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How to Generate Meaningful Insights into your Business with Sustainability Data

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Hand over keyboard of the laptop in server room

The need for businesses to implement effective sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs has never been greater. The booming demand – driven not only by emissions regulations but also by increasingly environmentally aware and ethically motivated customers and investors – means the concept is no longer the prevail of PR conscious firms looking for that coveted green stamp of approval.

But the benefits of driving CSR and improving sustainability practices go far beyond regulation and client perceptions. Many big businesses have started to see beyond the box-ticking headaches of sustainability compliance, and are using sustainability data-gathering to add value to their enterprises and create efficiencies with trackable ROI.

In the reams of raw sustainability data, and the challenges it presents, these businesses are seeing opportunities to develop more streamlined, efficient processes, save on materials and transport costs, boost customer relations and even drive new product development, all of which are driving increased profitability.

You might stop short of setting your sights on the Global 100 most sustainable corporations in the world but, ultimately, if your business rivals are willing to rise to these challenges, getting to grips with your own data will prove essential if you are to maintain your competitive edge.

Data Gathering

Effective data analysis is key to developing a working sustainability program, but it’s only half the battle. Before you can begin to harness the power of an ocean of information, you need to learn how to gather it.

There is no single one-size-fits-all solution to big data gathering and in large corporations it can prove a bewilderingly big challenge. In addition, sustainability is not always straightforward to measure; requiring complex calculations to wrestle meaningful information from a disparate range of inputs and outputs.

Consider what data you need to collect, how often and in what format, then think about who needs to see this information, and how to present it in a manner that is meaningful.

Breaking down your processes into smaller parts can make measurements more manageable. For example, measure energy or raw material use over a single production run then look at how reassigning your production resources and equipment might save you money. On a single batch run, the benefits might be small – but over a year and across multiple sites, the savings will soon mount up.

It’s also essential to evaluate your data resources from existing business systems, and examine how they can be integrated in your sustainability program. The chances are, a lot of the data you need to implement is already being collated for other uses. In an ideal world, it would stream seamlessly from departments and process into your sustainability management system, but the reality is a lot more complex. Sustainability software packages can go a long way in helping to automate the process and produce regular reports, but make sure you select one that is versatile and scalable.

Finally, think of ways to engage staff members in data gathering and communicate how the figures relate to their role and the business’s performance as a whole. Encouraging competition on sustainability key performance indicators within your organisation is one way to do this. Comparing the figures to industry standards as well as your own sustainability goals will also create a strong sense of ownership and pride in what your business is doing. Your staff are important stakeholders in your sustainability, so don’t disregard them in favour of business partners and customers.

 

 

Implementation

 

To become an organisation which people are proud to work for and buy from means embedding sustainability in your organisation from the ground up, and then communicating your sustainability successes to every stakeholder possible in a way that addresses the environmental and social issues that matter to them.

 

As a starting point, do some research and work out what successful measures your business peers have implemented to operate sustainably. Doing so will help you avoid any future pitfalls and identify best practices.

 

Pick something that is easy to do, such as setting predefined limits for raw material and energy use, benchmarking against industry standards or your own ideals. You can track performance against these profiles as you tweak your production strategies, adapting existing procedures to save money and resources, and build on this new information by feeding it into the development of new products.

 

Above all, look for initiatives which are visible to your workforce and to your customers, or which show tangible results that you can easily communicate. Working towards certification from an organisation like the Carbon Trust would be one example. Check out their suite of downloadable tools to help you kick start your sustainability drive.

 

 

 

About the Author: Joe Jones is a sustainability expert at SustainIt Solutions, and has many years of experience talking about data driven systems and strategies to drive cultural change and engagement throughout the corporate world. SustainIt are a global sustainability, EHS and risk data consultancy based in Bristol and providers of the free and independent sustainability software comparison service, GoMarketWise. You can connect with SustainIt on Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook.

 

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Economy

A Good Look At How Homes Will Become More Energy Efficient Soon

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energy efficient homes

Everyone always talks about ways they can save energy at home, but the tactics are old school. They’re only tweaking the way they do things at the moment. Sealing holes in your home isn’t exactly the next scientific breakthrough we’ve been waiting for.

