There are many multi billion dollar companies delivering financial information. Companies such as ThomsonReuters, Experian, Dun & Bradstreet, Bloomberg to name a few have built their businesses on accuracy, transparency, accessibility and adding value/intelligence to information. Some of these companies date their heritage back to the early 1800s, so there is a lot of accumulated knowledge in the understanding of financial data.
I believe the same principles of aggregating, cleaning, adding value and disseminating financial data should and can be applied to environmental information. During my short time at AMEE, I have heard many prospects say “my environmental data is good enough” or “we only look at the data once a year so why bother with investing in accuracy.” I think businesses with this type of thinking are missing a huge opportunity to create value. As the adage goes, “what is measured is managed”. So if something is measured once a year, or if inaccurate data are used, it will surely not be managed aggressively. Technology can greatly help firms execute this task efficiently and profitably. Indeed, as Brynjolfsson of MIT states, “firms that adopt DDD (data-driven decision making) have output and productivity that is 5-6% higher”.
By applying the lessons from the companies delivering financial data, I believe there are huge opportunities to derive substantial economic benefits through the effective use of environmental information. There are too many examples for a short blog, but a few include:
-Ensuring data used for environmental related decisions are always accurate, transparent and consistent by using third party environmental data experts. Financial data providers long ago replaced companies doing individual credit checks or having information departments to keep data. There were clear cost savings from “outsourcing” their data gathering to a financial information company.
-Embedding environmental intelligence into design and manufacturing systems will increase efficiency, make best use of available resources and reinforce competitive advantage just as financial data does in financial or marketing applications.
-Utilising “environmental scores” to assess suppliers or partners just like businesses use credit scores.
- Utilising decision systems with environmental data to assess progress or manage risks just as financial data is leveraged to assess risk with suppliers or customers.
The list of potential applications to environmental information based on practices from financial information businesses is almost endless. However, there is no doubt we are in the very early days of learning how to use environmental data intelligently to improve environmental efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. My view is that there are many lessons to be learnt from financial data providers that will accelerate our knowledge of how to get the most out of environmental information in a cost effective way. Perhaps the most important lesson learnt from the financial information industry is the individual companies can save a lot of money over time by relying on trusted third party information providers.