A Buddhist parable speaks of six blind men describing an elephant to each other. Unable to comprehend the creature fully, they each paint a partial picture: an elephant’s trunk reminds one of a snake, its horn reminds another of a spear, and so on.

When we don’t have the full picture, it can be difficult to make good judgment calls. This is particularly true when it comes to sustainability initiatives: agencies can best make climate-friendly decisions when they have a clear picture of their carbon footprint.

Ng Seng Ping, Regional Vice President, ASEAN Public Sector, Salesforce, shares how government agencies can use clear energy data to monitor their progress towards carbon neutrality, discover where carbon emissions can be reduced, and make long-term plans for carbon reduction.

Monitor progress towards carbon neutrality

First, clear and accurate energy data can help government agencies easily monitor progress towards carbon neutrality.

Strong energy accounting lets government agencies determine their environmental footprint and set realistic reduction targets, shares Ng. When agencies can track carbon emissions across fuel consumption, energy use, and supply chains, they are better able to understand their environmental impact and make plans for the future.

However, manually accounting for carbon emissions can be tedious and daunting. “Carbon accounting is like environmentalists’ version of doing your taxes every year, but instead of counting dollars, you’re counting emissions,” explains Ng.

Much of sustainability reporting within businesses and agencies is done manually with spreadsheets, which have a higher risk of incomplete and inaccurate data, notes Ng.

Agencies may benefit from software that can automate sustainability accounting. For example, Salesforce Net Zero Cloud is a platform that includes tools such as data modelling and integration that pool together various sources of emissions within a business. Such platforms can instantly display data on energy use in terms of emissions, explains Ng.

Automated reporting can ensure that sustainability data is accurate and saves time. Before Deloitte Germany switched to automated reporting, team members spent four to six weeks collating carbon data for annual reports. Now, they can view up-to-date data every month and take immediate action when they spot sudden emission spikes.

Agencies can also use pie charts and bar graphs to get a straightforward view of total emissions. This tells them whether the bulk of emissions are coming from buildings, data centres, or travel. Salesforce Net Zero Cloud also includes a dashboard that provides a visual summary of total carbon footprint, from internal energy use to supply chain emissions.

Discover opportunities for carbon reduction

This data can help government agencies discover opportunities for carbon reduction

Governments around the world have committed to climate action plans to reduce carbon emissions nationally. For example, Singapore has stated that at least 20 per cent of schools will be carbon neutral by 2030, wrote GovInsider. Governments can lead by example within their own agencies, shares Ng.

Energy data platforms can help governments set internal goals in line with the Science Based Targets initiative. This initiative ensures emission goals are in line with the Paris Agreement, a legally binding climate change treaty signed in 2015.

Salesforce Net Zero Cloud comes with an in-built feature to support target setting, notes Ng. These targets can guide agencies as they progress along their carbon reduction journey.

Then, agencies can use the platform to track the emissions generated by their suppliers. Platforms like Salesforce Net Zero Cloud can track the sustainability commitments of suppliers and identify who may be falling behind on climate goals.

This can help agencies decide if they should use more environmentally friendly sources. Agencies can also use Salesforce Net Zero Cloud to help suppliers set carbon reduction targets and develop plans to get there.

One government body on this path is South Australia. The state has committed to achieving net zero emissions by 2050. They have adopted Salesforce Net Zero Cloud, which they are using to identify areas for improvement within supply chain emissions in each department.

Plan for future scenarios

With these targets, agencies can plan for the future and understand how today’s choices can affect tomorrow’s progress

Currently, sustainability accounting is like “looking in the rearview mirror … rather than looking forward to meaningful change,” explains Ng. Salesforce Net Zero Cloud’s What-If feature can support agencies in the process of looking to the future.

With this feature, agencies can plan for future scenarios and understand the outcomes of potential decisions. For example, an agency can use these modules to visualise how reducing business travel or swapping to renewable energy can impact their progress towards carbon neutrality.

In turn, these scenarios can help officials identify which initiatives can best support an agency’s overall sustainability progress, shares Ng.

The sheer scale of climate change can often make it come across as an elephant in a world of blind men. Yet, clear energy data presented in accessible ways can help us understand and rectify our impact on the world better, from discovering opportunities to reducing our carbon footprint to planning ahead.