Building Sustainability Into Your Corporate Strategy: What the Data Tells Us

Worker pointing to Sustainability page on laptop with papers, glasses, and other workers around them

In the race to safeguard clean water, achieve net-zero emissions, transition to renewable energy sources, and respond to the many consequences of climate change, corporations need to make better progress on developing solutions to help address these critical issues.

Even with more than 70 countries setting net-zero targets and numerous corporations following suit, the world still remains “woefully off track” of meeting sustainability goals and climate action blueprints laid out in the United Nations’ (US) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Today’s environmental crises demand that corporations with significant resources—and therefore, influence—make data-informed strategies to improve sustainability.

By fully understanding real-time conversations people are having on digital platforms about energy, food, mobility, financial services, and other topics, companies and world leaders can leverage data to build sustainability into corporate infrastructure.


‘Now or Never’ in the Race Toward Climate Goals

Despite global urgency to prevent warming from exceeding 1.5 °C and avoiding the alarming scenarios outlined by scientists across the world, various governments and corporations need to drastically improve their environmental goals to meet their net-zero pledges, which are not currently sufficient.

While dozens of world leaders and private sector organizations have promised to balance their greenhouse gas emissions with removal processes, many fail to make tangible progress, according to the nonprofit As You Sow’s “Road to Zero Emissions” report. Many also lack urgency in embracing strategies set forth by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), 17 interconnected objectives addressing sustainability and systemic inequities by 2050.

Meanwhile, warming is expected to “more than double the 1.5-degree (Celsius, or 2.7-degrees Fahrenheit) limit” agreed upon in the historic 2015 Paris Agreement, UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned in a recent UN climate report. This has the potential of intensifying drought, hunger, and conflict worldwide.

Considering the disproportionate role certain industries have played in creating the current crisis, especially the fossil fuel and transportation sectors (100 fossil fuel companies are responsible for more than half of carbon emissions since 1751) it falls on the shoulders of heavy-emitting companies to transform their sustainability strategies—or as Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group III Co-Chair Jim Skea put it in the aforementioned UN report, it’s “now or never.”


Analyzing Sustainability Conversations by Industry

To better understand the issues communities are facing and to ensure sustainability initiatives succeed, it is vital that corporations leverage industry-specific real-time data technology, from energy and food, to mobility and financial services.

For instance, social understanding platforms such as Citibeats gather and intelligently interpret unstructured data from social media comments, blog posts, forum discussions, among others, generating timely insights about conversational trends, from sustainability to social risk.

Corporate strategists can easily and privately view these evolving, region-specific results on a streamlined web dashboard, where they can customize filters to display trends by country, gender, topic, date range, and more.

In its recent global analysis of trends in sustainable packaging, the platform yielded a number of insights:

Today’s environmental crises demand that corporations with significant resources—and therefore, influence—make data-informed strategies to improve sustainability.

In just a few weeks, Citibeats analyzed almost 800,000 sustainability-related opinions, with food (25.8%), energy sources (13%), mobility (10.2%), global warming (8.7%), regulation (8.4%), and biodiversity (8%) being leading topics in public relevancy as of early April, all of which are constantly evolving in real time.

From the analysis, Citibeats was able to learn that, for example, Paraguayans’ predisposition to recycle increased by 82% due to river pollution and fish prices:

“Mientras Paraguay no tenga una planta de tratamiento de residuos, y toda la basura cloaca incluida vayan a parar al río, seguiremos sufriendo estas catástrofes. Y muy pronto nos quedaremos sin acuífero, 50% por privatización y 50% por contaminación.”

“Esta hecho con material reciclado, pero decime donde consigo en Paraguay algo biodegradable que no salga más caro que el producto y soy el 1ero en comprar.”

From numerous opinions such as these, the software interpreted that ​​Paraguayans are concerned about plastic littering waterways and how such pollution impacts the health of fish, also directly affecting food security access. The platform also highlighted the perception that biodegradable packaging is more expensive than the product itself.

Additionally, Citibeats’ aforementioned analysis uncovered that American brands are most interested in paper bottles, followed by Canada and especially English-speaking provinces.

While still an emerging, niche topic, HP and Choose Manufacturing Co., and Dr. Pepper and Coca-Cola, are the most mentioned manufacturers and brands, respectively, according to the analysis. Seventy-two brand opinions regarding paper bottles were 61% positive, and the topic reflected a 100% increase in popularity between January and April.

By generating instant, itemized insights by industry about the prevalence of starvation, alternative energy solutions, transportation access, poverty, and more, corporations can effectively uncover specific trends, concerns, and disparities as they occur.

With a real-time pulse on the multitude of communities’ sustainability concerns, leaders can be empowered to intelligently build multifaceted strategies which account for constituents’ unique needs.


Leveraged Data as a Corporate Strategy Cornerstone

In order to urgently and effectively protect the environment, it is crucial for the private sector to devise robust sustainability strategies that are aligned with real-time populational feedback.

As such, corporations can capitalize on cutting-edge data technology when building sustainability into their infrastructure, proactively mitigating citizens’ real-time, lived challenges while aligning policies with SDG blueprints for climate action.

Although corporate conglomerates may rely on traditional surveys to understand the root of sustainability issues, these methods—while valuable—often take a while to produce, rendering community leaders unable to address important concerns in a timely manner.

Citibeats’ ethical artificial intelligence technology generates actionable insights 90 days faster than conventional means, enabling immediate access to 50 million voices annually from more than 85 countries worldwide, and seeking to curb inherent biases by sourcing data from a vast digital pool.

The UN has recently recognized the role of such data in addressing sustainability crises, dubbing it “the lifeblood of decision-making and the raw material for accountability” in its analysis titled “Big Data for Sustainable Development.”

“Today, in the private sector, analysis of big data is commonplace, with consumer profiling, personalised services, and predictive analysis being used for marketing, advertising and management,” it reads. “Similar techniques could be adopted to gain real-time insights into people’s wellbeing and to target aid interventions to vulnerable groups. New sources of data—such as satellite data—new technologies, and new analytical approaches, if applied responsibly, can enable more agile, efficient and evidence-based decision-making and can better measure progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in a way that is both inclusive and fair.”

Given the multipronged planetary upheaval facing the world today, it is essential that those with significant influence utilize the cutting-edge AI technology available to define robust, data-reliant corporate strategies and be a sustainability leader.

The shrinking timeline to prevent the most devastating impacts of climate change demands immediate action on all fronts to align with SDG initiatives and urgently seek the industry-specific data research available at our fingertips.

Citibeats is an ethical artificial intelligence platform leveraging social media commentary, blogs and forum discussions, and more, and interpreting unstructured data for social understanding. Our Sustainability and Social Risk Monitors shed light on millions of developing real-time conversations, empowering corporations and governments with actionable insights to shape sustainability strategies. Schedule a demo today to learn more.