Climate ChangeEconomy

A Data-centric Approach To Sustainability

Maintaining a data-driven approach to sustainable decision making.

Data AnalysisData Analysis. Web. hbc-asia.com. June 2017

Data is the new oil.

That is a statement that is beginning to gain traction in the business and social entrepreneur world. We are in an era where top businesses owners and decision makers are turning to Big Data Analytics, Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning to either scale or give their business a face-lift. Most business and social endeavours are steering away from the traditional approach of handling problems and moving towards a more data-driven and systemic process of handling predictive analysis.

Not that it is cheap or a less sophisticated approach, but the Return On investment (ROI) from introducing infrastructures of this nature can be very promising if done correctly. Let’s take a few examples:

  • Imagine a situation where we can predict what a customer will buy when he walks into a store; just by paying attention to what he bought the last time he went shopping;
  • Imagine if we could predict in real-time when the next flood or mudslide will hit our homes – just by creating a system that studies and learns from past and current incidents. In Sierra Leone this information could have led to early evacuation, potentially saving lives

We live in a digital era where a lot of information is being transferred and saved in the cloud. We currently deposit more data in an hour than we did in a month, ten years ago. Information such as social media activities, images, files, medical records, family trees, shopping history, etc. just to mention a few.

What does this tell you? It means that the amount of data available for analysis is constantly increasing every second. If we don’t build infrastructure, that structures and analyses these data, we might be losing out on life-saving information. There is a saying that those who will eventually control or rule the world are those who are able to make sense of this data stream.

Business and Sustainability advocates generally want to have a glimpse of what the future has in stock for us. We want to be able to give insights on climate change. But, sometimes we neglect the importance that data plays in predictive analysis and decision making. Data is everything, without leveraging on your data, no organization can actually attain their corporate goals, not to talk of their sustainability agenda. Big Data analysis has become the order of the day because of the insights it provides.

Our race for the attainment of the SDGs before 2030 is not exempted from this line of thought. In fact, to successfully attain the 17 SDGs, each country must on an ongoing basis, study and update their data banks. As it has been proven that no accurate approach to effective decision making can be done without leveraging the data that surrounds us.

Now the correctness and integrity of the data must be unquestionable, as a decision is as good as the data being analyzed. Imagine travelling to a known destination with a wrong map? In as much as you know where you are going to, you have the wrong information to actually get there. That is data integrity simplified.

Sustainablebrands opined that “Climate change has moved to the top of the list of global risks, affecting every country and disrupting economies. While a major part of this damage is irreversible, it is still possible with the use of a wide range of technological measures to control the global increase in temperature. Big data can generate useful insights that can be as relevant towards fostering environmental sustainability as they have been to other sectors such as Healthcare”.

Even though Donald J. Trump will not agree with me that the greatest threat to our existence in the 21st century is not nuclear weapons but climate change (Global Warming). I still believe that if we get our figures and strategies right, we will not have to worry about which one knocks us out of mother Earth first.

How data can help sustainability to thrive at the corporate and government level.

  1. It pin points where immediate or swift action needs to be taken
  2. It can help government in the creation of useful and localized policies
  3. At the private level, data can determine the direction in which resources should flow.
  4. Data can be leveraged to determine trends, simulations to study events and its feasibility – Predictive Analysis.
  5. Data can prevent risks associated with execution of plans.

The list is endless, but for the sake of brevity let’s keep it at 5.

 Fig 1. A visual relationship between Green Data Mining and Business Strategy

Call to Action…

  • Are your sustainability strategies and actions data driven?
  • How have you been able to make sense out of the chunk of data in your repository?
  • How do you maintain the integrity of your data?
  • Are terminologies like Big Data Analytics, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning alien to you?
  • Who is responsible for the exploitation and management of data in your firm or government?

The answers you to provide to these questions will determine how responsive and serious you are towards the achievement of the Global Goals.  If you can provide reasonable and well-thought out answers to these questions, then be rest assured that you are one step ahead in ensuring that your business or country, stays on track towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Eric Anidiobi
Anidiobi Ejiofor Eric holds a degree in Project Management. He is passionate about leveraging sustainability in ensuring that a project reflects the triple bottom line. He generally writes at the crossroad of Sustainability in Project Management, Startups, Business Strategy, and Education.