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Businesses Need a Data-Driven Approach to Net-Zero Targets

  • Jane Marsh 
green city – double exposure of lush green forest and modern sky

Net-zero targets are more achievable if the tech side of business meets the environmental one. Though sustainability officers and management teams have the authority to instill corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives and carbon-offsetting investments, arbitrary promises without data often lead to ineffective targeting and lackluster goal-setting.

Here lies the power of data managers and tech analysts — to prove why data-driven approaches to environmental goals, like net-zero targets, are the touchstones to success.

How Data Expedites Progress

About 400 large businesses in the United States committed to net zero and an estimated $27 trillion is needed to hit the 2050 objective. Before knowing how data improves net-zero goals, tech departments in companies need to understand what resources exist to promote their mission:

  • Cloud technologies collate information from various sources
  • AI and machine learning finds patterns and clarifies decisions based on discoveries
  • Centralized software hubs collaborate communications and data visibility
  • Data reporting automates compliance updates and publicity notifications

Transparency is the name of the net-zero game. Companies wanting investors to help pay for green technology or initiatives that change operations to net zero must provide accurate numbers. Data will have to back up the ROI of any companywide installation, whether convincing external stakeholders or internal boards and chief sustainability officers. Leveraging automation and data can make it less susceptible to human error and bias.

Data will unintentionally help bottom lines because of customer buy-in, which can further the reputation of B2B and B2C relationships. The concrete numbers will continue to empower motivated progress.

What Leaves the Equation

Most anyone can name a company making a net-zero promise. Unfortunately, they could equally call out a business guilty or suspected of greenwashing. Questioning company honesty gets omitted from the equation if environmentalist movements prioritize data-driven strategies. It holds companies accountable by forcing them to prove how successful — or not — their efforts are and what the future holds for those eco-conscious goals.

Another critical reason data is the focal point of net zero is that it illuminates what’s unnecessary. The global audience watching the company progress wants to see what’s not working as much as what is. It proves honesty and helps momentum as industries realize what technologies, initiatives, efforts, and strategies are worth investing time and resources into.

Net-zero is a conversation — not an individualized contest for companies to win. Therefore, highlighting what’s unnecessary or ineffective at hitting net-zero touchpoints is essential for reallocating efforts to more beneficial places.

How the Data-Driven Strategy Works

Data-driven net zero frameworks start internally and expand outside a company’s walls. Implementing technology is step one. However, deciding what tech to install depends on what metrics the company needs to track to achieve net zero.

Process discovery highlights an organization’s worst offenders, whether fuel use or energy expenditure. It could be invisible, like excessive air pollutants, or tangible, like unethical e-waste disposal. Identifying these pillars will jumpstart what metrics to measure during data collection.

Companies can design their net-zero goals based on these findings. How severe is their carbon footprint, and how could changes minimize or eliminate them? How long will these changes take to incorporate and take effect?

Businesses can then look outside their immediate organization to examine supply chains and other scopes of emissions. It’s essential, especially when 2% of global emissions come from shipping, a third-party necessity.

Scope 1 emissions encompass what a company controls. However, Scope 2 reviews outsourced necessities like electricity and Scope 3 seeks to decarbonize value chains. What can companies do to ensure every angle of the business achieves net zero with the data they have? Otherwise, is a company genuinely net zero?

When Data Meets the Outdoors

Companies must leverage data to gain the most insight toward net-zero goals. The world needs aggressive environmental promises to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change, but evidence has to back aspirations. Otherwise, businesses that can’t meet their targets become complacent or discouraged by bad press and lack of motivation.

Humanity can prevent these side effects and keep everyone equally motivated toward environmental healing by shedding light on what’s realistically possible for net zero with collaboration and passion.