Sustainability is increasingly a topic of conversation in the boardroom because company leaders are realizing the value that sustainability can bring. This higher profile is great for sustainability directors, and it also increases the importance of setting the right goals, managing performance, and reporting accurately to leadership.

High quality, relevant sustainability data is the key to unlocking and growing this strategic relevance. Without good data, you risk missing the data party as our colleague JD Capuano describes in a deep dive on the topic.

Companies need better solutions

A big challenge sustainability directors face is the gap between reporting needs and existing capabilities: outdated systems, cookie-cutter software, and spreadsheet-based surveys just don’t cut it anymore. Companies need a comprehensive cloud-based solution to centralize sustainability data collection from across the enterprise. Moreover, systems need to be flexible enough to handle unique organizational needs and smart enough to roll up accurate and validated data. On the analysis and reporting side, a good solution helps directors navigate the ever-expanding maze of sustainability reporting requirements and standards in order to achieve external transparency goals.

Three common mistakes

Consider a sustainability director’s ultimate goal of strategic relevance as analogous to a person’s 10 mile commute to work, with the ultimate goal of arriving as quickly and efficiently as possible.

  • Using outdated software or a homemade spreadsheet-based collection method is like locking your keys in the house and having to walk the 10 mile commute. Yes, you might eventually get there but it won’t be quick or efficient, and you’ll arrive burnt out. Achieving strategic relevance should not be slow or arduous.
  • Using an expensive software tool with all the bells and whistles “even the ones you don’t need“ is like driving to work in a Ferrari when a decent Nissan will do. You’ll get there, but too many resources will be tied up in your vehicle. And if you need service, expect to pay dearly.
  • Using a cookie-cutter software solution that cannot handle the nuances of your company, industry, and your specific reporting requirements is like having a GPS system that routes you into traffic gridlock. Invariably you’ll get stuck on a key issue

Strategic Relevance: How to get there

Ultimately the best data collection and reporting solution optimizes across both vehicle type and route. The most resource-efficient way to achieve strategic relevance is to implement a solution that:

    1. centralizes sustainability data collection from across the enterprise,
    2. collects the right data using cloud software,
    3. ensures data completeness and validity, and
    4. provides flexible reporting and output solutions to help you manage complex external and internal reporting needs.

John Haugen is Co-founder & Sustainability Strategist at New York-based Third Partners, a boutique sustainability strategy group. Reach out at this link or contact (at)