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Data and the sustainability ecosystem


Written by:

Philip Harker VP, Sustainability Lead, Insights & Data
Courtney Holm VP, Sustainability Solutions
Capgemini Invent

“Data isn’t oil,” says Zhiwei Jiang, CEO of Capgemini’s Insights & Data global business line. “At least not anymore. Data is more like sunshine, abundant and unlimited in its potential. It has a positive impact on the environment. And critically, sunshine wants to be shared – not hoarded.” Carbon and its equivalents (CO2E) have a currency, and with carbon reduction ambitions and even net-zero initiatives, it is essential that organizations commit to adopt change, act in ways that reduce carbon across the business, and further monitor and report carbon, as in Scope 1, 2, and 3.

A new currency is born

With the same intent and discipline as money, carbon should be treated as a currency, flowing through the organization, and with it the scrutiny, controls, and systems to avoid diversion and waste – just as with money. Hence the need for systemized and structured data to give transparency and insights to not only support decisions for reporting on Scope 1, 2, and 3 but moreover to empower planning and modeling for business planning and execution.

Equally, data residing in siloes isn’t going to answer the enterprise requirements for sustainability reporting; data needs to be accessible and available in a form fit for consumption. The potential is with the executives of the software industry and their ability to make data flow and be shared through adoption by the enterprise. Here are some examples. Salesforce has an established service, the Sustainability Cloud, which leverages its proven approach for rapid templating of action of the interpreted adoption of greenhouse gas (GHG) data. This, coupled with MuleSoft for data integration and APIs, will not only ease the market burden on the shortage of sustainability data skills but also quicken the rolling deployment of GHG reporting of Scope 1, 2, and potentially 3 emissions.


SAP is also building on its core capability and has a unique position in this space, with a perhaps more strategic stance: that of being the guardians of transactional data. Will it become the “ERP for carbon” as is expected? As organizations mature their carbon reporting to be more accountable, their organizations will evolve more into a sustainable P&L, where the business understands, measures, and reduces the environmental, social, and financial impact of its operations. This in itself will play to the strengths of SAP’s system-of-record heritage. It has offerings with Product Footprint, circular economy, and enterprise reporting which will surely be harmonized into a suite of holistic products.

Then there is Microsoft, with a different advantage. Many organizations today are reporting on their efforts in a natural reporting fashion, building custom reports to meet their obligations or regulations. With Microsoft having the de-facto toolset for extracting, cleansing, sorting, and reporting data with 365, Azure, and PowerBI tools, its ubiquitous use will be a significant liberator, enabling transparency within the confines of legacy silos to enable reporting ease. Certainly, in the short-term while enterprise-class solutions are being further developed, Microsoft may well have an advantage and, indeed, the imminent release of Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability will be a testament to its tooling.

A new dawn is approaching for sustainability solutions, as is evidenced by these three examples (and there are many others). With all of these comes the need for contextual data and sustainability expertise to implement the technology, instill confidence in the solution and drive business outcomes. This is an evolution, not a revolution.

Darwinism: adapt or else…

Consider how many businesses rarely operate in isolation. A consumer packaged- goods company making shampoo, for example, will understand the ingredients to make the product and the manufacturing and packaging processes, and this data is most likely to reside in its core ERP and PLM systems. The products are shipped from the factory to a warehouse for distribution, to retailers, and, naturally, onto consumers. Data will need to coalesce and harmonize along the journey to measure actuals or by defined proxy to report the impact. These data points will reside outside the CPG organization, with the logistics provider and retailers. Data can also come from open data sources standardizing routes and traffic that are set with revisions. These supply chains are built over a long period, typically through the lens of a financial business case. Will the currency of carbon and the need to report on Scope 3 emissions trigger the need for these supply chains to be recalibrated?

Indeed, on logistics, the current routes are typically optimized by distance, traffic, and cost, so what about optimizing routes based on impact on the environment, like avoiding a school or a designated low-emissions zone? Here’s where open data sources from Google, governments, academic institutions, and not-for-profits can collaborate to form innovative solutions based on a #DataForGood basis.

Tooling for the (new) trade

This is the reality that will evolve, and suddenly solutions get complex. If this is coupled with supply-chain transparency initiatives like digital twins and blockchain, there is indeed another level of complexity. So, simplification is needed, and will come with standards: data systemized and shared openly in a governed and secure ecosystem. Expectations will evolve and with it the need to trust the inputs and outputs of these data ecosystems along with the need for organizations to share data with many other parties, and to do so for mutual benefit. Core to this is the need for data mastery, and in our research paper we discuss the various models for collaboration and opportunities to serve and monetize data. One thing is for sure, expertise in climate, energy, and data lifecycles will be paramount for these to succeed and evolve at pace.


And to manage it effectively, just as any other currency, its data needs to freely flow within and between organizations.

On their journey to reducing carbon emissions, organizations find new ways to partner and collaborate on data, innovating their business models while doing so.

Interesting read?

Data-powered Innovation Review | Wave 3 features 15 such articles crafted by leading Capgemini experts in data, sharing their life-long experience and vision in innovation. In addition, several articles are in collaboration with key technology partners such as Google, Snowflake, Informatica, Altair, A21 Labs, and Zelros to reimagine what’s possible. Download your copy here!