Leave Spreadsheets Behind and Overcome Reporting Fatigue

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By Maya Yarowsky and Noam Gressel

Sustainability reporting is an important tool for companies to reflect their internal growth and innovative progress. Companies small and large have different ways of organizing corporate social responsibility (CSR) data, be it through EHS (environment health and safety), compliance or supply chain management divisions, or integrated sustainability leadership. Yet one of the major barriers to establishing an effective strategy is the ubiquitous use of spreadsheets to compile information.

According to a recent ReScore Group survey of 56 global corporations in a variety of industries, up to 34 percent of the of respondents that use spreadsheets were ‘unsatisfied’ or ‘very unsatisfied’ with their current methods. (Spreadsheet users accounted for 36 percent of total respondents.) This is opposed to 100 percent satisfaction by the 15 percent of respondents that use specialized sustainability reporting tools. Here are just a few of the common pain points expressed by spreadsheet users:

  • Spreadsheets work for monitoring and collecting data for one to two operational sites, but once there is a larger organizational web, it becomes a challenge to continuously update and aggregate spreadsheets from multiple sites.
  • The one-off nature of spreadsheet data management makes it difficult to identify performance patterns, set automated alerts and glean the company’s overarching sustainability message.
  • Lacking a concentrated database of environmental and CSR data, companies are faced with growing bureaucratic burdens, as more investors, analysts, customers and industry organizations request information according to different questionnaires, protocols and guidelines. With spreadsheets, each of these tasks becomes a separate effort, together creating a reporting nightmare.
  • Companies carrying out a full audit often find that they are missing key pieces of data and supporting documentation and have trouble locating them amidst mounds of separate files.
  • While spreadsheets are a commonly used organizational tool, they lack tailored programming that removes the professional complexities of environmental and CSR reporting.
  • Releasing your information to investors, regulators or the public requires additional consulting, auditing and design efforts that repeat themselves.

So, if spreadsheets are causing reporting fatigue, why then aren’t we seeing an explosive demand for specialized sustainability reporting tools? It’s because the vast majority of sustainability software solutions adhere to an outdated architecture that requires burdensome customization, training and investment, topped off with a prohibitive pricing model. With the current demand for sustainability disclosure, the industry begs disruption in the form of intuitive and inexpensive software-as-a-service (SaaS).

The good news is that a number of disruptive initiatives have emerged: CSRHub serves the investment community with SaaS solutions; Measurabl is tackling the real-estate market; and ecoOS has launched cost and clutter-cutting solutions for manufacturing industries. As these solutions are vetted by a wider user base, the sustainability community is expected to desert the vicious cycle of low-value reporting and enter a new era of sustainability-driven strategy and business value creation.

Image credit: Pexels

Noam Gressel is founder and CEO of ecoOS.

Maya Yarowsky is pursuing her Masters in Environmental Studies at Tel Aviv University and is a Marketing & Business Development Intern at ecoOS.

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One response

  1. Maya – I couldn’t agree more with the need to move beyond spreadsheets for sustainability data. I really like your list of the values that a good SAAS solution can bring. I’ve compiled a similar list here: http://www.scope5.com/blog/saving-brian-the-value-of-cloud-based-data-management/

    I’d like to add one more value and that’s the ability of a SAAS solution to lend structure to otherwise notoriously unstructured sustainability data.

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