ESG covers a vast array of topics, which means that one of the most challenging parts of the job can be gathering all the different types of data needed to accomplish your goals. From sensitive social data to potentially hard-to-manage electricity bills, ESG data can span departments, business systems, and even organizations (if you work with different operating partners).
If you are not sure how to gather all the information you need, don’t despair. More likely than not, some of the data your ESG program depends on is already being collected within your organization. Your mission is to determine who has access to it, how you can collect it, and the frequency with which it needs to be collected for ESG reporting and other use cases.
To help you on your way, we’ve compiled nine key steps and best practices to help you identify the ESG data you already have – and communicate and collaborate with the appropriate teams to collect it.
Step 1: Identify the Types of Data Needed
To start, outline the high level types of data you need and the associated use cases. For example: you will need energy data for all the buildings in your portfolio for annual ESG disclosures, benchmarking compliance, and any other ESG reports (example below).
Step 2: Identify Existing Data Sources
Chances are, the ESG data you are looking to collect may already reside somewhere. Thus, the next step is to identify internal systems where data might be housed and the specific users and/or departments that have access. This can help you figure out who you might need to contact to gain access to the data you need (example below). See our gap analysis template for a deeper dive.
Step 3: Provide Context, Be Specific – and Don’t Be Afraid to Involve Management
When emailing different teams to gather information, identify data sources, or request data pulls, the more specific you can make your request, the more likely it is you will get a response. Providing context can make all the difference, especially when it comes to ESG (where there is often a learning curve). If it makes sense to do so, CCing your manager or other executive stakeholders can also be a good tactic for improving response rates from other departments. See the example email template below:
Dear Boston Asset Management Team,
The Sustainability Team, in conjunction with the [Company] ESG steering committee, is conducting an ESG data collection activity to survey the business data we already have internally that can be used for ESG programming and reporting, pending approval.
For example: for the GRESB reporting framework, we are required to report monthly electricity data for all of our buildings between [X time frame]. To avoid duplicating efforts, would you please help us identify the best source for this data, how often it is currently collected, how you currently use it, and for what purpose(s)?
Step 4: Automate Data Collection Where Possible
After you survey your data sources, identify what data you can easily automate – and find technology to help. There are many options available for automating data capture, so understanding different data collection approaches (with an eye towards the specific needs, characteristics, and lease structures in place across the assets in your portfolio) is key.
Need to tailor an ESG data capture approach for your portfolio? Aquicore can help. We're experienced in building data strategies that ensure coverage for every asset. Get in touch with us to learn more about our data solutions here.
Step 5: Delegate ESG Data Management Responsibilities
If you find that an internal team is already collecting and organizing the specific data you need, don’t be afraid to ask them to help. Work with them to understand how the data is currently being collected and managed, and brainstorm ways it can be centralized and made accessible for ESG reporting purposes as well. You may even decide to delegate and ask them to “own” this part of the ESG data management process while also granting you access so you can pull the data you need at any given time. If you need to lean on your executive team to create an added layer of urgency, don’t hesitate.
Step 6: Don’t Forget to Talk to Your Engineers!
For energy management and related building-level data, building engineers are a wealth of valuable information. They may even already be using a system to house the data you might need about specific building attributes, such as building equipment or building certifications, as well as electricity and gas consumption data (among others).
Step 7: Sync with those Responsible for Local Energy Benchmarking Compliance
It is also important to note that depending on their jurisdiction, your buildings may be subject to local energy benchmarking ordinances. This means that somebody at your organization may already be collecting and submitting energy data to comply with the relevant ordinances each year. Since much of the data needed for energy benchmarking is also needed for ESG reporting, make sure to sync with the teams in question so as to not duplicate processes.
Step 8: Set up Schedules for Manual Data Collection
In some cases, you may still need to manually collect data. Make it easy on yourself (and ensure you will remember when the time comes) by drafting a schedule that includes reminders to:
(Setting up recurring calendar appointments for any ongoing data-related tasks can also be a helpful practice; this ensures you will receive alerts as you normally would.)
Step 9: Centralize and Organize the Data You Have
Be it a comprehensive database, well-organized spreadsheets, or excellent document management practices, creating a system that ensures you know where things are (and that they are easy to find at a moment’s notice) is critical. While technology can offer a boost in this area, spreadsheets and shared files that are clean and easy to navigate will also go a long way. In addition to raw datasets, we also recommend saving copies of corresponding emails in case you need to refer back to something later.
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: ESG takes a village, and can often feel a bit like herding cats – especially when you’re just getting started. Keep these tips in mind if they prove useful along the way and don’t be afraid to adjust as needed.
Want a deeper dive on ESG data collection? Check out our free guide to ESG data management for more tips and tricks to help you increase data coverage and get the information you need.