Management

Data and CSR: Can big data save the world?

We all know what « big data » is: Data sets so wide they are very complicated to deal with using traditional processing tools. But providing we find a way to analyse and synthetize these data, they are incredibly valuable when it comes to understanding a current situation, finding areas of improvement, or forecasting new dynamics.

Big data is often linked with capitalism, sometimes science, but mainly with big corporations trying to play the new « big brother ». But did you know Big Data is also a way to help save humanity and the planet? From forecasting epidemics to helping encounter climate change, big data can really change the world.

And today, who gathers more data and information than big corporations? From loyalty cards, to information systems or cookies on their website, big company’s possess probably more data than all the research centre in the world. And they also happen to be the main actors of the environmental and social change we are facing. Therefore, how can big data help corporation improve their Corporate Responsibility strategies? Here a few examples to illustrate the latest tendency in the CSR field.

 

A greener business: from production to commercialization and waste management.

 

Thanks to real time data agregator and forecasting tools, company using big data are now able to predict with more efficiency how much stock they need to supply to their factories and when they need to ship them for example. They reduce their carbon emissions by reducing transportation and by ordering the exact amount of product they need they diminish their energy consumption implied by stocks and their waste as well. In other words these tools help them both save money and reduce their impact on the environment. The consulting firm Accenture, has released a report on this topic, explaining in details all the ways Big Data is changing the supply chain and making it greener. Their work shows for example that Big Data seem to increase the efficiency of their supply chain by 10 to 36%! Big Data has impacts on every pillar of a CSR strategy, even topics such as wellbeing at work or equality in the workplace. Some implementation of Big Data in CSR strategies have become case studies in the universities around the world.

 

Opening up the scope of possibilities

 

On top of enabling corporations to make the most of the data at their disposal, it creates a dynamic which multiplies upon contact with new technologies or open source platforms. For example, the internet of things combined with big data has enabled start-ups like the Netatmo to come up with smart thermostats which predict the amount of energy needed and regulates the heathers. This technology is as useful for companies as it is to individuals like you and me. The firm advertises a reduction of energy consumption by 20%.

The scope of possibilities has become so wide the UN has launched an international competition called “Data for Climate Action”. One of last year’s winner was a project called “Aclimate Colombia”. They came up with a tool, a decision support system, based on data sets related to the weather, the market and many other topics to help rice cultivators manage their crops and avoid shortages. Big Data can be ground-breaking in so many ways and on so many levels.

The UN competition

In-a nutshell, this post gives a general overview of what Big Data and generally speaking the digital world can bring to the fight for a more ethical world, and especially more ethical business practices. New technologies, Internet and all the digital tools and platforms we know are disrupting the way we live and do business and can also bring their challenges such as data privacy, massive energy consumption implied by the cloud and many other topics that we are going to discover together through series of articles.

 

Inès Seddiki
CSR Analyst

About the author

Inès SEDDIKI