Qlik's Julie Kae: Leveraging Data to Improve Sustainability

Technology Magazine speaks exclusively with Julie Kae, VP of Sustainability and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) at Qlik
In an exclusive interview with Qlik’s Julie Kae, she explores siloed data business challenges and how leveraging data can improve sustainability strategies

Reporting on environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) and sustainability is now vital for businesses.

Increasing regulations within this sector will mean that businesses around the world, specifically within Europe, will be obliged to declare how sustainable they are. With that, comes the challenge of collecting and monitoring data.

Technology Magazine speaks exclusively with Julie Kae, VP of Sustainability and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) at Qlik, about the current challenges of data analytics within sustainability and how companies can overcome them and bolster their environmental strategies.

About Julie Kae:
  • Having worked in corporate responsibility and sustainability at Qlik for more than 15 years, Julie is well-versed in combating climate change and advancing Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) initiatives within the company. Her role focuses on leading ESG programmes and making strategic partnerships with organisations such as the United Nations (UN), in addition to leading data-driven applications for non-profit organisations.

What are some of the sustainability challenges businesses currently face when it comes to data analytics?

The challenge businesses face is that, as KPMG recently found, almost half of them are still using spreadsheets to manage their ESG data, and 61% noted that they have a high potential to improve data collection and integration. 

Spreadsheets can be a convenient tool for basic data management, but they aren't the best solution – especially when dealing with large amounts of data. They can encounter errors and version control problems - they lack advanced analytical capabilities and often require manual manipulation to get meaningful insights from their data.  

They are also vulnerable to data breaches and unauthorised access, which is especially problematic for ESG data that often contains sensitive information.

All of that means that the way many businesses collect sustainability data can lead to data silos, a lack of governance and control, and inefficient and time-consuming processes. The result? It is difficult to get useful insights from the data and hard to report effectively on or make the most effective changes to sustainability strategies. 

How can businesses best leverage data to build ESG strategies?

A great example of how businesses can use data more effectively in their ESG strategies comes from the UN – a long-time partner of Qlik.

The UN was attempting to measure its air travel carbon footprint, and the sustainability department downloaded SAP extracts and leveraged its carbon emissions calculator to measure it all in a spreadsheet. This was a manual process and took 20 people six months to complete. At the same time, the travel department was also pulling data from SAP and was using it for a Qlik dashboard to help manage air travel expenses. But the two departments operated in silo from each other.

This process was changed, meaning SAP data is now connected to the carbon emissions calculator. All that information is automatically pulled for analysis so the sustainability team can measure carbon footprint quickly and efficiently. Perhaps the best part is that with access to carbon footprint information, the travel team can now act on the data and book more sustainable travel to help reduce their environmental impact and meet their Sustainable Development Goals. So, you can see how better data management can lead to better sustainability strategies and decisions. 

Why do businesses want to gain ESG data from silos - what are some of the benefits?

It is good business to get ESG data right. While ESG data is in silos, it's impossible to make truly well-informed decisions about strategies and policies in the business, and it can also be impossible to report accurately on ESG across the whole company. 

At best, this could mean that the most effective strategies aren't in place. At worst, this could mean falling short of regulation and reporting incorrectly on a company's sustainability performance, for example. 

To see the benefits of having ESG data, businesses need to first build the right data foundation by effectively collecting, integrating, and delivering trusted data – not letting it reside in silos. 

Once they have done that, they can use data analytics to take the trusted data and turn it into insights and action. Companies can make predictions and fast decisions based on all of the ESG information across the company that benefit not just their reporting efforts but their business overall.

How does Qlik harness data to boost its own sustainability?

Qlik has been on a path to net-zero on CO2 emissions since 2022, and we are always looking for ways to help our customers and partners do the same with solutions built using our technology. 

In fact, we’re making sure our upcoming Qlik Connect event is carbon neutral – so we’ll use reusable materials, donate all leftover food and include CO2e emissions from the event in overall reduction. We have a non-profit programme where our technology supports organisations making big sustainability improvements to our world.

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We also support C40 Cities, a global network of mayors from the world's leading cities united in action to address the climate crisis. In partnership with Qlik, C40 has developed an advanced collaborative platform to help cities learn from each other's successes and share resources – from documenting best practices to presenting at webinars or even experiences mentoring other cities.

The dashboards allow cities to see where they stand on key metrics and benchmark themselves against peers, aiming to improve decision-making and accelerate the policies and investments necessary to prevent more catastrophic consequences of climate change.

Once the analysis has been conducted and used to inform improvement recommendations and actions, it is presented to decision-makers to influence their actions.

Looking ahead, what are some of the emerging techniques/use cases Qlik is interested in exploring for its sustainability strategy?

A big part of our strategy is helping businesses get all their ESG data into one central place where they can quickly and easily understand what is happening and take action. 

To do this, Qlik has just released a new ESG analytics app, which will help businesses pull data from many different sources into one app, easily see ESG data and metrics, go beyond reporting to look at 'what if' scenarios, and take well-informed action. 

Businesses already have a vast amount of data being generated – but only by enabling all of it to be accessed together in one place can they use it to build a full picture of sustainability performance and find areas for improvement. 

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