Big data and its big impact on sustainability

Ross Whatling our consultant managing the role
Posting date: 2/18/2014 7:57 AM

Gathering and analyzing millions of data points can be difficult, but big data can tell business where to focus its efforts.

Advances in data gathering, computing power and connectivity mean that we have more information than ever before at our fingertips. IBM estimates that by 2020 there will be 300 times more information in the world than there was in 2005 – a total of 43tn gigabytes. And this data is being put to good use. Increasingly we hear how properly understanding data leads to positive results, whether this is Moneyball in sport or Nate Silver's predictions of the US elections.

We are only just starting to scratch the surface of how businesses can process, analyze and otherwise make use of all this extra information to help them make money, save money and become more sustainable. But when it comes to sustainability the great thing about big data is that it is unlocking the ability of businesses to understand and act on what are typically their biggest environmental impacts – the ones outside their control.

For pharmaceutical giant GSK only 20% of its carbon footprint is within its own boundaries: 80% comes from indirect emissions, with 40% of that coming from the use of its products such as propellant inhalers.

Big data's potential big impact on sustainability hinges on three simple facts:

• taking meaningful action on corporate sustainability requires an understanding of all the impacts that the business world and the natural world have on each other;

• the business world is a very complicated place, with lots of interactions between consumers and companies and suppliers and markets;

• the natural world is even more complicated, with lots of interactions between people and resources and ecosystems and climate.

Until relatively recently businesses struggled to get a full picture of the impact of their own operations. The information required to get an accurate understanding of even something relatively simple such as energy consumption was kept in separate documents, in varying formats, and across multiple sites.

But now leading businesses such as Nike and Ikea are trying to understand the entire end-to-end impact of their businesses, throughout the value chain. This includes looking at what's happening outside the boundaries of the business, including raw materials, suppliers, employees traveling, customers using products, how waste is dealt with, and investments that have been made.

Businesses know that measurement is one of the keys to management. Collecting and understanding data about how an organization operates leads to knowledge that can improve decision making, refine goals and focus efforts. When the Carbon Trust worked with BT, we found that emissions outside its direct control accounted for 92% of the total. To add to the complexity, two thirds of those emissions were from BT's supply chain, which involves 17,000 suppliers around the world providing products and services worth £9.4bn.

Big data has the power to transform how large businesses – the ones with biggest environmental impacts, but also access to large volumes of information – can take action on sustainability. A drive for data collection can also incentivize smaller suppliers to be more responsible in their own operations, creating a domino effect. Companies such as Hitachi are already providing an online platform for suppliers to submit how they meet sustainability criteria.

Providing quality data in the right format is becoming an increasingly important factor in whether a supplier is chosen. The worlds of data collection and analysis, sophisticated business software applications, and accepted measurement standards are coalescing to help drive transparent and improved sustainability performance for companies and their supply chains.

Measuring and understanding how doing business really does affect the natural world will open up new opportunities for bringing sustainability inside an organization: creating change, cutting costs and boosting long-term profitability in a resource-constrained world.

It isn't easy. There are challenges around gathering external data, as well as in analyzing and interpreting hundreds of thousands, or millions, of data points. But we are already seeing the pioneers in sustainability leading the way, bringing suppliers and customers along for the journey.

Author John Hsu is an expert in sustainability data at the Carbon Trust


Click here for the article on the web.

Related blog & news

With over 10 years experience working solely in the Data & Analytics sector our consultants are able to offer detailed insights into the industry.

Visit our Blogs & News portal or check out the related posts below.

