How frequently should you collect Sustainability data?
We live in an age of realtime data. Many of us wear a smartwatch counting our steps (forward and upward), monitoring our heart rate and even blood oxygen levels. The biggest companies in the world are those that store our data for ‘free’ and sell it for advertisers to target us. The daily Covid data isn’t making the news anymore, but it is there to remind us we aren’t out of the woods yet. Can you have too much data?
To implement a Sustainability Strategy, you need data to monitor progress. But how often should you measure it? Is more always better? These are some of the questions I’ve been discussing with one of my clients this week. There are a number of factors to consider:
- Sustainability isn’t like an epidemic where you need to react to changes run real time, so the fluctuations in, say, a carbon footprint from day to day are just noise. It’s the longer term signal that we need to be monitoring.
- A pig doesn’t get fat by weighing it: diverting too more resource into collecting and collating data means you’re not doing as much of what you need to do to cut your carbon footprint. Due to their commitment to various reporting schemes, a (different) client of mine estimates their team spends 50% of their time on data, 50% on action which doesn’t seem right.
- You could argue that short term data collection encourages incremental solutions, just as quarterly financial reporting has been blamed for business short-termism. Having a lower reporting frequency gives you an opportunity to get on with planning bigger changes without pressure to keep the line heading downwards in the meantime.
To me, an annual data collection seems sensible, but even then it should try to capture projected future emissions cuts rather than just a snapshot. Where you are going is much more important than where you are.