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UK Sustainability Priorities Dominated By ‘Quick Wins’ Mindset

Companies are grasping easy options for greening up, because of poor quality data, according to an Oracle performance management study

The majority of British businesses see sustainability as a priority, but they are hampered because they don’t have good enough data, according to a study from Oracle

Data quality emerged as a key challenge according to the second annual study Oracle has sponsored of the long-term sustainability strategies and initiatives of UK businesses.

Ninety-two percent saw sustainability as a priority and good for business, in the study, carried out by trends consultancy The Future Laboratory. Also, 68 percent focused on improving efficiency.

But the results of a quantitative survey of nearly 250 supply chain managers, finance directors, heads of procurement and chief financial officers within 50 British businesses also found ‘easy wins’ still dominate short-term strategies.

Nearly three quarters (71 percent) said they were concentrating efforts on lowering waste and 65 percent cited cutting energy usage. An admirable third (37 percent) want to achieve carbon neutrality in the future and 47 percent intend to report on a daily, hourly or continuous basis.

Yet, 53 percent cited collecting information from internal sources as a major barrier to sustainability reporting. This was because 47 percent still relied on mainly spreadsheets to present data, said Tom Savigar, The Future Laboratory strategy and insight director.

“I was astounded that people still use spreadsheets to monitor systems and processes, because they don’t offer he kind of integrated application of data that allows collaboration,” Savigar added. “Interestingly, many said a lack of visual technology made it hard to represent the impact of sustainability to the board or customers.”

This leads to transparency with the business becoming a problem that can prevent management from making key business decisions. Mikko Valtonen, managing director of software developer, 2future said he’d been working with many Scandinavian companies that used specialist performance management and business intelligence systems to closely tie key sustainability metrics directly into their financials.

“The electricity bill, waste issues, packaging, logistics and fulfilment should all be considered, but are often just not built into the process,” he said. “At least 80 percent of Fortune 500 companies at least now use the GRI [Global Reporting Index] maturity test, which covers more issues than just carbon footprints.”

Added to this, 61 percent of those surveyed said a lack of uniform industry, government or consumer benchmarks is holding back progress. Frank Buytendijk, Oracle enterprise performance management vice president and fellow said however, these would come soon enough, alongside regulation.

“Companies need to look at their whole business in a more sustainable way, not just their electricity bill,” Buytendijk suggested. “The use of reporting not just externally, but internally – to share and monitor the live performance of the company, each department or even an individual bit of the supply chain – will be key. This will also allow an element of sustainability design into the customer proposition too.”