The 3Ts Approach to Digital Sustainability

March 1, 2021

To avert the 1.5°C global warming limit negotiated in the Paris Agreement, reaching net-zero emissions before the century’s halfway mark must be met. Societal transformation is required at every level to mitigate climate problems and improve humanity’s resiliency. The urgency to act and coordinate action is accelerating with each day that comes.

How will we reach this immense and vital paradigm shift?

One solution to make a significant impact to achieve emissions targets and decarbonization commitments is to harness digitalization and sustainability data. Digitally-verified sustainability data is high quality sustainability information that is data-driven and enabled by innovative digital technology, to better evaluate an organization’s carbon footprint in real-time. Further, this information can be leveraged to provide accurate assessments of emissions of industry-specific supply chain operations. This is especially important as a multitude of stakeholders are dealing with complicated emissions accounting approaches for large, long, and fragmented supply chains. A compounding issue is that stakeholders vary in their approach to the meaning net-zero – an issue that digitalization and sustainability data can streamline and move into a state of harmonization.

However, with current MRV systems (measurement, reporting, and verification) being unprepared in design to capture and distribute this information, the capacity delivered by “digital MRV” – a digitalized form of quantifying, communicating, and authenticating data that can improve the speed and accuracy of the data process – is the optimal replacement for the older, insufficient version. Digital MRV exponentially raises the deployment of emissions-reduction technologies, alternatives, systems, and solutions across industries through an enhanced interoperability – the capability of computing systems/software to support information use and exchange.

Nevertheless, even with this digitalized system of capturing and disseminating information, data needs the necessary attributes that will help it reach peak productivity. This is where the necessity for transparency, trust, and transactability comes into play, with each element offering an essential strength to digitally empowered sustainability data and the digital MRV system.

For companies and industry sectors to respond to investor and legislative/regulatory requests for climate action in an impactful way, EC-MAP proposes the ‘3-Ts Approach’ with a specific mission to drive standardization. This systematic process embeds a product or commodity with digital Transparency, Trust, and Transactability across its full value chain, and converts it into a differentiated, secure, and high-value digital asset that can be traded electronically.

The 3-Ts Approach intersects with three major trends of the 21st century: digitalization, carbon transparency, and climate finance. It brings better quality data for emissions reduction both to streamline climate disclosures and to inform climate policy. This Approach will align various moving pieces in voluntary corporate disclosure with unharmonized ESG reporting frameworks and create consolidation under a standardized and interoperable data architecture.

Keeping in mind the need for the 3-Ts Approach to sustainability data will ensure that emissions reductions will be enabled by the most efficient and accurate data insights to meet national and international climate goals in a variety of sectors. In addition, providing the consumer access to such data will empower them with information that can help bolster local economic development. In addition, increasing availability and use of qualified and credible data will guarantee sustainable decision-making from top to bottom – that is, from producer to consumer – and facilitate lower emissions trajectories to provide a livable future for coming generations.

Overall, the current objectives of companies, communities, and governments need to be met by specific mission-driven mechanisms that can effectively function and pull the environment away from existential calamity. Digitalization and sustainability data, and the strategies embedded in digital MRV offer one such solution to these objectives – all the while following the pinnacles of transparency, trust, and transactability.

Apoorva Sahay is a policy advisor to EC-MAP focused on digital innovation research in the sustainability field.  Justin Lindemann is a research fellow supporting EC-MAP.