While many businesses recognize the importance of sustainability, not enough are investing in a strategic plan powered by data. How can companies place benchmarks on and distill this often obscure information into actionable insights?

As part of the Thought Leaders channel on the openSAP platform, SAP and the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA®) are working to help answer this question through a free online course, “Improving Confidence in Sustainability Performance Data.”

The course will walk learners through the COSO Internal Control–Integrated Framework, and how it can apply to both financial and non-financial data such as sustainability. By taking this tactical approach to sustainability data, organizations can create a cause-and-effect picture of how their initiatives are both boosting efficiencies, and more importantly, doing good for the surrounding environment.

Identifying Inefficiencies

Sustainability data provides a deeper view into the resources a company is using, and how they are being used. For example, a company may be purchasing a standard quantity of paper for operational purposes on a monthly basis. Without paying attention to how and if this paper is being used, a business could be overspending by the thousands, and contributing to larger environmental issues.

Data provides hard proof of these inefficiencies, and can inform a strategy that incentivizes employees to go paperless. These small changes will create large shifts over time, and through reporting, reductions in waste and increases in efficiency can be quantified to help boost a company’s bottom line.

Appealing to Millennials

A focus on sustainability becomes more important as more millennials make their way into key stakeholder positions like investors, consumers, employees, and prospective talent. Studies have shown that 81 percent of this generation expects their favorite brand to prove their acts of corporate citizenship, and are two times more likely to invest in companies who prioritize social and environmental change. As such, these decision makers are increasingly turning to sustainability data to inform their interactions with, and trust of the organizations that they interact with.

In order to build lasting relationships with these stakeholders, businesses must find ways to measure their qualitative sustainability data, and showcase it through digestible reporting. Not only do sustainability reports boost a stakeholder’s confidence in the results that companies are delivering, they also provide a springboard for feedback, and facilitate a conversation that will help inform investments in the causes that resonate with a business’s key audiences.

At SAP, we’re doing just that though our purpose and promise, and are investing in initiatives that are relevant to our customers, investors, employees, and the many communities we occupy. This transparency goes a long way in strengthening relationships both internally and externally.

It has become increasingly clear that the impact-driven organization isn’t a passing trend — it has become the cornerstone to a successful business model. By analyzing sustainability data as if it were financial data, companies can formulate a strategy to achieving goals that not only improve their bottom line, but also make a positive impact on the surrounding environmental and social landscape.

If you are a finance or accounting professional, or are interested in sustainability, internal control, and integrated reporting, we hope that you will join Improving Confidence in Sustainability Performance Data on September 4, 2018.

Additional details on enrollment can be found here.

Michaela Laemmler is the global head of openSAP.

Top image via IMA.