Never before has such a staggering amount of data been available to procurement specialists, says Jaishiela Rajput, founder and CEO of a leading green economy value chain consultancy in South Africa. But, she explains to SmartProcurement, it can be overwhelming to determine what’s relevant for your supply chain and how to navigate the big data space.

The availability of the right type of data presents a key opportunity – effective data management can be a driving force for your organisation, giving you a leg up on the competition while working towards resilience and growth. It makes sense to take the time, and determine the right metrics that make sense for your business and align with relevant internal, customer, and global goals.

A bigger often missed aspect is the role and use of green data. Knowing your environmental footprint, understanding your resource consumption, the technologies and solutions you adopt, all tell an incredible data story. Threading these together makes for compelling decision making and shifts where it counts in your organisation, and within your supply chain. We are in an era where ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) frameworks have become of key investor focus. Collecting and leveraging green data can play a guiding strategic role, creating a highlight for investor focus.

Understanding the value chain and creating transparency
This is part of the key question on where to start and what would add value. The idea behind mapping the value chain would be to create transparency and understand where gaps are while devising effective ways to address these to make for greener supply chains. But what is the right section of the supply or value chain to focus on? That depends on the problem you’re trying to solve. If the issue is soil remediation, then looking at key areas from the point of breaking ground, processing and deposition all become areas of focus. The same holds true for operations and waste generation. Deciding on what steps need to be taken and areas of action is where effective data selection comes into play. What are the most relevant criteria? How to develop effective strategies while identifying and building up the weakest parts of the value chain? And most importantly, how do you prevent yourself from being caught off-guard?

What is the “right” data to collect?
The scope of possibilities is significant with technology offering vast opportunities for data gathering. At an ILO Big Data Symposium, presenters discussed mining social media to predict social unrest patterns and consequently, potential labour strike action. A predictor regarding social unrest comments as well as level of dissatisfaction is monitored – this clearly only works if workers and the communities in which they reside, are active on social media.
What about the amount of waste generated, energy and water consumed? – yes, yes and yes! Understanding in detail resource consumption and manufacturing patterns, not to mention impact areas, allow for implementation of more environmentally savvy solutions. It also gives us an opportunity to identify potential spin-off industries and their viability from a raw material supply perspective. Just look at the number of tyres needed and discarded at mining sites, as an example. Potential applications for the discarded tyres could include bitumen production for road surfacing, heat or electricity generation on site, to name just a few. A detailed exploration of the supply chain process and waste generated could yield similar applications, some of which have already been identified and put into practice.

What’s in it for you
Done well, effective data management and the tools that come with it, analytics and visualisation, can be a game-changer.

  • Full transparency
    Transparency builds trust. Data visualisation can help determine internal progress against targets, and external global impacts at a glance. This makes sense in a shifting landscape where stakeholders are demanding more visibility and authenticity. Using data to tell the story builds trust as you take an evidence-based approach.
  • Empowering decision-makers
    Data analytics mean access to key trends, holistic insights and strategic impacts. This, in turn, can be used to support sustainable investments into your organisation and across your supply chain.
  • Visual data analytics
    Turning data into information can inspire change. Your data tells a compelling story. This holds true whether you’re engaging with internal or external stakeholders. Evidence-backed stories are incredibly powerful as part of a strong narrative, especially when conveying changes, sharing ideas on new products or creating strategic pivots.
  • Benchmarking
    Analysing key data can increase efficacy, efficiency and profitability while benchmarking progress across your organisation, comparing your performance year-on-year, or even benchmarking against best in practice. Selection of the right type of metrics is critical to maximise value and impact.

Quick caveat
We all know the saying – garbage in, garbage out. It’s not enough to analyse or visualise your data. It’s critical that an effective data management system is utilised that accounts for checks and balances. Data veracity is critical. It’s good to trust but better to verify.

Here’s how to make your data work for you
Use operational and organisational data to track your progress and link to external impact indicators like the Sustainable Development Goals. Using green data is both incredibly valuable and massively underutilised. Understanding how it can create needed shifts, not only makes your organisation more resilient, it helps identify opportunities for growth.

Small changes you make now build to systemic change for your organisation. The first step is building the right system. Data management needs to be a key building block.

About the author
Dr Jaisheila Rajput is a Green Economy leader with a global perspective on the development of solutions for companies doing business in Africa. As founder and CEO of TOMA-Now | Tomorrow Matters Now, a leading green economy value chain consultancy, empowers others to develop economic models to inspire change in the way we do business. TOMA-Now’s client base extends across Africa, Asia and Europe, focusing on global collaboration towards a sustainable future for all. Jaisheila is also co-Founder of SDG Lab Africa, an innovative, collaborative space developed to understand, design, experiment and solve the most pressing sustainability challenges.
Contact: jaisheila.rajput@toma-now.com
www.toma-now.com