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How to Choose the Best Software for Sustainability Management

How to Choose the Best Software for Sustainability Management

As businesses become more aware of the need to adopt sustainable practices, they increasingly turn to software for sustainability management and reporting on their progress.

Businesses increasingly recognise the value of sustainability and its role in building a brand. According to a report by Technavio, the global sustainability management software industry is expected to grow to $842.76 million by 2026. Several factors drive the need for sustainability software:

  • Realising that sustainability is no longer a nice-to-have but a must-have. Businesses recognise that improving their sustainability performance can help them achieve their business goals - attracting customers, meeting customer expectations, reducing costs, releasing staff from administrative tasks, or enhancing employee engagement.
  • Increasing regulatory requirements. The rise of the "audit society" has led to an increased focus on transparency, governance, and accountability in organisations, and many industries have seen a rise in regulatory requirements around sustainability, including in the food and beverage, retail, hospitality, automotive, and financial services industries.
  • Growing pressure on companies to report on their sustainability performance. This is being driven by investors who increasingly require companies to report on their sustainability performance and by consumers who expect businesses to disclose how they're managing their impacts on the environment.
  • Increased demand for sustainability metrics and KPIs. The rise of the "measurement society" has increased focus on metrics, KPIs, and analytics. To meet this demand, many organisations provide staff with real-time insights into their sustainability performance to help them make more informed decisions.

However, implementing sustainability management is not easy – many challenges must be overcome. Fortunately, many sustainability solutions are available to help an enterprise get started.

What is sustainability management software?

Sustainability management software is a tool for analysing and managing an organisation's environmental, social governance (ESG) and sustainability performance, including tracking carbon footprint, waste, water & energy usage and other sustainability data. It can be used to monitor these areas, and further help companies set targets and measure their progress against them.

Sustainability reporting software is used to create internal and external sustainability reports, and it can integrate with sustainability management software to automatically generate reports based on data. Additionally, sustainability software enables an organisation to take control of its data, turning information into insight that can be used to improve performance.

3 ways a sustainability software will benefit your business

Sustainability management and reporting software are relatively new to the enterprise management software market, but it has been developed using decades of enterprise-level management systems and sophisticated technology evolutions. Today, sustainability management systems are used for ESG reporting, but they can also bring other advantages. Let's take a closer look at some of them.

1. Optimise time and improve the data collection process

Sustainability in a company impacts different business areas, so gathering relevant data can be time-consuming. In addition, this process is complicated because data is collected and organised manually using spreadsheets.

The process of data collection is also one of the most significant challenges associated with ESG reporting because of difficulties with gathering accurate data, monitoring indicators, and authenticating accuracy.

of institutional investors say that a lack of quality or reliable sustainability data is one of the main challenges they face when making ESG-based investments.

A software program designed to capture sustainability data can be configured to track information from different departments simultaneously and identify ESG-related data, simplifying and automating the workflow.

2. Provide insights and enhance transparency

Sustainability software helps companies evaluate their sustainability status and identify areas where improvements can be made. With a better understanding of how your company measures against ESG and sustainability factors, you can make more strategic decisions leading to increased performance.

Sustainability management tools can help improve transparency by tracking and broadening the understanding of climate frameworks and other metrics relevant to your enterprise. With these tools, you can set targets, measure progress toward sustainability goals, and create value-adding reports that contribute to more transparency.

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3. Increase reporting quality and adherence to compliance standards

Organisations often use sustainability software to compile reports or mandatory disclosures. The compilation process requires a great deal of time and effort. There are currently over 600 ESG reporting frameworks globally. However, there is significant variation in how these schemes interpret what constitutes sustainability.

And while new regulations and frameworks related to reporting are being developed, companies must deal with current regulations, which can be challenging. A sustainability management software encompasses reporting tools to ensure compliance with the requirements of the selected framework or legislation.

As a software development company, we understand the complexity of the compliance process and how important it is to enforce all the requirements and ensure they work as intended. To help our customers meet their compliance obligations, we've developed our proprietary compliance automation platform (eCAP). The platform provides a comprehensive dashboard and data-driven functionality, allowing businesses to keep their compliance efforts on track, which is especially relevant for highly regulated industries. You can learn more about eCAP here.

What to look for in sustainability software

Many software programs can help companies track and report their sustainability initiatives. Whether you choose an off-the-shelf solution or invest in developing bespoke software, here is a list of potential functionalities an ESG software package can provide.

  • Data collection for environmental, social, and governance metrics
  • Automation of workflow, ESG task assignments, and status monitoring
  • Benchmarking
  • Policy management
  • Risk management
  • Compliance management and reporting
  • Custom dashboards
  • Audit and archiving
  • APIs for third-party data providers, including news

Some may offer a more comprehensive feature set but choosing the one that best meets your company's needs is important. Let us closely examine the features that anyone should consider to a greater or lesser degree.

Depth of functionality

When choosing a sustainability management solution, you should consider first what features you need to support your current and future needs. A company's sustainability management needs, such as data collection and tracking, can vary vastly, such as sector benchmark reporting, supply chain emissions coverage, waste management data, energy consumption rate data, etc. The software should allow you to track and report on key sustainability KPIs, support multiple organisation types and sizes, and have a large and active user base.

When selecting sustainability software, it is vital to consider scalability and choose a program that can grow together with the company. It is also critical to ensure that it integrates with other tools—such as an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, a business intelligence platform, or a risk management system—to ensure that sustainability goals are met.

Effective data management

Reliable software for sustainability enables seamless data collection and fast processing of large amounts of data. When choosing a tool, consider its usability. Choose a solution that consolidates your data and provides functional dashboards to present the necessary information.

The advantage of cloud-based software over other types is that it can be accessed from anywhere and across multiple devices. Having your sustainability software off-premise allows for easy exchange of information between internal and external stakeholders, offering more effective management of ESG data.

Data security

When choosing a sustainability management solution, it is essential to consider data compliance. Sustainability software integrates with your organisation's management system, which gives it access to critical business information. Therefore, ensuring the software you choose complies with all relevant data regulations is crucial to ensuring the success of your sustainability initiative and the safety of sensitive information.

Be sure to choose a solution with data encryption to protect against cybercrime. A backup system is also essential in case of any problems that could lead to data loss. And make sure the sustainability software allows you to set access controls and audit trails so you can always track who's accessing your data.

Detection of data errors

Data entry errors are inevitable, but they can often go undetected for months. Having software that can flag data anomalies at the point of entry will allow you to fix the problem immediately and save a lot of time in the long run.

Consider using sustainability reporting software that provides the option to set validation rules for unusual data entries or entries that fall outside of certain thresholds and fix them immediately. Having the ability to leave comments on flagged entries explaining that they were double-checked and are correct can be very useful. This way, you can help others understand why an entry was deemed appropriate and save time.

Although it may sound convenient to choose a ready-made solution, these products usually have basic functionality that may not always meet your needs fully. That's why we believe that custom software—tailored to the specific requirements of your industry and business—will provide you with the best results.

Final thoughts

Businesses are increasingly seeing the value and importance of sustainability management and reporting software. They recognise the importance of taking action to improve their sustainability performance and seeing how this can help them achieve their business goals.

Sustainability software is essential for any organisation that wants to be responsible and understand its impact on the environment. The software provides detailed tracking, sets goals and target metrics, measures progress against those targets, and automates sustainability reporting processes. Sustainability software includes various advanced features. This could be the depth of functionality, scalability, data security, etc.

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