There is some good news because technology is progressing quickly. Some tactics might not be brand new, but they’re becoming more popular. Here are a few things you should expect to see in homes all around the country within a few years.

1. The Rise Of Smart Windows

When you look at a window right now it’s just a pane of glass. In the future they’ll be controlled by microprocessors and sensors. They’ll change depending on the specific weather conditions directly outside.

If the sun disappears the shade will automatically adjust to let in more light. The exact opposite will happen when it’s sunny. These energy efficient windows will save everyone a huge amount of money.

2. A Better Way To Cool Roofs

If you wanted to cool a roof down today you would coat it with a material full of specialized pigments. This would allow roofs to deflect the sun and they’d absorb less heat in the process too.

Soon we’ll see the same thing being done, but it will be four times more effective. Roofs will never get too hot again. Anyone with a large roof is going to see a sharp decrease in their energy bills.

3. Low-E Windows Taking Over

It’s a mystery why these aren’t already extremely popular, but things are starting to change. Read low-E window replacement reviews and you’ll see everyone loves them because they’re extremely effective.

They’ll keep heat outside in summer or inside in winter. People don’t even have to buy new windows to enjoy the technology. All they’ll need is a low-E film to place over their current ones.

4. Magnets Will Cool Fridges

Refrigerators haven’t changed much in a very long time. They’re still using a vapor compression process that wastes energy while harming the environment. It won’t be long until they’ll be cooled using magnets instead.

The magnetocaloric effect is going to revolutionize cold food storage. The fluid these fridges are going to use will be water-based, which means the environment can rest easy and energy bills will drop.

5. Improving Our Current LEDs

Everyone who spent a lot of money on energy must have been very happy when LEDs became mainstream. Incandescent light bulbs belong in museums today because the new tech cut costs by up to 85 percent.

That doesn’t mean someone isn’t always trying to improve on an already great invention. The amount of lumens LEDs produce per watt isn’t great, but we’ve already found a way to increase it by 25 percent.

Maybe Homes Will Look Different Too

Do you think we’ll come up with new styles of homes that will take off? Surely it’s not out of the question. Everything inside homes seems to be changing for the better with each passing year. It’s going to continue doing so thanks to amazing inventors.

ShutterStock – Stock photo ID: 613912244

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Economy

IEMA Urge Government’s Industrial Strategy Skills Overhaul To Adopt A “Long View Approach”

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IEMA, in response to the launch of the Government’s Industrial Strategy Green Paper, have welcomed the focus on technical skills and education to boost “competence and capability” of tomorrow’s workforce.

Policy experts at the world’s leading professional association of Environment and Sustainability professionals has today welcomed Prime Minister Teresa May’s confirmation that an overhaul of technical education and skills will form a central part of the Plan for Britain – but warns the strategy must be one for the long term.

Martin Baxter, Chief Policy Advisor at IEMA said this morning that the approach and predicted investment in building a stronger technical skills portfolio to boost the UK’s productivity and economic resilience is positive, and presents an opportunity to drive the UK’s skills profile and commitment to sustainability outside of the EU.

Commenting on the launch of the Government’s Industrial Strategy Green Paper, Baxter said today:

“Government must use the Industrial Strategy as an opportunity to accelerate the UK’s transition to a low-carbon, resource efficient economy – one that is flexible and agile and which gives a progressive outlook for the UK’s future outside the EU.

We welcome the focus on skills and education, as it is vital that tomorrow’s workforce has the competence and capability to innovate and compete globally in high-value manufacturing and leading technology.

There is a real opportunity with the Industrial Strategy, and forthcoming 25 year Environment Plan and Carbon Emissions Reduction Plan, to set long-term economic and environmental outcomes which set the conditions to unlock investment, enhance natural capital and provide employment and export opportunities for UK business.

We will ensure that the Environment and Sustainability profession makes a positive contribution in responding to the Green Paper.”

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