A New Opportunity to Promote Responsible Consumerism: Big Data

One of the global trends that are identified in the 2015 Forética Report, which was recently presented by Forética: " Aware Citizens, Sustainable Enterprises ", is the...

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 Paula Ruiz Project Manager en Forética y Analista Jefe del Informe Forética 2015

One of the global trends that are identified in the 2015 Forética Report, which was recently presented by Forética: “Aware Citizens, Sustainable Enterprises“, is the great opportunity that arises for sustainability and responsible consumerism from the parallel universe of Big Data.

The analysis of the four “Vs” that characterise this technological phenomenon, provides an interesting perspective from which to consider what added value Big Data offers the aware consumer. Let’s analyse them one by one.

In the first place, 90% of the volume of information that exists in the world has been created in the last two years. This is without doubt an overwhelming fact. To process the amount of information on sustainability, we must refer to its most common form: memories, and to the platform that includes the greatest number of these, the Global Reporting Initiative. On a global level, we arrive at a figure which is not so astronomical, but is still significant: a 90 per cent increase in the number of memories published in the past five years.

If we look again at this proportion we see that 90% refers to the amount of unstructured information which the Internet contains; and the variety of formats that documents are presented in makes processing them, and hence using them, more difficult. This phenomenon also occurs when we consider the documentation on sustainability that entities provide. The great variety and heterogeneity of CSR information, present in an infinite number of ESG (environmental, social and governance) indicators, reporting frameworks and initiative support endeavours, makes the task of comparing more difficult, not only between different types of company, but also among those which belong to the same industry and carry out the same activity.

However, the question of how structured this information is becomes irrelevant if, when decisions are to be made, it ‘s veracity cannot be assured. According to IBM, low quality data costs the US economy $3.1 trillion per year. In a similar vein, the 2015 Forética Report uses the term “intoxication” to refer to the information overload which citizens are being exposed to, and which can have an impact on the credibility of messages that they receive in general, and in particular, on terms such as sustainability and CSR.

The last element is velocity; that is, the speed at which data is processed, integrated and analysed in real time. Thanks to advances in technology, it is very easy to check a bank balance via a smartphone or analyse the number of visits made to a website instantly. In the field of responsible consumerism, it would be extremely useful to be able to process that information on sustainability which companies provide about their business and their products, so that our consumer choices could be consistent with our values and expectations.

There are fledgling initiatives in this regard, but there is still a major challenge in putting this large and varied amount of data to practical use – the challenge is to be able to obtain it from a credible source and also to be able to access it at a sales outlet at the time of purchase.

The good news is that we already have the first and most important element: aware consumers. 12 million Spaniards are receptive to corporate social responsibility. 50% of the population have displayed positive discrimination in their consumer choices; they have preferred or championed a product due to the company’s ethical practices. An additional 30% would do so if perfect information were available.

In other words, if they had access to an idyllic platform or app through which they could ascertain a product’s sustainability, 8 out of 10 Spaniards would be inclined to be active consumers.

Although there are many challenges still to be overcome, a new door has opened before us which leads to responsible consumerism.

You can see the infographics on aware citizenship here

And the 2015 Forética Report here


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