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Effective & Simple: a data-driven route towards sustainability

How to tackle sustainability challenges effectively? With a data-driven approach. So you know how to use your resources efficiently. And get the results you aim for. Co-founder Joost explains how and why data-driven sustainability works.

At Hedgehog Company, we guide organisations towards sustainability. And not just any sustainability, but data-driven sustainability. This way, we make sustainability clear and manageable. And this approach reveals what steps you can take to effectively make your organisation future-proof. In the interview below co-founder Joost tells you why this approach towards sustainability is so effective and simple.

Joost, tell us, what is data-driven sustainability?

Co-founder Joost

“Data-driven sustainability is an approach towards sustainability, based on insights from data about your actual impact on the environment. You determine this impact, for example, by conducting a Life Cycle Assessment or calculating your carbon footprint.

During my studies in Sustainable Business & Innovation, I heard the following quote: "You can't manage what you don't measure" (Peter Drucker). Our interpretation of this is that you can only, efficiently and effectively, make sustainable changes if you have a precise understanding of your current situation.

This is what our approach in data-driven sustainability does for an organisation: providing insights into your current business situation, your starting point. How is your current situation regarding sustainability? And what is your impact on the environment right now?

With that data and insights, you then determine your sustainable end-goal. And based on the insights from this process, it also becomes clear how you can work towards that destination. What steps do you need to take now, to operate sustainably as a company in the future?

This is how we see the path to sustainability: without a starting point, you don’t have a destination. And the data is your route description. Just like you use a GPS when you go on vacation, to guide you. Sustainability is also a journey, where you need to have a direction in order to reach your destination via the best route.”

And what is the opposite of data-driven sustainability?

“For many people, sustainability is a big, complex, and overwhelming topic. People don't know where to start. And for many people, sustainability is more of a "gut-feeling thing”. Someone once told you something about sustainability, or you have a certain feeling or assumption about what is sustainable, and these factors steer your behavior.

But if you don't measure and accurately determine your current impact first, then your efforts to become sustainable are just guesswork. And often, it turns out you focus on the wrong aspects.

For example, I often hear customers who think their biggest impact comes from the packaging or distribution of their product. While nine out of ten times, this is not the case; it's just the tip of the iceberg, and a large part of their impact is not visible at first glance.

Often, greater impact is, for example, in the product design: what materials do you use to assemble your product? And how are those materials interconnected to make up your product? When a company provides a service, the largest impact often lies in scope 3 emissions. Think of commuting, business travel, and procurement for the cafeteria and office. 

Customers are often surprised when we present them with their hotspots (the areas with the most impact). They are glad that through the insights from their data, they now know where the opportunities for actual improvement can be found. “

So data-driven sustainability makes your impact truly visible?

“Absolutely, with our calculation-methods and analyses, we make your actual impact on the environment visible. We base ourselves on your factual situation. We translate all the inputs and outputs of your organisation into your impact on the environment.

For this, we need data such as electricity consumption in kilowatt-hours, natural gas in cubic meters, fuel consumption of your fleet in liters, the bill of materials of your products, energy consumption during production, production losses, electricity consumption of electric cars and data centers in kilowatt-hours, and so on and so forth. 

Our calculation and reporting methods are all in line with well-known standards, such as ISO 14040/14044, ISO 14072, ISO 14064, GHG-protocol, PCAF, etc. We are more precise than many of our other colleagues, because we use a self-devised 'data hierarchy.' In this hierarchy, we try to collect as much activity-based data as possible and avoid insights based on financial data.

This makes our results much more accurate for the organisation's specific characteristics and activities, and therefore more valuable for setting up efficient sustainability strategies.

And once you know how you are currently performing, you can determine how to improve and set targets for the future, your KPIs. An LCA or a carbon footprint is a good foundation for this.

One significant advantage of this data-driven approach is that it is effective; you can effectively allocate your resources where they will yield the most results. I'm talking about money, but also about time. It is a waste if a company, for example, focuses heavily on their packaging and distribution, while this isn’t the aspect where they can achieve the greatest environmental gains.”

And how does Hedgehog collaborate with its clients?

“We work in three steps: "Start assessing. Start planning. Start implementing”.
This is how we tackle sustainability challenges, step by step.

We conduct the measurements, and often we see that from there an organisation can take the next steps on their own. Because everything becomes so clear, that they can proceed efficiently based on these insights. The puzzle pieces start falling into place. We then continue working together with the client to assess the resources and needs and determine how we can further guide and support them.

So we present all the knowledge and insights about sustainability performance, making the hotspots visible - the areas where the greatest environmental impact occurs. And those are the areas you can then address. And the client knows their product or service best themselves. For example, how is the product designed? What alternative materials can be used? Or what cannot be changed, without compromising quality? What alternative options are available within the supply chain?”

Why should a company embark on their route towards data-driven sustainability?

“Because this is simply the way, for effectively becoming sustainable. Only when you know your impact on the environment, you can minimise this impact. It often feels like an investment (one you want to avoid) addressing this topic, but it is an efficient investment of your resources.

The insights from our measurements and calculations are crucial; they are your route description to reach your sustainable destination, without costly detours. We are the GPS that gives your organisation its location and route description for the journey towards sustainability.”

Wondering how the data-driven approach can work for your organisation?

Contact Joost to find out more:

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