Data becomes knowledge: The Sustainability Manager creates an overview of the sustainability data

Data is part of the solution and at the same time one of the biggest challenges when it comes to sustainability. They provide companies with important information – for example about emissions values ​​or the status of specific sustainability initiatives.

On the other hand, making all relevant data available and generating knowledge from it is a complex task. After all, sustainability is a cross-cutting issue. It affects a variety of different departments and systems. The data that needs to be collected from different silos in turn varies.

Software that was not originally developed for this task is often used for this purpose. An example of this is spreadsheet software, which offers reliable support in many office applications. But when it comes to collecting and evaluating sustainability data, they are reaching their limits.

Gaining the necessary knowledge in this way is time-consuming and error-prone. It could become a problem. Meanwhile, at least for larger companies, there is an obligation to include data on sustainability in their annual reports — another reporting obligation toward existing reports. Even if sustainability initiatives bring a lot of benefits – such as savings in energy consumption – they initially mean extra work for responsible employees.

Therefore systems are necessary to facilitate their work and make information from the data as easily and automatic as possible.

With Microsoft you want to meet exactly these requirements. The IT company provides solutions on the platform that companies can use to tackle specific tasks within the main topic of sustainability. Providing Software as a Service (SaaS) and updates should be used as complex as possible.

The first solution offered is the Sustainability Manager, which aims to ensure that data is no longer a challenge. Thus, Microsoft offers a package of ready-made functions and tools on the topic of emissions. These include emissions management features, libraries, account profiles, and visualization options.

“We offer a so-called shared data model that contains certain context-relevant entities,” says Christoph Schenick, director of the Sustainability Program at Microsoft. This means: for specific areas such as production sites or business trips, user companies can use pre-defined conversion factors to make the corresponding emissions visible.

In order to collect data at all, Microsoft provides more than 200 different connectors. These can be used to connect a company’s distributed systems, such as ERP or MES solutions.

Since the Sustainability Manager provides both the data model and its associated conversion factors, the solution actually relieves users of a large part of the work. Because collecting data is one thing; Generating information from this that says something about sustainability in a company is an entirely different field.

Thanks to the Sustainability Manager, those responsible for sustainability can now view not only the entire company’s CO2 footprint; It is also possible to see how emissions are distributed across individual sites or production processes, for example. Power BI integration makes this possible.

Another simplification: tasks can be automated. For example, the system automatically loads certain data according to a rhythm set by the user.

This automation is relatively easy to implement since Sustainability Manager is an app that belongs to a family. These are distinguished by the fact that they are low-code/no-code applications. Little or no programming knowledge is required to customize the application.

The results are then displayed via the dashboard. “Visualization gives the user a complete overview of their sustainability data,” explains Schenek. “Dashboards can also be integrated into Teams, PowerPoint, or other applications.” This means that the Sustainability Manager is not just a tool for sustainability or data science experts. “Even for the chief of operations, such a presentation provides important information.”

However, data visualization is not enough when it comes to sustainability. The actions that follow are crucial. So Microsoft has also integrated the option to start actions automatically in the solution. “The sustainability manager not only shows that emissions have increased or decreased. It also shows who is responsible for it,” says Schenick. “And if a resource, for example, is particularly emission-intensive, the process in the system that starts once the KPI is exceeded can be identified.” This can then send a team message or email to the resource.

Schenek already addresses the fact that with a Sustainability Manager, data outside of company boundaries can also be included in the calculations. This includes, for example, suppliers, but also emissions that arise when using manufactured products. “It is in these areas specifically that sustainability considerations are really complex,” Schenick says.

Since the requirements in different industries are also complex, Microsoft works with different partners as well to integrate industry-specific data. For example, provider Blue Yonder provides data from logistics to the Sustainability Manager via a connector. ABB integrates its energy management solution. The Sustainability Manager will be expanded in the future. Then it will also be possible to incorporate data on waste or water into the calculations.

The tool’s current capabilities are already being used by the technical and operational teams responsible for the Las Vegas Raiders football stadium. Among other things, they use a sustainability manager to analyze weather data and regulate the temperature in the stadium in the most energy-efficient way – not an easy task for a sports facility in the middle of the desert. But according to engineer Joe Wright, this probably worked. The tool proved “that our cooling system is not only the most efficient system in this part of the country, but also very economical to operate”.

By the way, you can get your own impression of Microsoft Sustainability Manager with the trial version, which is provided to you free of charge for 30 days.

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