Navigating data challenges: what do infrastructure funds need to consider?

28th November 2022

Sennen has brought together a panel of experts from the world of infrastructure investing as part of its webinar series to explore the importance of gathering, storing and analysing data effectively. 

Entitled ‘ESG Hype vs Reality’, an important theme of the session was unpicking these challenges and sharing ideas on how to solve them. Guest speakers were Gaby Amiel from Sennen, Tomas Freyman from Grant Thornton UK, David Thomas from GRESB, Parul Gupta from Arabesque and Lily Crompton from Foresight Group. 

Play the clip below to watch the full discussion between Gaby Amiel from Sennen, Tomas Freyman from Grant Thornton UK, David Thomas from GRESB, Parul Gupta from Arabesque and Lily Crompton from Foresight Group.

Sharing learnings from Infrastructure investing:

Lily Crompton

Lily kickstarted the discussion with her thoughts on why we’re not going to solve our data challenges all at once as they are many and complex.  One example is sustainability reporting, particularly further down the supply chain. For some industries, this is a very new challenge and will take some time to become the norm. Lily also highlights how smaller businesses can struggle more than larger ones as they lack the internal infrastructure. Nonetheless, Lily argues that emissions reporting is helping to push this up the agenda as organisations are having to put a greater focus on how and where materials are sourced from. 

According to Lily, there are three key factors to tackle when evaluating your data collection. 

  1. Data gathering: How are you going to do this? You need to inform your asset managers, the maintenance teams, and the full chain of those that have access to the data you need. Most importantly, can gathering that data eventually become automated? Because if it can be, then that reduces the burden on the teams. 
  2. Data storage: Where is your data going to be collated and stored? Can you manage with a spreadsheet or do you need something more intelligent that can handle numerous data entries and data sets from various sources? 
  3. Data analysis: Who will have responsibility for this and what will you do with the output? What’s the end goal? Why did you want the data in the first place? How is it going to inform your decision-making?  

Essentially data should help to tell a story: where you were previously, where you are now and where you plan to get to. Can your data management process help you do that?

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Once you’ve got the process in place, you can then plan to improve the quantity and the quality of your data over time.

Lily Crompton from Foresight Group

Gaby Amiel

As someone who is on the receiving end of what Lily is asking for, Gaby says that it can be quite easy to upset people in the supply chain because you’re asking them to adapt their workflows. That is why Gaby firmly believes that data should be harnessed in its most granular form. This ultimately makes the process that much faster, as once you have that data you can store it, regenerate it and recombine it later on to create the different outputs that the client might need. 

In our experience, the most successful approach is to review the existing reporting processes that asset managers or portfolio companies have in place, and then extend that gradually so that it doesn’t feel like a whole new person or team is needed to satisfy these requirements.

Gaby Amiel from Sennen

David Thomas

For David, engagement is really important when we are looking at data’s broader role within the business. Incomplete data can lead to serious negative impacts from a stakeholder engagement perspective, such as inaccurate reporting and lack of transparency. David also suggests how the tightening regulatory environment has meant that integrity and consistency of data must be paramount. 

I think we’ve seen stakeholder questions around data evolving from simply: ‘do you have data on this?’ to ‘how is this data been collected? And can it be trusted?’. Because of this we are seeing growing sophistication and expectations, especially when we start thinking about some of the complex data challenges. I think one of the outcomes of having that reporting process is visibility around data: what’s present and what’s missing.

David Thomas from GRESB

Read more about other asset classes and the “real” utility of reporting

Read more about the “resetting” of ESG priorities

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