This raises an interesting possibility – that marketers will pursue data quality for its business benefits and pocket an environmental benefit for free. In perhaps the greatest buy one, get one free ever, if they get PAS 2020 certification, it may also give them some valuable claims for the CSR report. “It will be a by-product of what marketing is doing,” believes Day.
If marketing does want to start connecting its data quality programmes to corporate environmental actions, then it is likely to need a new generation of tools and measures. One of those could be the Smart Audit developed by meta-morphix, part of The REaD Group.
“There is a bell curve of response and suppression,” says Rob Salmon, managing director of the database bureau. “You don’t want to risk suppressing customers who have been in recent contact with the company. In the middle of the bell curve you get the most benefit.”
The purpose of the Smart Audit is to apply some classic customer profiling, such as recency, at the same time as suppression, rather than viewing these as separate. “The combination of recency of contact and value means you can identify groups who are at high risk of having changed data and are worth suppressing and enhancing,” says Salmon.
In line with the austerity budgets in marketing, this avoids the potentially high cost of suppressing an entire database by identifying where there is greatest need. This can translate into a positive CSR message. “I am a big proponent of environmental sense. I am also a business man. If you’re putting off prospects and customers because you send them communications that cross their own environmental concerns, it is a double whammy. Instead, you could achieve a dual purpose from doing the right thing with data quality,” he says.
What marketing does to support specific tactical activities, the company is doing at a corporate level as part of key strategic initiatives. In the realm of business intelligence, for example, data quality is critical in ensuring that decisions are based on the right information and driving the right outcomes.
Data governance processes are increasingly being applied to keep data fit for purpose, controlled, managed and accessed as it should be. External regulation could roll major environmental dimensions of CSR into data governance.
“A lot of the briefs we are seeing are factoring in carbon trading in 2012 or by 2016,” says Tommy Drummond, vicepresident of data quality at Informatica. “Key strategic thinkers know it is coming down the line. They want to be able to do something about it by understanding their fuel consumption, distribution and delivery networks, for example.”
This is already driving tighter standards for data management, not least through the consolidation of systems. “The CIO of one global electronics company is looking to reduce the number of data centres from 27 to three over five years. He is very well aware that data centres are major users of energy and they want to reduce their carbon emissions,” says Drummond.
Double duty is performed by data quality in such scenarios, leading Richard Kellet, manager, product marketing at SAS, to note that, “the chief financial officer likes it because he is also responsible for CSR reporting.”
He believes that companies are genuinely look at “the bigger picture” of environmental impact, even if they are more directly addressing local issues like marketing activity. It may give them two benefits for the price of one, but data quality is still saving the planet one record at a time.