Top tips: Harnessing sustainability data to create impact

When organizations have poor data quality or have bottlenecks in their data pipelines, the last thing they want to hear about is the plumbing or infrastructure gaps behind the challenges. However, the root causes of data problems are multi-faceted. They are only partly about infrastructure such as databases and technology solutions. Those are easy culprits, and are visible and actionable, so most organizations tend to rely on technology upgrades to solve data problems. But technology improvements don’t create data impact. The keys to removing data pain points are revealed in the intersections between other key resources – people, process, and data.

Sustainability organizations are at the forefront of work to address pressing social and environmental problems. They are faced with increasingly critical needs to create impact with data. These needs are driven by regulatory changes such as data privacy regulation, due diligence reporting, and growing demands by stakeholders for evidence of sustainability impact. Many also have an advantage in that they are relatively small in size and complexity of operations (compared to large enterprises) and have an opportunity to embed good data practices more readily.

This is where agile data governance comes in. Data governance is a set of practices that grease the wheels in your data management machine. It is like an invisible hand that coordinates well-defined data, technology, people, and their data-related activities and processes.

Data governance helps you understand how data flows throughout your organization by helping you acknowledge and formalize the resources that create value with data.

Sustainability Data Impacts Framework

Good data governance brings data governance tools and activities together into a cohesive program that fits the needs of an organization. A data governance program will serve to empower your data stewards to effectively use, share, and create value with data. 

So how can sustainability organizations get started on this journey to drive impact using data? They can look underneath visible data challenges and apply key tools that form a blueprint for data success.

By applying a series of steps and tools rooted in established data governance practices, organizations and initiatives can embed long-lasting solutions and systems to create impact with data. Below are key elements that are needed for consistent, high-quality data that delivers impact:

  • Where are you going? Define top objectives for data use
  • Roles and responsibilities: Who are the key supporters and budget holders within your organization responsible for creating impact with data?
  • Data inventory: Take stock of your most valuable data assets 
  • Data privacy due diligence: Identify which data must be protected to be compliant with data privacy regulation (e.g. GDPR, CCPA)
  • What do your data pipelines look like and where are they blocked?: How does data flow within and outside of your organization? Who handles the data and influences its quality?  
  • Share data confidently: Articulate the terms of a data sharing policy that enables your staff and stakeholders to use data effectively while respecting data privacy regulation.

The topics and solutions above can be used to tackle top data challenges first. They can then be applied incrementally to develop sustainable and effective use of data. This approach will build confidence and trust in your initiative’s most critical data so that you can deliver the evidence of impact that stakeholders want.

The most important step to take in implementing data governance practice is to start. Starting will bring awareness within your organization about the interconnected nature of people, processes, and activities in the use of data.

Contact me to discuss how you can address your top data-related challenges and opportunities.

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