February 22, 2024

Beyond Spreadsheets: Why Sustainability Teams Are Upgrading to More Advanced Platforms

Though they’re incredibly useful, spreadsheets have limitations that sustainability teams run into fairly quickly. With a carbon management platform, companies can rapidly enhance their efforts in areas ranging from data management and analysis to auditability.

Marc Allen
Beyond Spreadsheets: Why Sustainability Teams Are Upgrading to More Advanced Platforms

Every business, regardless of its industry, operates in an environment that’s characterized by ever-expanding volumes of data.

This definitely holds true within the realm of sustainability, where companies have scores of metrics that need to be tracked in order to reach their decarbonization targets.

While it’s common for teams to try and manage these sorts of efforts with spreadsheets, from our work with customers, we continue to see a strong demand for more advanced solutions that can maximize a company’s potential in areas ranging from data analysis to audit compliance.

With the right tools, organizations can take disparate data sources, collate them into a single place, extract meaningful insights, and then report these findings as well.

Also, for the sake of clarity and throughout the article, it’s key to point out the difference between our usage of “data” and “insights.”

Data refers to raw numbers or a wall of letters devoid of context, whereas insights are about understanding what the data means and reveals, allowing us to pinpoint the most important findings.

By facilitating the transition from data to insights, the tech you employ can have a major role in accelerating your company’s progress toward net zero.

The limitations of spreadsheets for sustainability teams

Although spreadsheets are incredibly useful, sustainability teams can encounter the limitations of tools like Excel relatively quickly.

This is particularly true in the area of data management, where lots of interconnected data can be difficult to model within a traditional spreadsheet.

Another challenge is that, generally, the use of spreadsheets tends to centralize knowledge with the people who manage them, which can create dependencies and limit accessibility to critical information.

In addition, there’s an inherent fragility within spreadsheets due to their reliance on precise data inputs.

This means that even minor errors, such as extra spaces or misspellings, can disrupt formulas and render calculations invalid. Of course, the even bigger risk would be using erroneous data or flawed insights on accident to guide critical decisions.

Furthermore, both protecting and auditing spreadsheets present significant challenges as well.

While password protection may be employed, it offers quite limited security against a spreadsheet being broken into. 

In terms of complying with necessary audits, tracing information within a spreadsheet can be extremely cumbersome for an auditor, especially if the spreadsheet is poorly organized or lacks proper documentation.

How platforms address the areas where spreadsheets fall short

Providing better data management 

Unlike spreadsheets, carbon management platforms can be extremely effective at handling unstructured data. They provide robust tools for data interpretation, accommodate diverse data inputs, and offer mechanisms for maintaining transparent audit trails.

Moreover, with everything consolidated on a unified platform, there's no need for separate spreadsheets for different years, making it easier to grasp overall progress.

When it comes to reviewing data, our platform offers a comprehensive approach to both processing and fixing errors.

So, instead of users having to manually find issues across a large data set, we’re able to automate the process by using AI to analyze millions of rows in a targeted manner.

Also, with our new dashboard, companies can leverage data visualization, AI-powered insights, and a powerful comparison tool to easily understand and monitor their emissions profile.

Simplifying project management

Platforms like Unravel Carbon offer many project management tools across a broad set of areas. 

These include: owner and task assignment for data collection activities, in-task comments, a bird's eye view of data collection progress throughout an organization, detailed guidance to fill in knowledge gaps, and setting up approval workflows with anomaly highlights to ensure that your data is in good shape.

We're also building a feature called "Action Plan" that’s designed to facilitate project management within the carbon measurement process. The goal is to foster more efficient collaboration among teams, enhance task management, and streamline data integration onto our platform.

Enhancing your data’s security 

SaaS solutions typically boast robust security protocols, encompassing encryption, access management, strict compliance adherence, and routine maintenance, effectively fortifying the protection of confidential information against potential breaches.

Such elevated security not only serves to fend off intrusions, but also fosters a deeper sense of confidence among a company's stakeholders.

At Unravel Carbon, we hold ISO 27001 certification which is an internationally recognized standard that demonstrates our commitment to protecting critical data with the highest security standards. In other words, our customers can be sure that their data is safeguarded using standards that meet the latest regulations and exceed their expectations.

Improving your data’s auditability 

Within our platform, we ensure that all emissions are audit-ready. Specifically, we’re able to provide our customers with fully transparent and detailed breakdowns to foster confidence in their audit readiness.

For auditors, our platform enables them to review a comprehensive audit trail, including data input change logs, calculation formulas, and emissions factors used at each transaction level.

In addition, our platform's methodology was certified by TÜV Rheinland, further bolstering trust in the accuracy of a customer's final results.

We're also developing an auditor-specific view for an even more seamless and efficient audit experience directly on our platform.

Approaching sustainability more strategically

As businesses transition from using spreadsheets to more advanced platforms, they unlock a broad range of tools and insights that enable them to better achieve their decarbonization targets.

Of the many benefits that adopting a more strategic approach to sustainability provides, one of its most impactful is the way that it promotes more efficient processes throughout an organization.

For instance, using a platform to automate the manual tasks associated with spreadsheet management allows a company's sustainability team or consultants to redirect more of their efforts to both developing and implementing carbon reduction strategies.


Spreadsheets offer a ton of value, but given the scale and complexity of projects that sustainability teams work on, it’s crucial for them to have access to a more advanced set of tools as well.

With a platform that’s capable of enhancing efforts in areas such as data management, collaboration, robustness, security and auditability, companies can significantly ramp up the pace at which they’re able to transform data into insights.

As a result, organizations can harness these insights to take more precise action, and ultimately, work more efficiently toward achieving their net zero goals.

Finally, it's crucial to note that platforms won't solve every data-related challenge instantly, and that the transition away from spreadsheets requires change management for successful adoption.

However, given the wide range of solutions that platforms offer and their capacity to empower teams when it comes to adopting a more strategic approach to sustainability, they prove to be highly effective at helping companies better position themselves for the long term.

Interested in learning more about the solutions that our platform offers? Request a demo here

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