Weekly News Digest: 22nd - 26th Feb 2021

This is Harnham’s weekly news digest, the place to come for a quick breakdown of the week’s top news stories from the world of Data & Analytics.  Search Engine Journal: 4 ways call tracking is changing (and why it’s a good thing) Call tracking is no longer about a customer seeing an ad, calling up the company, telling them how much they loved the ad and then deciding to purchase goods. This is a positive thing really because it wasn’t the most effective way for businesses to track how well adverts were doing anyway - who really remembers where they saw a billboard that took their interest, or what time of day an advert popped up on the TV? As call tracking technology becomes more advanced, call analytics have become much more accessible for all. Not only have they been able to transform how businesses of all shape and size advertise and track their success, but also how they market to potential audiences and track their sentiment.  This article from Search Engine Journal looks at the evolution of call tracking and call analytics from its most basic form, how it works now and what the future of this crucial set of analytics will look like in the future.  Read more on this here.  Towards Data Science: Data Science Year Zero Skills or qualifications in Data Science are becoming incredibly sought after by many employers, but the knowledge of how to break into the sector is still a little unclear for potential candidates. In this article by Towards Data Science, they break down the crucial elements of how to successfully enter the industry in four easy steps.  What the author, Bala Vishal, lacked when he started and how you can set off on a better footing.The most important skills and tools to have under your belt.Which skills should you home in on first.How to thrive in the workplace. This incredibly insightful piece should be a ‘must-read’ for any budding Data Scientist looking to break into Data in 2021 and beyond.  Read more here.  KD Nuggets: 10 Statistical Concepts You Should Know for Data Science Interviews This article is perfect for anyone in the Data Science industry. Whether you’re new to the game or looking to take the next step on the career ladder, make sure you brush up on these crucial statistical concepts you should know inside out before entering interview.  A few, in no order, include: Z tests vs T tests An invaluable piece of knowledge that will be used daily if you are involved in any statistical work.Sampling techniques Make sure you’ve got the main five solidified in your knowledge bank - Simple Random, Systematic, Convenience, Cluster, and Stratified sampling.Bayes Theorem/Conditional Probability One of the most popular machine learning algorithms, a must-know in this new era of technology.  Want to know about the other seven? Read more here. Forbes: 48 per cent of Sales Leaders Say Their CRM System Doesn’t Meet Their Needs. The Good News Is That This Is Fixable. This article by Gene Marks explores why teams aren’t happy with their current CRM systems, and how this can be remedied. New research from SugarCRM found: 52 per cent of sales leaders reported that their CRM platform is costing potential revenue opportunities.50 per cent of the companies said they cannot access customer data across marketing, sales and service systems.Nearly one-third complained that their customer data is incomplete, out of date, or inaccurate. While damning statistics, Marks then goes into how this worrying situation can be fixed for good. He says: “Like just about all problems in business, this problem comes down to two factors: time and money. The blunt fact is that most companies are not willing to spend the necessary time or money needed to enable their CRM systems to truly do what they’re designed to do. CRM systems are not just for sales teams. And they're not just for service teams. For a CRM system to be effective, a company must adapt it as its main, collaborative platform.” Read more on this here. We've loved seeing all the news from Data and Analytics in the past week, it’s a market full of exciting and dynamic opportunities. To learn more about our work in this space, get in touch with us at info@harnham.com.

How Are Data & Analytics Professionals Mapping COVID Trends With Data?

The coronavirus pandemic has impacted industries across the globe. There’s no ignoring that simple fact. This disruption (most notably) caused devastating effects in two strands: to our health and to business operations. As the virus spread, the health and wellbeing of people in society worsened, and businesses felt the strain of projects being placed on hold, and work slowing or completely grinding to a halt. As of the 24th February 2021, the disease has infected more than 112,237,188 people, with 2,487,349 reported deaths. For Data & Analytics professionals, it soon became evident that they could use their skills to help. Using the mass of data available, professionals and researchers turned to big data analytics tools to track and monitor the virus’s spread, along with a variety of trends. Here’s how: Genomics and sequencing Life science is a significant application within Data & Analytics and explores the study of all living things on earth. One particular section of this study looks at the concept of genomic sequencing.  Genomic sequencing is significant as it allows us looks at the entire genetic code of a virus – in this case, COVID-19. Most importantly, the technique means that researchers and analysts can identify dangerous mutations and track movements of specific variants. We know that the UK has the most advanced system for tracing covid variants too. Last year, Britain launched one of the world’s largest coronavirus sequencing projects, by investing £20 million in the Covid-19 Genomics UK consortium. In a group that included NHS researchers, public health agencies, academic partners and the Wellcome Sanger Institute, they set out to map the genetic code of as many strains of the coronavirus as possible. And the buy-in paid off. It took the US approximately 72 days to process and share each genetic sequence, compared with 23 days for UK researchers, according to figures compiled by the Broad Institute with data from Gisaid. Tech giants stepping in Ultimately, your organisation is more agile than you think it is. Regardless of the size of the business, or the industry in which it operates, the sector’s response in applying analysis and data to track the coronavirus was nothing short of miraculous. Google introduced a series of features such as popular times and live busyness, COVID-19 alerts in transit, and COVID checkpoints in driving navigation in order to keep their one billion (and growing) app users safe. They also introduced the COVID layer in Maps, a tool that shows critical information about COVID-19 cases in a given area, allowing their customers  to make informed decisions about where to go and what to do. Apple also released a mobility data trends tool from Apple Maps. This data was shared in order to provide insights to local governments and health authorities so that they could support mapping specific covid trends. These first-hand examples indicate the influence and power of using data to better our understanding of the virus. Before the coronavirus pandemic, professionals, businesses and industries alike worked in siloes. What we have witnessed since has been very much the opposite, as experts quickly came together to begin mapping out data requirements and supporting the world’s focus to improve the public’s health and get businesses back on their feet. Without Data & Analytics, none of this would be possible. If you're looking to take the next step in your career or build out a diverse Data & Analytics team, we may be able to help. Take a look at our latest opportunities or get in touch with one of our expert consultants to find out more. 

RELATED Jobs

Salary

£55000 - £65000 per annum

Location

London

Description

Harnham is partnered with a fitness-based eCommerce company that has grown during the COVID pandemic and are looking for a Data Engineer to boost their team.

Salary

£40000 - £50000 per annum

Location

Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire

Description

This award winning estate agency is looking for a hard working web analyst to join the team.

Salary

£45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits

Location

London

Description

Tableau Developer role with a growing start-up pricing consultancy based in London.

recently viewed jobs