Here at SustainIt, we are passionate about the value and importance of collecting accurate and reliable data within organisations. Leadership teams that have a wealth of meaningful data at their fingertips are more equipped to make better decisions and navigate challenges with confidence. Equally, having such data allows organisations to create transparency and openness about supply chains and processes, which often leads to deeper relationships with employees and consumers.
But collecting and analysing your data is only the first stage. To create change, this data must be brought to life visually. Graphic and visual representation is a vital component that many organisations fail to execute when thinking about sustainability reporting. The ability to translate complex and data heavy processes into simple and elegant visuals can be the difference between success and failure when it comes to board level reviews and interpretations.
In this article, we delve into data visualisation and how to use it effectively within your sustainability reporting and analysis.
What is Data Visualisation?
Data visualisation is a term used to describe the graphic and visual representation of data. This helps to transform vast data points into digestible summaries that both board rooms and consumers can understand.
Graphics and visualisations help to dive deep into organisational data and present trends and themes throughout. In relation to sustainability data, this is extremely powerful as it can help show progress over time or compare to external benchmarks. It can also bring KPIs and internal metrics to life, helping attribute company wide impacts for specific project goals.
As “big data” becomes more influential within business and the ability to leverage new data points becomes easier, without effective visualisation this data simply becomes overwhelming and unusable in real-world contexts.
Using Data Visualisation to Drive Business Results
Below, we’ve outlined a handful of tips to help you get more from your data visualisation.
A key factor in data visualisation is thinking about your audience and who you are trying to engage. The target audience needs to be considered from day 1 to ensure the style and representation resonates with them.
For customers, motion graphics could really bring key points home and help translate a whole year’s worth of data into a few seconds of graphics. Did your organisation contribute to the planting of trees? If so, instead of simply writing that you helped plant 1,000 trees this year, turning this into a motion graphic that shows 1,000 trees growing and the wider impact this has, is likely to have more of a lasting impression with customers. Such a visualisation could be used on social media and within marketing campaigns.
In relation to stakeholder engagement, for data visualisation to be effective it may need to include more details and bring in other data points (such as profitability) within the representation. Stakeholders may want to see more visualisation around the specifics, e.g. were certain teams more effective than others. Similarly, interactive graphics may be beneficial so teams and stakeholders can enter new data points to see how that impacts end results. This can be incredibly powerful for predictive modelling or trying to plan future campaigns.
These subtle nuances are vital for creating compelling and effective arguments with organisational data.
The tools used to turn raw data into visuals will largely influence the overall appearance and format of your reporting.
From specific features to usability, there are all sorts of things to consider when deciding what tools to use for data collection and visualisation. Here at SustainIt, we have all the tools you need to transform your data into formats (such as infographics) that are easy to understand, insightful and inspiring, and give key stakeholders across your business the means to understand the data in an easy to digest and informative way.
Our sister company, GoMarketWise, is also worth considering and offers personalised software recommendations depending on your preferences. It’s free to use and only takes a few minutes to generate your results.
Look and Feel
Your marketing department are likely to be very familiar with brand guidelines and messaging but it’s important that so is everyone else creating reports and sharing data visuals. The consistency in branding and the style of reporting, whether for internal or external use, can be highly effective at creating change.
Reports that simply don’t match the ethos and culture of an organisation could potentially be disadvantaged when it comes to engaging stakeholders.
This ties in with the overall aim of the organisation and ensuring any visual data links back to that underlying theme of what the company is trying to achieve.
What is the goal of the project?
Is it to shed light on the current success of sustainability targets or to highlight challenges ahead and a need for further investment in this department?
Such questions may influence how the data is collected and represented. Any overarching themes can be discussed throughout so it is clear what decisions and actions need to be taken from it.
Understanding these goals from the start can help ensure any graphic visuals are used in the most effective way possible. Having clear goals also helps ensure the right data is collected too.
Great reporting is about storytelling. It needs to follow the same structure as a gripping story, keeping stakeholders, employees or customers engaged throughout. Failure to do so will ultimately mean the data doesn’t have the impact it could.
Storytelling needs to create context and guide the audience through key discussions and points.
Effective storytelling is persuasive, influential and ultimately a key catalyst for change.
Any data visualisations should try and reflect and enhance the overall story and theme of the data. Techniques such as using green with positive trends and red with negative trends can be a small change but have a huge impact on how simple data points are interpreted. In such instances, clear conclusions can be made instantly, helping teams keep track of KPIs effectively.
Getting Started with SustainIt
When thinking about data and sustainability reporting, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and start to procrastinate. Where do you start on such a large and encompassing project?
That’s where our Discovery Workshops come into play. These workshops create an opportunity for you and your team to start thinking about sustainability and data collection in its entirety, with support and insights from our experts throughout. We design the sessions to ensure questions about business objectives, user experience, creative and technicalities are covered.
To get started, simply get in touch with us here at SustainIt and we’ll guide you through the whole process. Our approach combines over 40 years’ combined industry knowledge with technical acumen, strategic thinking and creative problem solving, to help our clients get the most out of their data and make the changes they want to see.
Contact us today.