Why every business should be using web data to help minimise its carbon footprint

Or Lenchner CEO at Bright Data

After years of false starts and empty promises, averting the climate emergency has finally become a top priority for businesses. Leaders are now facing pressure from both consumers and investors to minimise their environmental impact alongside maximising profits – whether it’s reaching net-zero targets, reducing water use or minimising environmental pollution.

You might be surprised to learn that public web data can play a key role in helping businesses reach their environmental goals. Let’s take a closer look at how and why you should be paying attention to this booming phenomenon.

Introducing public web data collection

First thing’s first – what is public web data collection? In short, it’s the practice of collecting openly available online data at scale, using data-intelligent technologies and advanced web data collection products. The type of data collected depends on your business or orgnisational goals – it might include social sentiment data, pricing information, search engine results and more.

Businesses of all sizes are turning to public web data collection to uncover new insights and trends and, with that, enhance their overall results. The practice is already well established in the retail, fintech, advertising and travel sectors and is becoming significantly more common among security, healthcare and traditional financial services businesses. An established use case is large e-commerce industry players accessing competitors’ public pricing data to set more competitive prices. A more recently developed example is the use of social sentiment data by investment firms to take both pre-emptive (like short selling) and proactive (like buying long) measures on particular stocks.

Both these examples are about gaining a short-term economic advantage over competitors. But we’re now also seeing businesses harnessing the power of web data to inform their strategic environmental goals.

Using data intelligently

A recent Bright Data and Vanson Bourne survey of 250 US and UK businesses with over 500 employees reveals that almost all (96%) view environmental considerations as important to their business operations. Of these, eight in ten are currently working with partners to find new ways to use data to tackle climate change.

But where does this data come from? The survey shows that 69% of organisations are using big data generated by their own business operations, 59% use official statistics from publicly accessible sources, 48% opt for big data bought from data intermediaries, and 48% use public web data collected and structured by a collector platform.

Let’s look at how this works in practice. Consider the example of a hotel chain looking for a new supplier of cotton bed sheets and towels. The chain can harness the power of public web data to understand the environmental footprint of a whole spectrum of potential suppliers – gathering information on water stewardship, fertiliser and pesticide use, overall carbon emissions and even any pending lawsuits. Using this data, they can then select the most environmentally friendly supplier.

The road ahead

Though businesses across all sectors are making great progress in how they use data to support their environmental goals, there’s still a long way to go. Bright Data and Vanson Bourne’s survey reveals that just 31% of UK and 54% of US organisations have access to all the data they need to support environmental decision-making.

In terms of improving how they use data, 69% of respondents say they’d be able to enhance decision-making if they had better software for data collection and dissemination at their disposal. Meanwhile, 64% say dedicating more time and budget to data collection and access would help them make better decisions.

It’s also worth remarking on the enormous opportunity for businesses to boost their environmental performance by prioritising data transparency. The survey reveals that complete transparency is still relatively rare. For instance, just 38% of businesses currently make operational data related to the environment available to researchers. Though, interestingly, an additional 41% say they’d be willing to do so in the future. Similarly, just 33% say they currently share their environmental data with the general public, with an additional 42% saying they’d consider doing so in the future.

So, what’s next? Since it’s clear that data enables businesses to uncover fresh insights that improve and support their environmental goals, smart leaders have already abandoned the guesswork that underpins much of their environmental decision-making, and more will join. It’s only a matter of time when all will begin to rely on robust web data collection solutions and convenient pre-prepared data sets. Those that don’t risk making poor decisions hold back their environmental progress at this crucial time.

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