprecedented change and upheaval driven by new technologies.

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