Data collection for Sustainability Reporting

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What are you doing to protect the environment and does your data show this?

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A sustainability report is a company’s way of looking at how they are doing when it comes to protecting the environment. It is an important decision for any business because we have an obligation to our future generations and to the planet to preserve all that we have been given. In this article, I will discuss some ways you can collect data for your sustainability report and how you can analyse it to see how well your business is doing in this regard.

What Is Sustainability Data?

Sustainability data is any data that provides context about an organization’s ESG impacts. Like all data used in reports, there are five avenues to assess sustainability data from a high-level perspective:

  • Volume: The amount or scope of a certain type of data.
  • Velocity: The frequency that a certain type of data is collected.
  • Variety: The number of types of data collected.
  • Veracity: The accuracy of the data.
  • Value: The ability of the data to support the report’s strategic aims.

What Data Should be Collected?

Many kinds of data points can be collected to form the foundation of your sustainability report. Generally, these fall into one of two categories:

Quantitative Data
Quantitative data is data you can count. For example, if you tracked how many people attended a company event last year, that number would be a quantitative data point. Quantitative data is often collected by surveying attendees but could also be found through things like attendance sheets or counting the number of parking spaces at your facility.

It may seem straightforward enough but there are a few things to consider when collecting quantitative information for your sustainability report:

Data Analysis

Quantitative Data
Quantitative Data

Global Reporting Initiative

qualitative and quantitive data
qualitative and quantitive data

Quantitative data

  • Quantitative data needs context. The numbers themselves may not tell an interesting story so it is important to figure out what questions need answering and what kind of analysis will help answer them before collecting any information. This way you can get the most out of every quantitative data point.
  • Quantitative data can be misunderstood. Numbers can be misunderstood and misinterpreted just like words and actions. For this reason, it is important to make sure you are completely clear about what your data represents and how it should be interpreted. Otherwise, there could be room for confusion down the line when compiling results with other information sources.

Qualitative Data

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Qualitative Data

Qualitative data is information that relays information through language and symbolic representation rather than numbers. For example, if you were asked why attendance at an event was down last year, qualitative answers could include things like “the competing event down the street” or “it rained on that day.” Qualitative responses are often collected through interviews or focus groups.

External and Internal Surveys

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Where To Collect Data for Your Sustainability Report

Once you have determined what kind of data you are looking for, it is time to start gathering information. There are many ways to find the necessary information, but they all fall into one of two categories:

Internal Sources

This data can be found within your company in various forms, spreadsheets, attendance sheets, meeting minutes, etc. If you need help figuring out where these things might be stored or who would know how to access them, contact HR.

Common places to look include:

  • Departmental Intranet Sites:
    These can serve as a valuable hub for internal communication and may be full of invaluable sustainability data including surveys, emails sent between departments about recycling best practices, and internal newsletters.
  • Departmental Databases:
    Search through available databases in your company to see if any of them store pertinent information you can use for your report. For example, a Facilities management database may be full of data about the number of recycling bins at different locations which could be used in your report.
  • Internal Surveys:
    Surveying employees about things like recycling rates, employee commuting habits (and what percentage of employees participate in the company-sponsored commuter benefits program), or other environmental issues is a great source of internal data.

External Sources

This data comes from outside sources such as news articles, statistics agencies, or reports that other organizations publish. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has many resources that businesses can use when collecting information for their sustainability report. Common sources for external data include:

  • Government Agencies:
    Government agencies like the EPA in the US offer many resources to support businesses in collecting information for their sustainability reports.
  • Statistical Agencies:
    Polling agencies are great sources for survey data that can be used when compiling your sustainability report.
  • Industry Benchmarks:
    If you are a member of an industry association there may be benchmarking data available from their studies.
  • Industry Associations:
    Industry associations often collect and distribute much of the business data you need for your report, so try searching through their websites for relevant statistics or contact them directly!
  • External Surveys:
    Surveying the public can be a valuable way to understand the general public’s take on environmental issues and gain insight into what your customers might think about sustainability and your company.
When things aren’t sustainable, they eventually have to stop”. @Anders Ankarlid

How To Analyse Your Sustainability Data

After you have collected all this information it is now time for you to analyse it. There are many ways that you could do this by using different applications or even calculations that can help you understand how much carbon dioxide has been produced or how much paper was used.

Sustainability Accounting Standards Board

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Data Analysis

The possibilities are endless when it comes to analysing these statistics depending on what your needs are as a company. An online clothing retailer could take their transportation data and plug it into a carbon emission calculator to see how much carbon they produce each year. They could also calculate how many trees would need to be planted for them to offset this amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Sustainability reports are important because they show a company’s commitment to be an environmentally conscious business and protect the environment from negative impact. For this type of report to be effective, there must be a wide variety of data collected from various areas such as production efficiency, paper usage, etc. Once all this data has been collected it is important that you use a variety of applications or even calculations to analyse it and determine where you need improvement in your process.

About the Author

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Based in Dubai for over 10years, Peter Caush is the founder of and
A trusted authority on digital marketing Peter is passionate about helping SME’s grow their business in the Gulf region. 
When he’s not in the office Peter enjoys playing squash, often more times than his knees can cope.

About Sandpaper

At Sandpaper We have been around long enough to realize the importance of good report writing, research, and design. A thoroughly planned and executed report builds loyalty and trust among stakeholders.
In the 10 years of service, Sandpaper has managed a stay ahead of its competition; by developing and adapting to changes in both the global and local corporate landscape in the United Arab Emirates.

Annual Reports : Sustainability/Environmental, Financial/AGM, Impact and special focus.

Sustainability Reports, Annual Reports 90%
Report planning, research, collating, drafting, copywriting, proofing 50%
Concept creation, layout design, infographics, photography 70%

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