Big data emerges as sustainability differentiator

More and more large companies are embracing sustainability, but once the low-hanging fruit is picked, companies need to use more advanced data analysis to identify further opportunities and risks.

That is the conclusion of a new report from Lux Research, entitled “A data-driven approach to sustainability benchmarking“.

The study found that the number of companies reporting to the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) had risen from 253 in 2003 to over 5,000 in 2014. However, while 90% of reporting firms had complete data on electricity and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, only 10% reported well on water.

“Consistent measurement is the first step towards benchmarking and improving, and the gap between leaders and laggards is wide,” said the report.

Lux identified Carlsberg as a company that has taken advantage of analytics to reduce their water-use to a indsutry-leading 3.3l of water per litre of beer. The international brewery recently launched its ‘total water management concept’ to reduce water consumption by investing in new wastewater recycling equipment.

Precise impact

More advanced is the use of ‘geospatial analysis’ to produce a precise measurement of CO2 impact. Lux estimates that US cement manufacturer Hoclim could have reduced emissions by an additional 50% simply by building its solar-powered facility in Colorado rather than Missouri.

“Eventually, the need to track, report and optimize resource utilisation will become core to every business, moving sustainability from a ‘nice-to-have’ to being central to the assessment of financial performance,” said report co-author Ryan Dolen. “Whether applied to emissions for concrete and cement companies or water for food and beverage companies, gathering and acting on better geospatial and temporal data will be a corporate differentiator.”

Energy management

Speakers at last year’s Energy Management Forum in Birmingham found that companies with diverse corporate estates could save up to 10% of their energy costs by simply embracing ‘big energy data’.

Supermarket giant Morrisons, for example, has brought data analysis to the forefront of its energy management strategy, implementing ‘Rare Energy’ – an operational optimisation software platform that the firm believes will play a big part in its ambitious carbon-reduction plan.

Find out what’s driving the energy efficiency agenda for other UK businesses in edie’s exclusive energy management report, released today. Read the full report here.

Brad Allen

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