Sustainability reporting and auditing is tedious, time consuming and expensive. But if you’re leading a highly skilled sustainability team that’s in hot demand around the industry, you don’t really want to weigh them down with data collection.

That’s not to say data is not important, especially when it comes to ESG (environmental social governance) reporting. In fact, it’s more critical than ever. It’s the raw material you want your most skilled staff to work with to add value to the overall organisation.

There are a lot of investment drivers adding pressure to ensure data is accurate. The sustainability and net zero challenge has attracted the attention of the world’s biggest investors, fund managers, insurers and other high level asset allocators.

Many of their efforts are pointing in the same direction. They want sustainable and climate friendly assets. And they want auditable evidence that backs up claims and explains exactly what’s “under the hood” of sustainability reports.

The investment world has also now started to make much stronger links between strong sustainability practice and financial stakeholder engagement. Larry Fink, the chief executive of the world’s largest asset manager Blackrock, put a spotlight on sustainability initiatives and their direct relationship to a company’s finances in his 2020 letter to shareholders.

Investors want to know how much carbon companies emit and the quantity of natural resources they consume. They want granular data and they want the evidence that these

companies are doing everything they can to reduce their impact.

Sound ESG and sustainability decisions are all driven by access to a reliable data set

CHRIS HANCOCK

A once-a-year summary in the sustainability report or audit won’t cut it.

Chris Hancock head of growth (northern region) for Bill Identity knows what’s at stake and his company work is designed to meet those demands.

“If you’re in charge of the data management”, he says, “even locating the information and then corralling it into a usable data set is a tough ask, especially if your organisation is large and the business is spread across multiple sites, states or even countries.”

It means you will need to organise data collection from several separate locations, and wrestle with a variety of data formats. Cobbling this data together from thousands of energy invoices is usually onerous, poorly managed and extremely time-consuming and costly.

Hancock says that by centralising, automating and validating as much data as possible, you can create a robust set of up-to-date validated data that covers a full range of sustainability metrics, which will allow you to extract much more value out of the task. You then have the evidence and tools to make decisions that iteratively improve ESG performance.

“Sound ESG and sustainability decisions are all driven by access to a reliable data set,” Hancock says.

A reliable data set enables your organisation to keep a close eye on progress towards sustainability targets, such as net zero commitments, and will empower you to demonstrate your commitment to accuracy and transparency that key stakeholders expect.

Automation and robotics are part of the answer

Many of the key indicators of corporate sustainability, including gas, electricity and water consumption, are buried in utility bills. Manually extracting the data can be tedious and expensive and fraught with keying errors.

Bill Identity’s Ashish Kumar and Anthony Vardon

Hancock says that’s where Bill Identity (Bid) comes in with its automated bill processing software called “Utility Bill Management”.

Bid has spent more than a decade refining its technology to effectively capture and validate billing data without human assistance.

It draws on what’s known as Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to eradicate the need for manual data entry that’s slow and known to cause errors and duplication of effort.

Utility Bill Management effectively funnels billing data from multiple streams into a cloud-based platform that functions as a single source of truth.

Sustainability teams can be freed up from mundane tasks, and are able to focus on the work that really matters: reducing emissions and supporting their organisation’s ambitions to a net zero future.

Sustainability reporting done in a flash

Hancock says switching to the automated bill data capture platform for one major global bank slashed the sustainability data stewardship process from many months to only a week.

He’s observed similar results for a national property company that is also using the platform to fast-track its annual corporate social responsibility reporting.

Automated utility data management is not only valued by sustainability teams but also very advantageous for a range of other corporate functions, Hancock says.

Finance, procurement and facilities management teams, can all benefit from a robust billing dataset that can help identify cost-saving opportunities across, bill validation, automating accounts payable, tariff optimisation, demand resets, data-driven procurement opportunities, equipment upgrades, solar monitoring to name a few.

But it is the valuable insights that companies will be able to focus their attention to drive and measure necessary behavioural changes.

Access to accurate, validated, and trustworthy data is at your fingertips.

Download Bid’s guide: Audit proof your Sustainability Reporting