Using Data Storytelling for Your Sustainability Initiative

Every successful business collects some form of data to make sound decisions with. As much as images and words can attract customers, data can convince. Data is power if you can tell it with a story. For a sustainable business, data storytelling is the one tool you don't want to miss.

Understand the "Who" and the "What"

To communicate your sustainability story effectively, you need to know who is looking at your data and what they intend to takeaway from it?

You just adopted a major sustainable initiative of using only recycled or FSC-certified paper at your office. Your investor may be interested in including it on a standardized ESG report, your employees may like to feel a part of your sustainability initiative, while your customers may want to engage in conversations about them with their peers.

Notice how all of the stakeholders above are talking about the same initiative you took, just in different ways. Naturally, their needs are different too, and it is up to you to meet them. Focus on what matters to your audience.

Like any storytelling, data stories cannot be a one-size-fits-all solution, which is why our work is always tailored to meet your stakeholder's unique needs.

To do this right, you need to be able to the same story is different ways. This is where a good understanding of your stakeholders comes in handy. At Energy Scalable, we support our partners by creating inclusive stakeholder engagement for sustainability initiatives and helping share the data story behind it.

Get Answers by Organizing Your Data

As sustainability practitioners, we often hear that "We don't have this data because we do not track it." You may not have it organized but the truth is you have "data", more than you can imagine.

Let's see a simple example of your utility bill. At a first glance, your monthly bill shows energy usage every day of the month, rate that you pay, and your average energy demand to name a few. Track the bills over a year, and you get a data pattern. With a deeper look. you get a better insight to your energy behavior over time.

A utility bill is like the pandora box of insight into your energy consumption needs and preferences, operating schedules, and even your credit worthiness.

Since sustainability initiatives are intended to be long term, data when tracked over time for such programs can develop meaningful insights about your operations and customers.

Whether you use an excel sheet, a database, or cloud-based software to collect data, pertinent information might get lost if it is not organized. Organized data is called information - in other words, you can't inform someone if there is no organization.

As much as organization is important, data correctness is key. If you have missing data or worse inaccurate data, you are better off not using it for your story or for any other purpose for that matter.

You are likely to get the most accurate and authentic data closest to the data source. The further away you get from the source, the more diluted or inaccurate it could become.

Make Data Interactive

Gone are the days when excel sheets and powerpoints could do the trick. Perhaps dashboards could still be convincing in a boardroom, but are they powerful enough to engage on a human level? Can they attract a new customer, retain an existing one or engage a business partner? The short answer is no.

Communciation is a two-street and simply presenting information using words and numbers or excel charts and dashboards is not enough to build meaningul connections.

According to a 2014 research study by Liu and Heer on users engagement with interactive graphics, a delay of a half a second affected how a a viewer engaged with the graphic. They found these users were also more likely to comment verbally on the interface.

You can help amplify the impact of your sustainability initiatives with data stories through interactive animations, charts, infographics, and interfaces where your target audience can find and filter data based on their needs and get tailored content.

We as humans are always searching for a story worth sharing, let it be yours. With data, you can do more than just showing numbers, you can start a conversation. Reach out to us to see how we can help you build compelling data stories for your sustainability initiatives.

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Research Reference:

The Effects of Interactive Latency on Exploratory Visual Analysis. Zhicheng Liu and Jeffrey Heer, 2014.



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