ESG, Amplified: How Amplifi approach ESG data demands

If you want to any ESG initiative to be a success, you need to take a data-first approach. Amplifi explains what it means and how to implement it across your organisation.

There are two things that every organisation needs to know about ESG.

One – it matters, and there’s no hiding from it. Whether it’s driven by compliance or commercial reasons, ESG is going to be an unavoidable item on every organisation’s agenda in the near future, if it isn’t near the top of their list already.

Two – data is critical to every ESG action, whether it’s analysing impact, reporting to regulatory bodies or demonstrating credentials to customers and investors. There are, of course, myriad other things that organisations need to know about environmental, social and governance issues that are specific to their sector, values and objectives, but awareness and data feed into all of them.

If you’re reading this, and have seen our guide – ESG Unchained: A guide to finding your ESG hotspots – it’s likely that ESG is already important to your organisation: you know it matters and you’re exploring ways to make it part of your business strategy, deciding how it fits into your framework, and looking for ways to formalise initiatives related to it.

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So, the next question is how your data is going to support that ESG strategy as it evolves. ESG isn’t a box you can tick and move on from: it’s a continuously changing set of demands and actions, and your data will need to guide, support and drive those actions if you’re going to spark any meaningful change.

At Amplifi, we’ve helped organisations at various different stages of their ESG journey, and we know that if you want to make any ESG-related initiative a success, you need to start thinking data-first.

What is a data-first approach to ESG?

Before we answer what it means to think ‘data-first’, we’re going to explain the alternative: a reporting-first approach. This is where an organisation starts with the data requirements of a specific report and works backwards, collecting and preparing data to fulfil the needs of that report.

For example, Scope 3 regulations now require businesses to accurately report on their carbon emissions. A reporting-first approach to data would see an organisation look at what is required for the report and work backwards to make the right data available and reliable to facilitate it.

Which is fine – until the remit changes. Perhaps the parameters of the reporting are broadened to include more data sources. Maybe there’s a new regulation that requires you to track your business’ contribution to water stress. Either way, all of that hard work put into the original data structure needs to be started again, from scratch – tackling Data Quality, Data Governance and analysis on a whole new cross-section of data, with a whole new goal in mind. It can work, but it isn’t ideal – not only because of the additional work required for every new initiative, but because it makes it much easier to miss information, and much harder to see the bigger ESG picture.

A data-first approach flips this process on its head. Rather than preparing your data for a specific ESG initiative, you tackle your organisation’s relationship with data. Instead of focussing on specific data requirements, you introduce methods of ensuring that any data used or handled by the business meets the same quality and availability criteria.

If you tackle ESG as a reporting issue, you will always be on the back foot. If you take a data-first approach, you will be able to react quickly to new ESG demands on your data. It’s ESG, Amplified: building a foundation that makes your data ready and reliable, whenever and wherever it’s needed.

How do you take a data-first approach to ESG?

A data-first approach to ESG requires robust data management. If you want your data to be accurate and available, you need a structure to support it: from Data Quality measures that define what ‘good ESG data’ looks like, to processes that ensure that Data Quality is maintained over time.

A successful data roadmap will be different for every organisation, depending on where you currently are with data and what objectives you are aiming for, but there are some key checkpoints that Amplifi advises you meet on every ESG-driven data journey.

Make ESG part of your Data Strategy

Is ESG part of your corporate strategy? Then your Data Strategy has to reflect that, prioritising your ESG hotspots within your organisation. That strategy could initially focus on one area of compliance, but – with that ‘data-first’ mindset – it should always incorporate overarching data issues within your organisation.

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Reflect on your Data Quality

How reliable is your data in the here and now? Unsurprisingly, the quality of your data is going to influence the quality of the results or reporting you get out of it, or as we say here at Amplifi: garbage in, garbage out. Yet when it comes to ESG, it’s not always as simple as assessing the quality of one specific data set or source. As we highlighted in our guide, those ‘ESG hotspots’ could be anywhere, so it’s vital that you address Data Quality across the board if you want your ESG findings to be accurate.

Introduce Data Governance

Data Quality will assess your data’s reliability in the here and now, but it won’t ensure that those standards are maintained over time: in fact, Data Quality starts to deteriorate immediately after a Data Quality exercise is complete – unless you have Data Governance in place. Data Governance is part rulebook, part manifesto: it defines the processes your organisation needs to follow with data, but it should also explain why it’s important and what your data is trying to achieve. This is particularly important for ESG, where it may not be immediately obvious why data is needed or why it has value.

Implement the right Data technology

There’s a reason that technology is last on the list, and that’s because no technology in the world can eradicate your data problems or enforce the right approach to ESG data – but it is still important. You need to make sure the technology you choose reflects the ESG commitments of your business, and makes data a data-first approach possible by making the right data available and accessible. Your technology should also be scalable: your ESG data requirements will change, and you need technology that continue to evolve with those demands. Work with a partner to assess the software that is available and how it can help you to meet your ESG objectives, now and in the future.

Are you looking for guidance on making ESG part of your Data Strategy? Amplifi can show you how to unlock ESG data to meet your environmental, social and governance goals. Download our guide - ESG Unchained: A guide to finding your ESG hotspots – to get started.

ESG Unchained: A guide to finding your ESG hotspots