How We Can Use Big Data to Understand Sustainability Risks and Opportunities

September 27, 2017
  • Alison Taylor portrait

    Alison Taylor

    Senior Advisor, BSR

We live in a world where sustainability challenges are among the most contentious topics of conversation for millions of individuals who are now able to publish their experiences, hopes, dreams, and fears online. Local conflicts and problems can quickly escalate into global reputational threats to companies, as stakeholders share their perceptions and concerns across online and social media, driving fluid and evolving advocacy agendas. At the same time, businesses have unprecedented opportunities to engage with customers, employees, suppliers, and communities to enhance their products and services, manage their risks, and tackle systemic challenges.

In short, stakeholder engagement has never been more important—or the opportunities to leverage it to better understand material issues this diverse. That is why today we are delighted to announce our new partnership with big data intelligence firm Polecat. Polecat is an award-winning and analyst-endorsed software firm based in London that helps organizations interrogate online conversations to identify strategic and operational risks for their reputations and licenses to operate. The company uses artificial and human intelligence to scan and interpret the universe of unstructured data from online and social media, giving users rapid insight into key trends and influencers shaping debate about their businesses as related to specific assets, brands, geographies, and value drivers to enable faster, smarter decisions and interventions.  

BSR will use the Polecat platform to help our members understand and anticipate changes in our current dynamic environment—work that will complement our new Sustainable Futures Lab, which we introduced last week. This will allow BSR to scope consulting and research projects that use big data analysis to amplify our expertise on key sustainability topics.

Polecat’s platform will enhance our ability to help members explore stakeholder perceptions about their material risks and opportunities, conduct sector and country analysis, and design more robust engagement plans. We will be able to provide data-driven insights on material issues, which can be used to define, sense, or differentiate sustainability priorities. We will also be able to examine both existing perceptions and emerging issues, or ‘weak signals,’ to help organizations create more future-oriented strategies. Over time, we will work with Polecat to design new offerings and tools for our members.

“We are proud and delighted that BSR has chosen to work with Polecat to help enhance its members’ insights and decisions with regard to the many pressing sustainability challenges that the world faces, and where business and markets have a critical role to play in helping shape the future,” said Polecat CEO James Lawn. “Our software is developed precisely to provide actionable intelligence on these types of risks and opportunities that are so defining of corporate reputations today.”

By combining Polecat’s insights with our deep expertise in climate change, human rights, inclusive economy, supply chain sustainability, sustainability management, and women’s empowerment, we will continue to help companies create transformative strategies that are fit for the future.

As BSR celebrates its 25th anniversary and Polecat its 10th, we look forward to collaborating to enhance how we advise and support our members in making the smartest, best-informed decisions for a just and sustainable world. Caroline Skipsey from Polecat will speak on a panel on the "Era of Misinformation" at the BSR Conference 2017 in Huntington Beach, California, this October, and we invite you to join us to discuss opportunities to leverage these capabilities for your sustainability strategy.

Let’s talk about how BSR can help you to transform your business and achieve your sustainability goals.

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