Executives Say Data Analytics Have Greatest Potential Impact on the Bottom Line

Nick Arehart  |  May 23, 2018   |  Energy & Sustainability  

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As recently as the 1990s, corporate sustainability sounded almost oxymoronic – mostly the realm of eco-enthusiasts and PR managers, not data analytics professionals. Those days, we’re happy to report, are long gone. Environmental performance and businesses’ bottom lines are more aligned than ever before, and modern corporate sustainability efforts keep the most successful corporations compliant, competitive, and forward-thinking.

What’s at the heart of this new era of corporate sustainability? Great data. Executives across industries say data analytics is the most important part of a successful corporate sustainability program  – and a key driver of overall business success.

Business and the Fourth Wave of Environmentalism

The Environmental Defense Fund’s (EDF) 2018 report, Business and the Fourth Wave of Environmentalism, lays out a convincing case for the central importance of data analytics in the future of corporate environmental performance and competitiveness.

In collaboration with KRC Research, EDF administered a 15-minute online survey of 501 U.S. executives at companies with greater than $500 million in revenue. Their responses suggest a consensus among major corporations that sustainability goals and business objectives are more closely aligned today than ever. They also indicate that fourth-wave environmental technologies – especially data analytics services – are already helping businesses to achieve both goals.

Data-Driven Decision-Making

Respondents to EDF’s survey indicated that, among fourth wave sustainability technologies currently on offer, data analytics tools were most relevant to their businesses. The reason for that is clear: data analytics tools are already being used across industries to save money and optimize outcomes. Writes EDF, “building owners and managers already use data analytics to manage their buildings’ physical plants, coordinate vendors and communicate with occupants. A company called Gridium makes modern software to help a variety of companies, including LinkedIn, Honda, the InterContinental Hotel San Francisco and the Foothill De Anza Community College District, to predict peak demand charges, optimize utility rates, spot bill credits and minimize waste.”

Dr. Benjamin T. Hazen, assistant professor of Logistics and Supply Chain Management at the Air Force Institute of Technology, underscores the importance of good analytics in the foreword of a recent special edition of the journal Sustainability. “Big data and predictive analytics (BDPA) are driving the means through which firms compete in today’s marketplace.” To remain competitive in today’s marketplace, firms need the advantage that strong data analytics tools can provide – in environmental performance, energy management, and in general.

Data Analytics in Action

Let’s hone in on an example in action.  AT&T’s 2025 sustainability goals call for “enabling carbon savings ten times its own footprint.” To achieve that mission, the firm employed sustainability data analytics tools to develop a quantitative model of carbon savings. In this way, the firm was able to project the potential carbon footprint offset it could achieve by making concrete changes to its business operations.

This model informed both AT&T’s sustainability practices – including implementation of its IoT-compatible Digital Infrastructure across the Atlanta area – and the messaging around these practices, allowing the firm to confidently project a potential $144 million economic influx to the city of Atlanta and a 51,000 metric ton reduction in CO2 emissions annually. The environmental, economic, and PR value of that projection is difficult to overstate: it’s a win for both Atlanta and for AT&T, made possible by sustainability analytics tools.

Environmental Performance: Empowering Businesses & Their Customers

Accurate, actionable sustainability data enables the kind of decision-making that can benefit both businesses and their communities. As a provider of high-quality utility data, Urjanet understands this relationship. Our customers do, too. Goby, for example, provides sustainability and energy data insights for more than 1 billion square feet of commercial real estate across three continents – and they rely on Urjanet’s utility data platform to provide the data points their customers need.

Goby’s CEO, Chris Happ, explains Urjanet’s value: “We realized early on we had to look for a way to effectively take a utility bill and digitize that information, or we would have a barrier to entry for our customers”. Urjanet provides that digital solution.

The Road to Results

The value of fourth wave environmental technologies is clear. According to EDF, “motivation for implementing new technology with environmental benefits is becoming more closely tied to business strategy. Over three-quarters (77 percent) of executives surveyed cite the potential to increase their bottom line, improve their brand’s reputation, or differentiate themselves from their competitors as extremely or very compelling reasons to implement a new technology with environmental benefits.”

Actionable sustainability data, and the analytics tools that this data powers, is poised to increasingly shape businesses’ operational strategy and power their environmental performance. In short: great sustainability data and analytics just might be the new secret weapon of business.

Is your business already using sustainability analytics tools to power its decision-making? We’d love to hear from you! Let us know how sustainability data impacts your business by reaching out on Twitter. And, if you’re wondering what Urjanet’s data can do for you, contact us today.

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About Nick Arehart

Nick Arehart is a marketing intern at Urjanet who specializes in financial services and sustainability. He's passionate about content that informs and inspires. When he isn't writing for us, he's finishing up his chemistry degree at Emory University.