4 Feb 20

Work in sustainability and drowning in spreadsheets? Here’s why you need a new approach

WaterSustainability reporting season is in full swing, and for some sustainability reporting professionals, this means spending the next two or three months drowning in spreadsheets and suffering from email fatigue.

With reporting requirements constantly increasing, a huge volume of data needs to be collected and reported across an organisation. Once collected, you are then faced with the daunting task of combining datasets from different business functions into something that can be interpreted, analysed and reported on.

As data gets more complex, using spreadsheets becomes cumbersome and there is a point where spreadsheets simply cannot handle the volume of data you need to report as part of your sustainability strategy.

Greenstone, through its award-winning sustainability management software, enables its clients to move away from spreadsheet outputs and time-consuming data collection; on to in-depth reporting and analysis and real decision-making. Based on our experience of helping our clients do this, below we have outlined five reasons why spreadsheets are not fit to manage your sustainability data.

Five reasons why spreadsheets are not fit to manage your sustainability data

1. Spreadsheets don’t do well with large datasets and formulae

It is likely that you will be dealing with large volumes of sustainability data collected from a long list of sources across your organisation. Putting all this data into a single spreadsheet can be a problem as Excel struggles with large file sizes. Whilst you can enter large volumes of data into Excel, you will find yourself waiting ages for it to perform even the simplest calculations and the files can be unstable and can easily crash.

Another factor that will affect the performance of your spreadsheet is the number of formulas and conditional formatting you use. As the complexity of your sustainability reporting increases with larger and larger datasets, you will find your formula-rich spreadsheets performing very slowly and eventually crashing.

2. Lack of multiple access user options

One of the most limiting factors when using spreadsheets to manage your sustainability data is the lack of multiple user access options. Excel was never built for multiple users and even with modern versions, it is completely impractical to have more than a limited number of users access a spreadsheet at once. Even with a small number of users accessing a single file at one time, there is an increased danger of data loss.

3. Lack of dashboards and reports

Excel can produce a number of reports, graphs and charts but they are limited and can easily become detached from automatic updates without clear indication. Sustainability management software can automatically produce reports for internal reporting purposes, as well as external reporting frameworks, at the click of a button.

The same goes for dashboards; Excel doesn’t come with dashboards, whereas sustainability management software comes packed with a variety of intuitive and customisable dashboards that multiple stakeholders within an organisation, whether software users or not, can access and easily understand.

4. Possibility of data corruption

Excel spreadsheets are inherently more unstable compared to other software solutions, so there is a much higher likelihood of data corruption. This can pose a serious risk if you are reliant on Excel as your main data calculation tool, even if you do create regular backups. Software-as-a-Service provides daily customer data backups and offsite storage in secure locations for longer retention.

5. Limited functionality

Purpose built sustainability management software is designed to be used for managing sustainability data and therefore the functionality tends to be intuitive, built for purpose and easy to use. Examples of this include industry specific calculations, such as parallel GHG calculations across location-based, residual-mix and market-based emissions reporting coming as standard functionality.   In Excel you’ll have to build all this functionality into your spreadsheet yourself, which can take quite a lot of work and a good degree of training to use.


Greenstone’s sustainability management software

Greenstone’s software provides a central online platform to collect, manage, analyse and report sustainability data across a complex global organisation. It has won numerous industry awards including Top Product of the Year 2018 and 2019 (Environmental Leader), and Sustainability Product of the Year 2018 and 2019 (Business Intelligence Group).

Our software automates the collection of your sustainability data from a wide range of sources including energy, transport, waste, water and fugitive gases. All data is then processed automatically to track consumption and calculate the associated carbon emissions using recognised international standards including GHG Protocol, Defra, Bilan Carbone, NGA and CGGI. 

Our sustainability management software includes a wide range of analysis dashboards and reports with the ability to set meaningful targets and track performance and can be used for internal reporting processes, as well as to report against global reporting frameworks including CDP, GRI Standards, DJSI, SECR, the EU non financial reporting directive and UNGC. Greenstone is a software partner of CDP and GRI, providing accredited content in a platform for integrated reporting.

Interested in exploring how our award-winning sustainability management software could streamline your sustainability reporting? Talk to us or sign up for a software demo.

Sustainability software demo - Greenstone Awards 2019