David Provoost, ISG 2016: On Understanding the Link between Sustainable Development and Big Data for Business

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“Big Data” is a term referring to all the massive amount of information with which people can work in this 21st Century. It is fundamentally different from the casual denomination of “simple” or “historic” data because there is such a huge mass of information generated with Big Data that normal tools of treatment cannot deal with it. This change in the data itself is due to the technological revolution we call “digitalization”.

“How can companies become more sustainable by facing such a major change  in today’s business market? 

Executive summary submittal by International MBA student David Provoost from 2016 ISG seminar on Sustainable Development, Economy and Democracy.

As data’s volume and variety is growing massively because of today’s data rich technology, truly new strategies are required for organizations in terms of applications and storage, in various sectors.  Beyond that, there are many negative impacts on business concerning pollution and energy consumption because of the enormous quantities of data stored. We can then ask ourselves the following question:

Volume, but also variety

What we call “data” is evolving and increasing quickly in size, as in a few years there will be much more information to treat in the world than there already is today, by a scale of 300. The goal for companies would be to save money and to make money at the same time — using this additional data which could be a huge advantage for them. Indeed, to become more sustainable, data will allow business to understand the impact from their own system and operations which are not controlled by them. It is becoming more important for business to understand their sustainable impact on the entire value chain both inside and outside of their business. In order to achieve this task, businesses need to rely on its data to understand its global operations.

This operation is interesting for companies with a very large environmental impact, both inside and outside of their control. Big data can then help companies to improve their impact and their own sustainable behavior. For example, collecting data for the partners with which a company is working, or the suppliers who are providing the products.  These tools of analysis can have positive impacts on different levels such as:

Human rights: Data helps people to know if products are being manufactured in slavery environments. Thanks to tracking tools, it is possible to know where a product is coming from.

Environmental risks: Big data allows people to calculate water risks in the world thanks to the analysis of the world’s available resources. Use of an online free tool to evaluate the different risks.

Agriculture: Tracking farmer’s storage such as foods or products, and impacting positively their management techniques.

The impacts of big data on sustainability development are wide, and can impact many different areas like we have seen such as education, agriculture, the environment, human rights, poverty and many more. To keep going on this path, companies are beginning to gather their data to increase their impacts on sustainability. Even though the task of linking Big Data and sustainability is far from being fully understood, this gives us hope concerning the different challenges which could be overcome thanks to today’s technologies. By gathering the right data and analyzing it correctly, a company’s behavior could be enhanced and be reflected on our world’s ecology.

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About the author:

ISG 2016 David ProvoostDavid Provoost is a 24 years old French  graduate from an engineering school in 2015. He is a trained electrical engineer specialized in embedded systems. His graduation internship  was at Altran Technologies in Strasbourg, in electronic development and conception of medical imaging.  After completing his engineering degree he decided he wanted to learn more about companies in general in order to get a dual background in both technique and management. Which brought him to ISG’s 2016 International MBA program and this course in Sustainable Development, Economy and Democracy.

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About his professor: 

Students in this seminar are upon conclusion of the course and submittal of their full term paper invited to stand back and  reflect one last time on their topic and then put the core of their argument in a one page Executive Summary. This posting is one such example.

Eric Britton
9, rue Gabillot, 69003 Lyon France

Bio: Britton is an American political scientist and sustainability activist who has lived and worked in Paris since 1969. Professor of Sustainable Development, Economy and Democracy at the Institut Supérieur de Gestion (Paris), he is also MD of EcoPlan Association, an independent advisory network providing strategic counsel for government and business on policy and decision issues involving complex systems, social-technical change and sustainable development. Founding editor of World Streets, his latest book, "BETTER CHOICES: Bringing Sustainable Transport to Your City" focuses on the subject of environment, equity, economy and efficiency in city transport and public space, and helping governments to ask the right questions. A pre-publication edition of Better Choices is currently undergoing an international peer review during Sept.- Oct. 2017, with the goal of publication in English and Chinese editions by end-year. If you wish to participate drop a line to BetterChoices@ecoplan.org .

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