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10 reasons why you should leverage open data to boost CSR projects

In an age when stakeholders demand concrete evidence of the social commitments touted by companies, data sharing is becoming vital to meeting the needs of CSR. Here are 10 good ways to use digital transformation to improve the corporate social responsibility of your organization.

Brand content manager, Opendatasoft
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In an age when stakeholders demand concrete evidence of the social commitments touted by companies, data sharing is becoming vital to meeting the needs of CSR. Here are 10 good ways to use digital transformation to improve the corporate social responsibility of your organization.

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For Bernard Sananès, President of the research and consulting firm Elabe, companies must satisfy three conditions to convince stakeholders that their CSR initiatives are sincere: “the governance of the project must be a genuine strategic goal, the initiatives must involve as many employees as possible, and the results must be accompanied by tangible proof. Without concrete results and evidence, CSR initiatives lack all credibility. Clear and relevant indicators must be chosen to make them easy to understand, their goals achievable, and their progress convincing. For companies, it’s all about keeping their promises.”

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The days of “greenwashing” are over. Unsubstantiated marketing claims no longer make the grade. “To remain attractive, brands must show – and prove – that they are doing all they can to reduce their negative impacts and implement positive measures,” explains Jean-Marc Lazard, CEO of Opendatasoft. “All market players, including investors, customers, influencers, and NGOs, now need tangible proof – or in other words, concrete data. For stakeholders, concrete data facilitates the fact-checking process and establishes a foundation of trust based on measurable elements.” An open data portal is the perfect way to present your data as tangible proof to all your stakeholders. It lets you illustrate your social commitments and display their results in a precise and substantiated manner.

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By properly disclosing your CSR data, you’ll demonstrate your willingness to recognize and reduce the negative impacts your company may be having on society and the environment. Let’s look at an example from the industrial sector. In 2019, Vallourec, the worldwide leader in the development of premium tubular solutions for the energy and industrial markets, launched a public data platform highlighting its CSR data. This data includes key figures associated with the distribution of its employees, training, safety, and the environmental impact of its companies. Vallourec’s management team realized this data sharing strategy could be used to highlight its social commitments, which include the responsible use of natural resources and the promotion of equality in the workplace.

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By publishing your CSR data, you’ll also demonstrate your commitment to transparency with regard to your entire ecosystem. Data sharing is a powerful corporate citizenship initiative that helps facilitate communication. Kering’s open data portal is a perfect example of this strategy. “Data sharing encourages other companies to increase the transparency of their supply chain and accurately assess their impact on the environment,” declares Marie-Claire Daveu, Chief Sustainability Officer and Head of International Institutional Affairs at Kering. This portal offers access to a wide variety of data regarding the overall environmental impact of the Kering Group. It provides in-depth information on the raw materials used, the location of the Group’s production sites, and the processes implemented at each stage of the supply chain.

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Many companies still publish their CSR results in difficult-to-read PDFs. That’s too bad, because CSR initiatives are based on lots of valuable data that could be shared in a more interactive manner. Open data platforms let you create intuitive reports with handy charts, images, and tables. These reports make it easier to share CSR data with all kinds of audiences, including shareholders, employees, journalists, and the general public.

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Your company benefits from having its CSR data shared with researchers, journalists, analysts, and NGOs, for the messages circulated by these “neutral” parties are not associated with commercial initiatives and therefore have a greater impact amongst the population. This is also an excellent way for your company to shine the spotlight on its social commitments.

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Some companies find that by sharing data on the status of their sustainable development goals, they are able to place an even greater emphasis on their various CSR initiatives. Such is the case for the SNCF. Since 2016, SNCF Réseau has been sharing all its CSR data on each of the 42 subjects in the Grenelle II Law, including those concerning social (employment, work organization, social relations, health, safety, training, equal treatment, discrimination, etc.), environmental (pollution, waste management, sustainable use of resources, climate change, protection of biodiversity, energy, etc.), and societal (territorial, economic, and social anchoring, dialog with stakeholders, etc.) issues. What will users find while inside the company’s open data portal? The percentage of women who hold managerial positions, for example, and other data that can easily be measured and compared from one year to the next.

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Sharing data with researchers and startups promotes open innovation and provides you with the opportunity to outsource your research and development. Open data can therefore be a real driver of growth. Pierre-Philippe Cormeraie, Chief Digital Evangelist at the BPCE Group, sees this approach as a way to “get closer to the French open data ecosystem, which is incredibly dynamic and encourages the co-creation and sharing of experiences to speed up work processes and collectively come up with new solutions.” For Kering, it’s also about inciting developers, technical experts, and specialists in the area of sustainable development to create a new generation of applications and digital solutions. The goal? To better understand the impact the fashion industry has on the environment.

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Although your teams are not your main target group, they’re often the first users of your open data platform. They have quick and easy access to your data and can work together using the same figures, which are easy to use and accessible from one central location. The “sharing of data internally optimizes teamwork and performance,” affirms Henri Planchon, IT and Data Project Manager at Vallourec. For Pierre-Philippe Cormeraie (BPCE), data sharing “allows the various entities of a group to get used to open data, and to discuss its challenges and opportunities.” Moreover, while creating an open data portal, several different services (communications, CSR, investor relations, legal, etc.) rally around the project.

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An open data portal is a vital part of any digital strategy. Henri Planchon of Vallourec explains: “open data is an essential consideration for any digitization project, both for its many (and sometimes unexpected) immediate applications and for the communication lever it represents. Even those with no technical background whatsoever can quickly grasp its value: open data is seen from the outside as a symbol of digital excellence.”

By publishing your CSR data, you’ll be asserting your ambition to be a modern, transparent, and socially responsible company. Data sharing helps improve your image and reputation amongst all your stakeholders, including your customers.

You’ll also send a powerful message to future recruits. Younger generations are especially sensitive to the goals of CSR (reduction of ecological footprint, gender equality, etc.), as well as to a company’s willingness to integrate new technologies. Open data is therefore also useful for attracting young talent.

For all these reasons, open data is clearly in line with the times. Pierre-Philippe Cormeraie (BPCE) concludes: “open data should be taken extremely seriously, for sooner or later every industry will have to adopt it, either voluntarily or because it is required by the law. So why not get a head start? After all, you always stand to gain by innovating.” (BPCE)

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