Data is worth a fortune – especially for sustainable companies
„Data is the new gold“ – This is not a new insight. Customer data, data about the supply chain or from production, is now the basis for planning and strategy. Data is the basis for AI, without data no system can learn, but also no expert can make a decision.
But data as an important basis for sustainability? After all, sustainability is based on the attitude of the people acting, not on data. Isn`t it?
20 years ago, orders and production slips were still recorded by hand. An evaluation of quantities, times or sales was then also done by hand. Today, data is available everywhere, tracked or exchanged digitally. From this, patterns, trends or deviations can be identified. The better the data basis, the stronger the statement and the possibility of applying AI. So far, so good. But is sustainability supposed to depend on this?
Sustainable is development „that meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs and choose their own lifestyles.“ (Brundtland Report, 1987)
So sustainability starts in the mind, with one’s vision and strategy. But how can strategies be defined without knowing the initial situation? We often read on company homepages, „We want to be climate neutral by 2030.“ This makes no reference to the starting situation or the effort required. And how we calculate or track climate neutrality. Sustainability consists of a vision, a mindset, the right actions, and tracking via data.…
Sustainability within your own company
If you ask yourself how you can reduce climate-damaging emissions in your own company, for example, you first need data on the current values. In the case of a manufacturing company, the focus can be quickly identified as production. But what about the share of administration, distribution or the supply chain? In the case of a wholesaler for whom we have been compiling the GHG report for years, the focus of emissions was on employees and their commute to work. This is located „on a greenfield site“ and there is a complete lack of public transport links. For another customer, it was not production, but their own fleet of vehicles for delivering products.
Managing your own company sustainably therefore also means having the right data and evaluating it correctly. The term „Measure, Reduce, Report“ is often used here. This is precisely the challenge of living sustainability in one’s own company. With 500 company-owned vehicles, 2 electric vehicles may be the right direction, but they are certainly only the beginning of the road. And if these two vehicles are only moved a few kilometers a year, the impact on the overall balance is very small.
Sustainability in the value chain
Sustainability in the value chain is a particular challenge. In this context, the value chain comprises the upstream supply chain (all products and services that are necessary for the company’s own value creation) and the downstream supply chain (from its own company to the customer). For the upstream supply chain (Scope 3.1.), data collection is a particular challenge; for this, one leaves one’s own company and one’s own data sovereignty and is dependent on the willingness and ability of supply partners. However, benchmark data is often used for this purpose today.
Let’s take the GHG calculation of the product group „office supplies“ as an example: Instead of calculating the purchased amount of CO2 for each individual item, one takes a benchmark value for 1 Euro of office supplies. There are various data sources for this. For office supplies, this is certainly the right approach in terms of cost-benefit.
The situation is different if you look at the product group castings, for example. Here, too, benchmark values are available. However, production location, production process and logistics have an extensive influence on the CO2 load. The more precise the information on the influencing factors, the better the result.
Therefore, in practice, the waterfall model is used for Scope 3.1: For the TOP suppliers and quantities, the CO2 impact is determined as precisely as possible, and benchmark values are used for small quantities. Our partner carbmee (www.carbmee.com) has developed a very good data model and the corresponding software for this purpose. The more precise the data, the better strategies and measures can be defined.
Challenges for management of sustainability data in particular
However, sustainability means more than just the carbon footprint. Environmental, social and economic justice have many facets. From a data availability perspective, this creates a multitude of data points that must be collected and evaluated on a regular basis. And it’s not just the data points that are increasing rapidly, but also the number of people responsible for them within the company. Data and evaluations from the areas of occupational safety, human resources, production, purchasing, building management, vehicle fleet, equality, etc. must be requested, processed and integrated into a uniform sustainability management system. In other words, information and data from a wide variety of areas, systems, programs, data formats as the basis for a higher-level sustainability report. This often requires a lot of manual work.
Our partner company Adconterra is currently developing an AI-based import interface for this purpose. This is an important step in moving from the administrative phase of sustainability management to a strategic phase.
ADCONIA – beyond the ordinary
As Adconia GmbH, we advise our customers with the experience of more than 250 projects from more than 18 years – in questions around purchasing, supply chain and the digitalization of processes. Our goal is always to increase the profit contribution of purchasing through cost reduction, process automation or the qualification of our customers‘ purchasing teams.
With a correspondingly broad wealth of experience, precise knowledge of everyday purchasing and a high level of professionalism, our consultants carry out training measures at eye level. We do this – depending on the requirements – both as a sparring partner for specialists and managers with many years of experience and as a trainer for seasoned purchasing professionals and young professionals.