Why Data is Key to Enabling Emissions Reductions

How sustainable data management can enable companies to optimize their emission profiles

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Our previous article explored the brisk pace of global climate change and established the business case for a net zero future. It addressed CIOs as strategic enablers of driving carbon-neutral ambitions. However, the outcome of such a vision relies heavily on data and its creative use. As organizations and their stakeholders reposition to navigate an era of climatic uncertainty, information is indeed fundamental.

In perspective, digital technologies are responsible for an estimated 4% of the global CO2 aggregate. Nevertheless, ecosystems running on suitable datasets can:

  • Empower operators with deep insights into system bearings
  • Transparently communicate environmental results
  • Accurately forecast reduction scenarios, reducing emissions from 15 to 20%

Consequently, data is vital to align the enterprise sustainability objectives with the actual return on decarbonization investments. In this article, William Theisen, Head of Net Zero at Atos North America, discusses how sustainable data management can enable companies to optimize their emission profiles.

Investing in full lifecycle data capabilities

Sustainability information management systems can range from simple databases for summarizing energy consumption behaviors to complex architectures, assimilating feeds from across the value chain. They are supposed to deliver a bird's-eye view of the enterprise's carbon footprint. However, Theisen believes that for data systems to be truly comprehensive, they should ideally touch upon all the dimensions involved in the lifecycle of products and services from an ecological standpoint.

Many companies are currently diving deeper to assess environmental impacts on key products, including the various stages in the cradle-to-cradle or cradle-to-grave value chain. In both cases, systems that support lifecycle-based studies of representative products or services equip businesses to fetch data and pinpoint lucrative carbon mitigation opportunities across their value chains. It also positions organizations to better to justify their environmental product declaration (EPD), demonstrating higher environmental commitments and allowing consumers to evaluate the sustainability of their brands.

Organizations may already have elaborate lifecycle assessment frameworks. However, effective decarbonization hinges on retrieving the relevant data heads and weaving them into actionable insights, requiring intervention by the digital leaders.

"We are obsessed with driving the decarbonization narrative around data,” Theisen says. “With more data, companies can reliably correlate the seemingly diverging environmental implications and implicit ecological costs of their offerings and engineer possible greener and carbon-compliant adjustments to preempt their disproportionate impact on nature."  

Driving risk-free transitions within budget

While a company may be bullish on decarbonization, the C-suite may still be concerned with the complexities of execution. If not underscored by high-quality emission intelligence, it can be tricky to:

  • Achieve stakeholder consensus
  • Mobilize the company's renewable energy grids
  • Ascertain the scope of operational changes
  • Estimate the downstream impact of new implementations.

“We bring the crucial data excellence for companies to understand how the proposed changes will contribute to their Net Zero goals,” Theisen says, “and attempt to extract more value from every dollar invested on their decarbonization initiatives."  

Emission data analytics platforms may play a defining role in optimizing the marginal abatement cost curve (MAC) by prioritizing targets and analyzing the gaps to affordable transitions. Cloud-native tools allow global organizations to simultaneously accumulate, collate and analyze data from stakeholders located across various time zones and construct the best emission reduction scenarios within a given investment. Theisen believes that as the cloud proliferates, the cost of embedding such tools into a decarbonization strategy for harnessing emission data may further rationalize.

Balancing business objectives with sustainability goals

While the Net Zero vision is non-negotiable, the business angle cannot be left out of the equation in an evolving and closely contested market. Organizations need to decarbonize and stay competitive simultaneously. Theisen thinks that in addition to information systems, companies need the knowledge, experience and data skills to align their net zero ambitions with the speed of business. Digital business innovators are regularly exposed to the use cases, data and emission landscapes of front-line businesses, NGOs, regulators, research establishments and public agencies across geographies. They bring to the table a rich trove of experience in deriving unique value out of the enterprise emission data that can be brought to bear upon the specific requirements of their prospective clients without impacting profitability.

In the post-COVID world, the cost of capital is higher than ever. Today, companies vying for sustainability can no longer afford to maintain a quick-fix approach towards decarbonization. Organizations need exceptionally integrated emissions data management systems and expertise to eliminate redundancies, preempt contingencies, and maximize net zero adoptions across value chains. With CIOs in the lead, companies can discover critical decision enablers, build on prevailing information dependencies, and adhere to relevant stakeholder concerns, weaving a digital decarbonization strategy that is equally pliant, profitable and practical. 

To learn more about how data can reduce emissions in business, connect with expert team members at Atos Decarbonization.

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