Data’s role in ESG
Firstly, data is a key aspect of the ‘G’ in ESG: governance. It’s evidence of your business’ transparency; it’s integral to your ability to identify and tackle your ESG issues, and it influences your ability to make the right business decisions for your investors, society and the environment. Secondly, data is vital to understand your environmental and social impact, providing insight for reporting on a wide range of issues, from carbon emissions and water stress to exploitation and corruption.
For that all of that data to be available and accurate as and when it’s needed, your organisation needs to have grass-roots data ownership. That means changing your business’ culture to ensure that the right people are accountable for data – and collectively embrace its importance.
Data users vs Data owners: understanding the difference
A data user is someone that can access data, extract information from it, and use it to make decisions in their role. This is a good first step, as it allows people to understand the value of data and its importance to them. It is not, however, the same as data ownership.
A data owner is someone who has responsibility for data, deciding who can access, edit and use it. In the past, data owners may have been part of an organisation’s IT team, but today, data owners should be integrated into the business and understand how data is used in specific departments, for specific functions. It’s ultimately the data owner’s responsibility to make sure that data quality is maintained, and data processes are followed.
Yet organisational data ownership should go beyond appointing a few key data owners. A good data management strategy should encourage a sense of data ownership in every employee that comes into contact with data, allowing them to interact with data responsibly. Data ownership empowers people to recognise what good data looks like – and influence its quality.
When it comes to ESG, this is especially important, as having a deeper understanding of data can have a positive impact on ESG-related decision making and reporting at every level – while widespread data ownership makes good quality data available across the business.