Just over a year ago now, we decided to shift our business focus to certain key areas where data can have the greatest social impact. Sustainability was the first name on the team sheet.
One year on, we spoke to the GM of our Sustainability pod, Stewart Pickering, to get a sense of where we’re at, and where the main challenges lie around sustainability and data in 2023.
And if you’ve forgotten your headphones, you can read a transcript of Stewart’s conversation below the video.
For me, a really important and resonating quote that I heard last year was from David Attenborough, where he talked about sustainability just being a comms challenge. And for the past 10 years of my life, that’s what I’ve dedicated myself to helping to solve.
So the challenges that we face are around reducing carbon emissions, around reducing over-consumption, and also reducing social injustices across the globe. And I feel, and have always felt, that data plays a critical role in solving those challenges: by surfacing the information that can help us get over them or get through them.
But what I’ve found through experience is that experts in data visualisation and sustainability are quite rare. When you work on data visualisation projects, you tend to find that you have sustainability people on the one hand and data visualisation people on the other, and communication is quite difficult.
And that’s an area that I think I can help solve, and infogr8 as a whole can help to solve.
We don’t want to avoid the jargon that comes with sustainability, because it’s important. But what we wanted to do is make sure that it doesn’t come across as jargon.
We wanted people to understand fully what it is that they are interacting with, or viewing, or listening to, or reading. And help to educate them and further their understanding of the topics that we’ve created projects on.
We did that by working with some key clients of ours that we feel already do this quite well: Mars Petcare, DNV, the GLA. All companies that really tell great stories. Our goal really was to take them up a level and to do that through accessing the talent that we have at our disposal and match them up to those clients that are working on topics that they’re really passionate about.
(Laughs) Not quite, but we have started to shift the dial.
We’ve worked with organisations like Friends of the Earth and the City of London Corporation.
In our work with City of London, we were really impressed with their vision, which was to essentially open up themselves to accountability to the public. They wanted to put all of their climate action data in one place so that people could track their progress to their ultimate goals, which are net-zero by 2027 within their own operations and 2040 generally.
So what we did is we produced a dashboard for them that does exactly that: pulls all of their data into a single location.
And as far as we’re aware, nobody has done this in quite the same way that the City of London have.
I think the two main themes or challenges are greenwashing and geopolitical instability.
For greenwashing, we’ve had COP26 [the UN Climate Change Conference], which was a big high, hosted in the UK in November 2021, where lots of pledges were made. But then the reality kicked in and governments just didn’t live up to those pledges.
We’ve had brands fined for promising their products are sustainable when they’ve turned out to not be. But also we’ve had brands exposed in their supply chains: underpaying workers below minimum wage and providing poor work conditions.
And, of course, we’ve experienced a lot of geopolitical instability over the past 12 months, particularly in 2022, which has led to poor solutions being mooted, such as the reintroduction of fracking into the UK.
I believe that data can solve both of those problems. Data is the solution to greenwashing. You can’t hide from the facts. And similarly with geopolitical instability, whether fracking is a good or a bad solution can be determined through the data.
Well, data can be intimidating, but it doesn’t need to be.
What we seek to do is to drive positive impact through our visual data storytelling. And to do that, we bring everyone into the conversation as early as possible, so that we can create these visual experiences that cater to multiple audiences with different levels of data literacy and seed them out across multiple channels.
The way that I see it is that no single topic embodies infogr8’s Data for Everyone promise more than sustainability. It’s a really complex topic across multiple different categories with a myriad of opinions. And for us, data can be the guiding light.
So, for the next 12 months I’d like to build on the successes of the first 12 months: by expanding the team, bringing in strategists and information designers, so that we can have deeper conversations with like-minded, forward-thinking organisations, who also understand that trust and credibility are key in this space.
Not sure where to start when it comes to taking on your sustainability data challenges? We run free Lunch & Learn sessions (in-person and virtual) to walk you through the infogr8 process.