Sustainability, Big Data, and Corporate Social Responsibility

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The expected cares and concerns of corporations have changed over the years. In the modern era, priorities simply cannot stop at the bottom line anymore. The social responsibility of corporations has become an important requirement for any successful company to address.

The Socially Responsible Trend

The desire to be socially and environmentally responsible is a fairly new trend that is putting pressure on companies that they must respond to if they wish to remain relevant — especially in regards to their younger customers. The pressure is not regarding a business’s day-to-day practices, but rather the concept of corporate social responsibility, in which a company is expected to go above and beyond the elements that constitute “good business practices.” They are expected to invest in and facilitate ventures that support positive resolutions to both socially and environmentally relevant issues.

These issues are not always mutually exclusive, either. If a company invests in cancer research, this can also be coupled with a dedicated push towards investing in reducing manufacturing waste, which often finds its way into either the air or the water. When one considers that both of these have commonly been found to contain cancer-causing carcinogens that are commonly linked to larger industrial efforts, the connection between industrial expansion and environmental harm becomes clear.

Thus, this dual effort can be used to demonstrate a commitment to going above and beyond the typical or standard requirements in an attempt to be both socially and environmentally responsible as a business entity. However, determining the way that a company should go about addressing these collective concerns can be an overwhelming proposition. That is where using big data comes into the picture.

Using Big Data

Properly harvested, organized, and applied data is a trustworthy tool that allows a company to demonstrate that it is responding to genuine needs through their investments in sustainable efforts. These can be extracurricular and philanthropic, as well as directly related to their supply chain, use of resources, waste management, or a plethora of other elements that affect the routine functions of a company. Gathering data, though, can prove to be a bit of quandary.

A few years ago we posted a guest feature by Cristian Borcea on smart cities and the issues that stood in the way of reaching a more sustainable urban life. One of the two key summarizing points he made was that, “In order for the smart city to become a reality, cities should develop a more collaborative relationship with private companies.”

In order to properly leverage big data into a net positive, though, companies must recognize that they typically are, by and large, still operating in the technological dark ages, with siloed information spread out across haphazard IT systems that handicap any proper usage of the astronomical amount of information that each company frequently possesses at its fingertips. This data must be reorganized.

But even then, it cannot be used to its full potential until a company’s culture transitions to measuring and managing business through the lens of data. Only once this has been achieved can practical, actionable steps be defined. The now well-organized data at hand can then be used to address genuine corporate social responsibility issues and bear meaningful, measurable results.

Improving Your Customer Base

Of course, using big data to create an action plan for corporate social responsibility yields positive results for more than just the intended social and environmental causes. It also demonstrates a modern company’s active commitment to its clientele’s values, creating a relatable element — particularly in a B2C relationship — that can directly lead to growth within its customer base. Showing proactive care and attention towards the socially conscious concerns of the next generation can be an ideal way for a corporation to remain relevant and profitable in the modern era.

About the Author

Magnolia Potter is a muggle from the Pacific Northwest who writes from time to time. She covers a variety of topics and prefers not to settle on just one. When Magnolia’s not writing, you can find her in the outdoors or curled up with a good book and a mug of butterbeer. She is still waiting for her Hogwarts acceptance letter. You can chat with her on Twitter @MuggleMagnolia.


Sign up for the free insideBIGDATA newsletter.

Speak Your Mind



  1. Daniel Eatherly says

    I currently am completing my minor in Corporate Social Responsibility at the University of Washington, and in my studies we have found significant financial support for transparent business practices in relation to big data. Although, as this article states, big data can be used to address important social and environmental issues, it is important that this data is being used in a very transparent manner, specifically when it is consumer data. As large scandals like the Cambridge Analytica scandal with Facebook have shown us, the company’s bottom line can be severely negatively impacted by a lack of transparency. Your strategy would no doubt increase productivity in CSR initiatives, but could risk a PR issue. This could be mitigated by transparent reporting.
    Daniel Eatherly, Milgard School of Business.

  2. Anett Keresztes says

    Great article! In my university, we care a lot about sustainability and the SDGs, an how a business can be run under specific circumstances. Big data is offer a wealth of possibilities for organizations, environment and human well-being. Companies could use this new technology to get closer to the customers and serve them in a better way. However not only big data can be consider as a disruptive technology. Blockchain, 5G or AI are also on the list, which will change many industry in the future. There is an article about it, which also care about sustainability with these technologies.