4 Ways Data Is Driving Conscious Capitalism
Using collected information for the greater good is a win-win.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Today, doing good and making money are no longer incongruent. For-profit and nonprofit organizations alike are increasingly focused on the triple bottom line -- people, planet and profit. In fact, companies that focus on doing good, or conscious capitalism, are starting to show greater ROI.
How are they getting there? Socially conscious or not, every organization generates and runs on data. We use it for everything from marketing to HR to finance. And organizations are starting to realize they can leverage their data for the greater good.
So how do you make the leap to conscious capitalism? There are two paths that may fit your business -- a socially conscious organization trying to turn a profit, or a for-profit entity trying to go socially conscious.
1. Affecting change while driving profit.
Path 1 -- your business is already dedicated to solving social or environmental problems. Now you need to tap into your data to add financial resources to drive your mission forward.
Conservation International, a nonprofit environmental organization, is a prime example of the meaningful impact data can make. Using publicly available data from NASA satellite observations, the organization created an application called Firecast that tracks ecosystem disturbances like fires and deforestation.
Governments and municipalities in developing countries worldwide use this time-sensitive information to predict fire season severity months in advance. With this data, they can reallocate firefighting resources and fine landowners for violations. With the awareness Firecast creates, Conservation International has been able to more easily gain funding because donors and partners are able to see the positive outcomes of their investments, creating more resources for them to drive their mission forward. (Full disclosure: Conservation International is a Logi Analytics customer.)
Other philanthropic organizations have been able to combine multiple data sources to turn existing efforts into for-profit enterprises. Such is the case with the Global Forest Watch program, created by the World Resources Institute and its partners. Their application combines satellite imagery, crowd-sourced witness accounts and public datasets to track deforestation around the world.
In time, the World Resources Institute realized they could commercialize the new application while making a lasting environmental impact. They began to market and sell the service to environmentally conscious businesses who use it to ensure their supply chains are not contributing to deforestation. At the same time, this provides a stream of revenue for the World Resources Institute to potentially expand its programs.
2. Using dark data for good.
Now let's consider the second path -- a for-profit organization that wants to become more socially conscious. Even as some companies move in this direction, others are still hesitant. Many organizations may think creating a socially conscious strategy may cost too much money.
But most of the time, the resources you need to enact change already exist -- they're just untapped. For instance, consider the undiscovered data that lives within your organization, also known as "dark data." For many companies, it's a matter of finding a way to do something new with this existing data in a more socially conscious manner.
Senet, Inc., is a good example. Senet (formerly EnerTrac) began as a solution to monitor propane and oil tanks. Their goal was to help fuel and propane delivery companies become more efficient and reduce the fuel used by delivery trucks.
Senet wanted to validate the cost savings and environmental benefits of its solution, so it looked into the dark data it was capturing. The company quickly realized this data could help others conserve resources through water metering, smart building, smart parking and smart agriculture. It went so well they restructured as a public Network-as-a-Service platform for Internet of Things and Machine-to-Machine application solution providers.
The wealth of data Senet had sitting in their networks meant they could help a wider range of customers, reduce their environmental footprints and find new revenue opportunities.
3. Tapping into public data.
Even if you don't have useful data available within your organization, you can still tap into public data to help solve a social or environmental problem.
Nestlé is an excellent example of conscious capitalism in action. They used data from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, which found that 57 percent of women and 70 percent of children under three living in India suffer from anemia. So they created a new product to solve the problem -- inexpensive cooking spice packets filled with iron, iodine and vitamin A.
The company spent years doing research and development and upgrading their factory lines to deploy the product. Their investment may have appeared irresponsible at the time, but in just three years, Nestlé sold 138 million servings of the spice packets, some to people living in the most remote areas of India. This is a perfect example of the triple bottom line. Nestlé generated goodwill, provided essential nutrients to women and children, and created a new revenue stream.
4. Getting to the win-win.
Every business has ready access to public or proprietary data, and they need to treat it as the raw material of the digital age. This data can be used to drive profit, to support a good cause -- or, ideally, for both. It's the ultimate win-win.
All organizations should look for ways that doing good for the world results in doing well for the company. This is what conscious capitalism is all about.