Fake news, and real stories about that fake news, are everywhere today. The motivations behind publishing fake news varies widely, but there’s a pretty clear pattern in the successful stories that go viral: they play on a deeply-held belief by a segment of the population with strong incentives for such beliefs to be true.

It’s easy to think that fake news is created and disseminated by people intentionally, who know what they’re doing. But is it possible to create fake news without intending to – without knowing any better? What if your motivations are pure, but because of the information you have at hand, you accidentally create misleading reports that ring true, but just aren’t?

What if you accidentally create misleading reports that ring true, but just aren’t?

There’s no doubt that there’s a great deal of pressure on those who manage energy and sustainability programs. There are deeply held beliefs that these programs do in fact make an incredible difference, not only to the enterprise but to society in general. The belief that investment in these programs makes sense and that a long-term ROI can justify them create the drive to monitor, measure, and report on these initiatives. But beliefs don’t simply manifest themselves into reality – reporting relies on hard data to demonstrably show exactly how these programs reduce energy, costs, and carbon emissions.

You think that the data you’ve collected from across the enterprise – data from utility bills, energy management systems, smart meters, and any other hardware you’ve installed for this purpose – is clean, accurate, and ready to analyzed. So you dive in, fighting to get the data all in one place, in one format, and calendarized so comparisons actually make sense. But what if that data you’ve been working with isn’t that reliable, after all?

What if the data you’ve been working with isn’t reliable?

What if the messy process of utility billing creates a situation where it’s not so cut and dry to see how much energy one of your facilities used last month? What if your provider made a mistake and sent a corrected version of the bill, but you didn’t see it and ended up relying on the inaccurate one? What if the person typing in the data spent more time worrying about their Instagram follower count than the accuracy of the numbers they were typing? Where does that leave you, as you put together a report that you believe to be true, but isn’t based on completely accurate data? Are you just generating fake news?

The bad news is that without accurate data, you’re creating a narrative around the success of energy and sustainability programs, but you’re not entirely sure if it’s real (and it might not be). The good news is that despite the messiness and complexity of utility billing, it is possible to get an accurate view of how energy is being consumed across facilities, giving you a rock-solid foundation on which to base your reporting. An automated utility data aggregation service that not only collects your energy usage and cost information from across the enterprise, but standardizes it in such a way that the idiosyncrasies of individual providers are smoothed over without losing any data fidelity, is just the thing you need to report with confidence.

It’s time to get out of the fake news business. Start today.