June 28, 2024

Data Collection: The Crucial Yet Overlooked Step in Sustainability Reporting

Carbon management platforms emphasize features such as measuring, reducing, and reporting emissions. However, the data collection phase—which is crucial—is often overlooked, forcing sustainability teams to deal with scattered and unstructured data.

Valeria Gonzalez
Data Collection: The Crucial Yet Overlooked Step in Sustainability Reporting

In a company’s sustainability journey, the focus often lands on outcomes—reducing emissions, enhancing efficiency, and meeting regulatory standards.

Yet, the crucial foundation upon which these goals are built is often overlooked: data collection.

In other words, any effective sustainability journey begins with the meticulous and comprehensive gathering of data, which comes in two forms: structured (from a company’s ERP or other systems) and unstructured (from teams and humans).

It’s this initial step that helps organizations develop plans to reduce emissions, improve emissions reporting, and feel confident that they’re heading in the right direction.

Despite its pivotal role, data collection tends to present companies with major challenges, from searching for scattered data sources to ensuring alignment with reporting standards.

Below, we’ll delve into the reasons for this, and the potential solutions as well.

Why data collection is crucial

The carbon accounting report is quickly becoming the “fourth financial statement,” after the P&L, balance sheet, and cash flow statement. GHG emissions are increasingly recognized as critical to business strategy and an indicator of business performance. As with all reports, however, the outputs are only as good as the inputs.

This underscores the importance of data quality in driving meaningful outcomes in carbon management.

For instance, take a scenario where a company wants to reduce its carbon footprint by optimizing energy usage across its facilities.

In that situation, accurate data on energy consumption, sourced from reliable measurements and consistent reporting, would be the foundation that these efforts are built on.

As an example, this type of granular data could pinpoint which facilities are consuming the most energy and then identify patterns in energy usage that might indicate inefficiencies and opportunities for improvement.

With these insights, the company could develop targeted interventions, such as upgrading to more energy-efficient equipment, optimizing operational schedules, or changing operational processes.

Also, accurate and timely data may allow for real-time adjustments, ensuring that the strategies remain effective over time.

Ultimately, high-quality data not only enhances the accuracy of reporting but also empowers decision-makers to identify precise areas of their operations that need to be improved as well.

Why data collection is a major challenge

Despite its crucial role, the data collection phase of a company’s sustainability journey is often filled with serious problems and internal disconnects.

Example: A sustainability team, wanting to work on its decarbonization efforts, isn’t sure how to actually get the required data that’s spread across HR, Finance, and other operational departments.

Since the data that’s necessary for carbon accounting is originally intended for other purposes, it often lacks the granularity required for carbon accounting.

The fact that everyone isn’t on the same page not only complicates data retrieval, but can also cause serious delays and reporting errors.

In addition, the data owners who oversee the needed information may lack the expertise or incentive to prioritize sustainability work over their primary responsibilities.

As a result, this common scenario results in poor data management practices, and worsens the burden on sustainability teams that are striving to align data collection with rigorous reporting standards.

Addressing challenges via innovative solutions

At Unravel Carbon, we recognize the many pain points that are linked to disorganized data collection, and the importance of addressing them.

As a result, within our platform, we’ve integrated solutions tailored to streamline the data collection process.

Our approach goes beyond mere data aggregation; it prioritizes collaboration across departments and enhances project management.

For example, our Upload Plan feature helps teams prioritize tasks, make exclusions, and set data owners/approvers directly within the Unravel Carbon platform.

Using this feature, data owners can easily prepare, review and edit data. They can also see who’ll be reviewing their work, and either prioritize or deprioritize assignments based on their due date.

For approvers, they can review and approve new data in a single, streamlined workflow that’s customized to show what’s relevant to them, and which cuts out the noise from long email chains.

Also, while using external tools like Trello, Asana or Jira to manage these tasks is certainly an option, we wanted to bring that type of capability directly into our platform.

The reason: by having access to their carbon emissions data and our project management solutions within Unravel Carbon, companies can more easily gauge the status of their data collection and inputting.

Specifically, in terms of task management, they can see a list of actions that need to be taken, assign tasks, track completeness, set deadlines, and send notifications to team members—all within our platform.


Ultimately, effective carbon management hinges on having a strong data collection process in place. 

This isn’t a step that can be treated as a formality; it’s a vital component that sets the stage for credible emissions reporting and informed sustainability strategies.

By addressing the challenges of data fragmentation and different priorities across departments, organizations can develop a data-driven culture that underpins their commitment to environmental stewardship. 

Interested in learning more about how Unravel Carbon can help your team with data collection? Get in touch with us here.

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