Excel vs. digital ESG platforms: Big data requires fresh thinking

26 January 2023 


We are well and truly in the age of big data. No matter your business’s sector, location or size, your data needs will have grown exponentially over the last decade. With that growth comes the need for change; many businesses still use older tools that aren’t built specifically for their needs, like Microsoft Excel.

Excel is still widely used in business and fulfils multiple purposes – accounting, stock taking and wider data storage being common uses. However, when it comes to storing, tracking and analysing your ESG data, it has a multitude of pitfalls you need to be aware of.

We’re not suggesting you stop using Excel as it can be an effective tool for short-term data capture. But when creating an effective ESG strategy, you will benefit from implementing a tool designed specifically for ESG data storage and analysis.

Below we look at some scenarios where you might want to avoid using Excel for data storage and tracking your ESG metrics.

You shouldn’t use Excel if…

The volume of data you keep is only going to increase.

There are limitations on just how much data you can store and control in Excel, so as your data volume increases, Excel can become sluggish and slow.

What’s more, Excel isn’t designed with historical data storage in mind meaning software updates and changes to accommodate data size over time can result in system crashes and the loss of your precious data. It can also make it near impossible to spot those all-important trends and patterns in your data that are crucial for implementing any successful ESG strategy and well-thought-out business decision-making processes.

With a specifically designed platform like Sustainion, you know you will always have space, and updates won’t compromise stored data, allowing you to spot longer-term trends and patterns in your data. This is important when you’re developing data sets from multiple sites and locations within a region or even globally.

Accessing, interpreting and acting on data is crucial.

Excel isn’t designed and packaged as a single pane of glass solution, far from it. Finding, extracting and interpreting your data from Excel can be a laborious and painstaking task. Skilled Excel users should be able to navigate around its rows and columns to a certain extent, but it could be more user-friendly in how software tools specifically designed for this task are.

If you are looking to store manageable data that can be reported on and analysed to influence and shape an effective ESG strategy, alongside reporting in a standardized and transparent format then Sustainion can help; it’s designed to offer a greater scope of data manipulation, advanced analytics and real-time data visualisation.

Think of Excel as a forest of raw data – with a proper tool in place to complement it, you can make sense of all that data in real time.

Your time is critical.

When it comes to the multitude of categories and high volume of data you’ll need to be tracking to inform your ESG strategy, you’ll need something built for just that task. Excel can be time-consuming and requires a lot of manual input, which is prone to human error. Whereas, Sustainion allows you to match every piece of data you input to an automatically assigned ESG category – dramatically decreasing the risk of human error and saving you time.

Multiple users and security are essential.

When you share data in Excel, users have access to everything. There is no way of assigning how much data a user can see or edit, meaning the integrity of data held on a centralised Excel file can be compromised.

The only way to avoid this is to have multiple Excel files for various data sets, making managing and using your data even more complex. With Sustainion you can assign an unlimited number of users different admin roles – allowing access to as little or as much of the data as you want for each person – there are no limits.

Unlike Excel, Sustainion allows you to keep a log of user activity and is fully encrypted and password protected so you can have peace of mind that your data is not being compromised.

Are you ready to digitise your ESG journey?

Sustainion is specifically designed for tracking your ESG journey, with specific calculations for areas like emissions factors built into the platform. It’s also built around your ESG frameworks, making it intuitive and easy to use for compliance. If these frameworks change over time, Sustainion is designed to simplify editing and adjusting.

There is undoubtedly a place for Excel as a supporting tool for more advanced technology platforms. But Excel should be seen as a complementary tool for short-term data capture, not a comprehensive database. ESG data needs to be tracked over decades, not months, so having a platform that can aggregate years worth of data and make it easy to digest is vital for spotting opportunities for growth.

Where long-term, effective ESG strategy is concerned, you will benefit from opting for an ESG-designed tool like Sustainion.

Contact our team to find out more or request your free demo.

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