The Relationship Between Data and ESG: Environment

Climate change is one of the most crucial problems we face as a species. Here we see the importance of data in aiding the environment.

Environmental, social and governance (ESG) refers to a set of standards for a company’s behaviour used by conscious investors to screen their potential investments. Environmental criteria take into account a company’s environmental protection efforts, including any corporate climate change initiatives.

Why is data important for the environment?

Data is necessary to track the sustainable development goals progress of the environment, but it is also a prerequisite for creating good and practical responses to global concerns. Global environmental governance frameworks and international environmental accords may change because of the possibility to utilize data to enhance real-time decision-making over natural resources. There is great hope that utilizing real-time geographical and statistical data, choices may be taken, monitored, and enforced, bridging the gap between warning, action, and effect.

However, in an article “Measuring progress: Towards Achieving the Environmental Dimension of SDG”, 68% of the SDG indicators pertaining to the environment, there is insufficient data to determine progress. Biodiversity, ecosystem health, the amount of pollution and trash in the environment, and other environmental hazards are some areas with scant data. There is a significant danger of obtaining less policy interventions and investments to improve the status of the environment since there is a lack of data to analyse the trend at the global level.

“Data is essential for CIOs to create greater internal visibility to identify areas of inefficiency, excessive emissions, or waste, and implement appropriate countering strategies. Data also serve to demonstrate transparency and accountability for their enterprise environmental impact, helping to build trust among all stakeholders of all kinds – including customers, employees & investors.”

Jan Wuppermann, Chief Digital Officer, APAC, NTT Ltd

How data is helping the environment

The greatest problem we have as a species is climate change, and environmental data is assisting us in understanding all its many interrelationships. Green data is data that has been used to reduce global warming.

An example would be in Europe. Copernicus is one of the green data generation models used in Europe. It is a satellite-based program for observing the Earth that can determine, among other things, how rising temperatures affect river flows. Copernicus is already supplying vital data to improve the management of water resources, biodiversity, air quality, fisheries, and agriculture.

Wind energy: The quantity of energy that will be produced is determined by using sophisticated algorithms to create forecast models of wind conditions.

Hydroelectric power: among other things, managing massive amounts of data may help prevent leaks in power plants and provide us better control over water flows.

Photovoltaic energy: Big data enables photovoltaic power plants to adjust to the light intensity at any given time, increasing their efficiency.

“Data can offer businesses ways to positive routes and directions to improving their eco-handprints.”

Emon Zaman, Senior Vice President, Asia Pacific, AVEVA

The ways people are capitalizing on data for the environment

Conserving endangered species

In a Fast Company article, it is described in detail how data analytics was essential in locating suppliers whose firearms were being used by rhino poachers. Conservationists were able to establish relationships between them all by using the serial numbers of firearms left behind in parks and combining it with other sources like police data and social media posts. After that, police were able to utilize the information gathered to make arrests and close down a number of weapons supply routes. The number of endangered rhinos killed as a result of this has decreased gradually but steadily.

Optimizing waste management

Data usage is advantageous for the garbage and recycling sector as well. The article “Big Data’s Role in the Waste and Recycling Industry” describes how data is utilized in this sector to enhance business procedures. Garbage trucks may choose the most efficient route by using data, which not only lowers emissions but also improves operational effectiveness. Although the garbage and recycling sectors are still in the early phases of utilizing data, it is anticipated that data systems will one day grow to increase recycling rates as well.

Bringing down energy consumption

Data makes it possible for customers or even businesses to discover how much energy they are using. With such knowledge, these individuals can adjust their job or usage in order to gradually reduce their energy consumption.  According to Alexis Madrigal, this is just one example of how data is being used to protect the environment. One business even gives consumers information about how their power use affects CO2 emissions in their neighborhood. This is especially useful because the majority of aggregate statistics do not explain how location-based variations in energy usage differ.

“Optimising resources: Leverage big data generated by IoT devices and sensors to mine for insights into reducing waste, improving efficiency, optimising energy usage, while also saving costs”

Gary Chua, Chief Operating Officer, Asia & Japan, Syniti

Converting cities into smart cities

According to the UN, major cities will be home to two-thirds of the world’s population by 2030. Environmental issues are presented by this fact, which green data is already assisting in resolving.

Here are some examples of the future of smart cities that has data implemented to them to aid in having a better sustainable environment.

The Trash Track Project: In order to understand recycling paths better, the Trash Track project embeds GPS sensors in trash.

The AllAboard System: Using location data from mobile phones, the AllAboard system optimizes planning for public transportation.

The Copenhagen Wheel: It is a bicycle wheel that gathers information on the state of the roads, noise levels, and air quality.

The Solar Roadways company: This company wants to build intelligent highways with energy-producing solar panels all over the world.