If you’re involved with the ESG disclosure process of a large company, and if your company still insists on using Excel spreadsheets for data management, then chances are you too understand how frustrating ESG data management can be.

If you’re involved with the ESG disclosure process of a large company, and if your company still insists on using Excel spreadsheets for data management, then chances are you too understand how frustrating ESG data management can be.

SYMPTOM 1: DATA COLLECTION IS TOO CHAOTIC

It’s one thing if your company only has one or two offices to report on. But it is an entirely different beast when your company has multiple offices, sites, factories, and supply chains, all feeding a range of ever-changing data to the poor guys who have to manually fit all that into spreadsheets after spreadsheets.

“But wait which version is this data from?”

“Who edited the data in the environmental section?”

”Were the changes approved?”

”We need approval from China office?!”

“What was the requirement for B2.2 again?”

If your teams spend a good chunk of time triple-checking like that to ensure data integrity, that’s valuable time lost for each individual. An ESG data solution may end up collectively saving them dozens of hours and headaches just by giving them the peace of mind that they can easily find out who is responsible for what, who did what to the data pool, and what’s missing for a specific reporting framework.

It is also wise to remember that if your teams find it exhausting to collect and manage that chaos, you can be pretty sure whoever has to audit that will hate it even more.

SYMPTOM 2: DIFFICULTY TURNING INTO ACTIONABLE INSIGHTS

What good is collecting all that data if you still don’t know what to do to improve performance? After all, one of the main goals of ESG reporting is precisely that – to increase the quality of your CSR efforts down the line. Improvement requires strategy, and if your company has any intention of tackling CSR / ESG strategically, then it pays to be able to track and monitor your performance at any given time.

Thus, making data actionable often requires the freedom to monitor performance anytime for efficient decision-making, and an ESG data solution does exactly that. This doesn’t have to be that fancy either. Sure, some high-end software solutions can probably utilise Big Data for detailed insights and megatrends, but even just some simple visualisation tools can go a long way to ease the pain point of conceptualizing (a lot of) numbers. It would also be useful to have some means of data comparison, either with past performance, or benchmarking with your peers. Both enable you to view your ESG data in context, and they’re features that you can likely find even in an affordable ESG software solution.

SYMPTOM 3: INEFFICIENT COMMUNICATION

The same benefit of real-time data access extends to the communication of your ESG performance as well. Say an important stakeholder or investor abruptly wants to know your current performance for decision making, and he does not have the leisure to wait around until your next sustainability report. What do you do? Do you immediately scramble for all involved data teams to verify data accuracy and relevance, and relive symptom 1 all over again? 

Or do you just … click and send?

Many ESG software solutions are designed for disclosure purposes, often with different solutions catering to different frameworks or standards. Some may allow you to share specific components of your ESG performance in various visual formats (perhaps in pdf or excel), while others may even let you export a full data report. At the very least this means you can send easily digestible data to anyone who needs it without having to spend extra time manually cranking out pie charts. And if nobody happens to need the data urgently, these features will definitely be handy when the big report finally comes around.

WRAPPING UP

Current AND past performance? Check.

Which metrics to disclose? Check.

Visualisation tools to impress your numerically challenged boss? Check.

Customer support in case of any difficulties? Thank goodness.

Let software solutions do what they do best, so that you can focus on what matters most. But remember. While you do generally get what you pay for in terms of number of features, you’ll get a lot more bang-for-the-buck if you first understand which features you truly need. If your company is massive and dead serious about ESG performance, that shiny 6-figure-a-year top-end software with advanced data analytics could be well worth it the investment. But perhaps you’ve only just begun your ESG journey and all you need is something for more efficient and dependable reporting. Or perhaps you only need to comply with your local reporting requirements. If you manage your expectations and understand your needs, even a ‘budget’ software solution may be sufficient to solve your headaches.

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