[Video] How data and digitalization will advance your sustainability performance

Jun 22, 2022
  • IT
  • SAP
  • data

As the clock ticks on the climate crisis, organizations roll up their sleeves to put sustainability into practice. And they have no choice, says Ann Peeters from Agoria, Belgium’s federation for the tech industry: “Businesses that fail to engage in ESG may no longer be in business within 5 to 10 years.” The good news: investing in sustainability pays off! Still, a sustainable business is not built overnight. It’s a process. One of the keys to success – and to avoid the trap of ‘greenwashing’? Transparency and insights! In blog 3 of this series: how data and digitalization enable transparency and drive your sustainability performance.

Around our ‘sustainability’ table:

  • Erik Peeters, CFO of VPK Group
  • Sam Strijckmans, CEO & President of Nitto EMEA
  • Jan Daem, product compliance manager at Barco
  • Ann Peeters, project leader studies center at Agoria 
  • Evelien Vanhooren, partner at delaware

“Organizations that want to boost their sustainability performance and meet the reporting duties, have to collect, process and analyze big amounts of data. A solid data infrastructure and technology can help them,” said delaware’s Evelien Vanhooren to conclude blog 2 of our series on sustainable business. So, we wondered how our roundtable participants are coping with the challenge – and how data helps them to make more sustainable decisions.

Discover in the video below how measuring and reporting sustainability efforts can put a stop to greenwashing.
 

Struggling with data collection

“Data is crucial to track sustainability performance, report consistently and avoid greenwashing. You simply need numbers and a context to understand what’s going on,” says Ann Peeters of the Agoria studies center. When drafting their sustainability report for the Belgian tech sector, however, Agoria learned that many companies are struggling to capture the information, data and documents they need to monitor progress on their ESG strategy and report on their commitments and results. Agoria even encountered difficulties themselves when they were creating the report, Ann admits.

Erik Peeters of VPK Group, agrees: “Gathering all the data on topics as diverse as CO2 emissions, diversity, ethics, etc. was and still is quite a bit of a challenge. While our financial data is easily available via our SAP platform, other data comes from an extensive range of sources and is then summarized in spreadsheets. That makes data collection very time-consuming and error-prone. While data consistency is key: for solid reporting, you need one version of the truth.”

Data is crucial to track sustainability performance, report consistently and avoid greenwashing. You simply need numbers and a context to understand what’s going on.
 Ann Peeters, project leader studies center, Agoria

The importance of data quality

Collecting the data is one thing, data quality is indeed another issue,” Barco’s Jan Daem continues. “About 10 years ago, when Barco embarked on its sustainability journey, we set our first KPIs in a fairly unstructured way. Over the years, however, customers and investors have urged us to continually raise the bar. This year, we’re expecting an assurance audit so the pressure is high to generate consistent, high-quality data. And we really want to, as high-quality data help us to gain the insight we need to constantly improve our performance.

Still, data collection remains one of our biggest bottlenecks. It’s simply not easy to capture these large amounts of often complex data from an extensive range of sources, process it and convert it to useful, meaningful results to take action on. Poor and inconsistent master data will invariably lead to incorrect results. So, Barco is working hard to get that straight.” 

From data lake and BI to automatic data harvesting 

“We’ve always relied on our ERP system and Salesforce as data sources,” says Sam Strijckmans of Nitto EMEA, “yet, that is no longer enough to track and trace our progress. There are so many other sources we want to integrate. Our PLCs, for example, are equipped with sensors to control the energy consumption of our operations. That data is captured via our MES system, yet there’s no connection to our ERP yet. And to measure the impact of our products from cradle to gate, we need to gather and analyze data from our suppliers too. To collect all that information, we are now building a data lake. A Business Intelligence solution will then help us analyze the data, in order to gain better insights.”

“We are using SAP BPC but we need a solution to collect structured data more efficiently and streamline reporting,” Erik adds. “Efficiency really is our focus going forward in order to keep up with the increasingly stringent ESG reporting requirements.” 

Efficiency really is our focus going forward in order to keep up with the increasingly stringent ESG reporting requirements.
Erik Peeters, CFO, VPK Group

Standardization, automation and intelligence

Barco is setting up semi-automatically data harvesting, says Jan: “Standardization and automation will become a must to ensure the transparency that authorities and all other stakeholders expect from us. Just look at the Digital Product Passport that the EU will introduce from 2024 onwards. To create such a passport, the entire supply chain will have to cooperate and provide information from source to end of life. A Product Lifecycle Management solution will be needed to cope with that challenge.”

Last but not least, Jan stresses the need for intelligence to get the full picture on your ESG performance: “It’s no longer enough to just track and trace simple KPIs. You need to understand the interaction between data too. You can’t launch a product with exceptionally low energy consumption that contains harmful pollutants or has a negative human rights impact.”  

It’s no longer enough to just track and trace simple KPIs. You need to understand the interaction between data too.
Jan Daem, product compliance manager, Barco

How digitalization supports ESG efforts

“There are so much opportunities for digitalization to support ESG efforts,” says Ann. Evelien agrees: “At delaware, we have been collecting CSR-related data for a while, which we use as a guideline to step up our efforts. As an IT service provider, we have the tools and the expertise needed to efficiently collect, store, visualize and analyze data and report on it. We’re now using that knowledge to optimize our in-house sustainability reporting. Based on the insights we’re gaining, we can provide our clients with hands-on recommendations.”

Over the past few years, more and more customers ask delaware for advice on ESG reporting. Evelien: “Organizations really struggle with the multitude of metrics, reporting standards, rating agencies and platforms. We can offer advice in every domain. 

At delaware, we have been helping clients realize efficiency gains and gain insights with data- and AI-driven solutions for years. These solutions can now help organizations to efficiently collect, analyze and visualize ESG-related data, exchange it with their ecosystems and even make predictions or simulations to base new targets on. In this way, they can turn their sustainability goals into actions. After all, that’s what a sustainable business is all about. ”

Data- and AI-driven solutions can help organizations to efficiently collect, analyze and visualize ESG-related data, share it and even make predictions to base new targets on.
Evelien Vanhooren, partner, delaware

Remember: sustainability pays off

Does all this sound overwhelming? Don’t feel discouraged to kick off your ESG efforts. Dream big but start small. And remember: consistent reporting cannot be your end goal. In the first blog in this series, we explained how sustainability really pays off. Investors, customers and employees: they all choose sustainable businesses. Moreover, as Jan explains: “The insights that we gain not only help us to go for sustainable impact but also to streamline our processes and achieve more efficiencies.” 

Last but not least, everyone around the table agrees: “Sustainability is not a compliance and reporting issue. It is simply the right thing to do and the only way forward.

Remember from this blog:

  1. Collect internal and external data sources to monitor your performance.
  2. Make sure to understand the interaction between KPIs. It’s a must to make the right choices. 
  3. Automated data harvesting will become key to meet the upcoming ESG-related legislation.
  4. Even sustainability champs are wrestling with data collection.
  5. Overwhelmed by the seemingly long journey to embedding ESG? You needn’t be. Dream big but start small.


Don’t forget: delaware is there to help you collect and analyze data and report on it! 

This is the last in our 3-blog series on how Belgian organizations are tackling the sustainability challenge. Triggered to take action? Want to learn more? Sustainability will be a key topic on our Inspiration Event on October 13, discover the agenda here. Can’t wait? Get in touch with our sustainability experts.