Visualize This: Justmeans Insights Uses Data Visualization to Empower Stakeholders and Inspire Transparency

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Visualize This: Justmeans Insights Uses Data Visualization to Empower Stakeholders and Inspire Transparency

Contextualization, competitive intelligence and the rise of data visualization are changing the way we understand the environmental, social and governance impact of the private sector
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What do #sustainability rankings really mean? See @Justmeans Insights changing the #ESG data/reporting world #GRI
Monday, October 31, 2011 - 4:28pm

CAMPAIGN: The Future of ESG Rankings: Justmeans Insights


Newsweek recently released their third annual Green Rankings, in which they rank the 500 biggest companies in America and 500 of the biggest companies in the world. According to Newsweek, "The data—crunched in cooperation with Trucost and Sustainalytics, two leading environmental-research firms—assess companies' environmental footprint (including greenhouse-gas emissions and water use); management (including environmental policies, programs, and initiatives); and disclosure (including company reporting and involvement in transparency initiatives). Underlying data are drawn from a variety of sources, including the companies themselves, and vetted for reliability."[1]

So the underlying data is reliable, but how useful is the actual ranking? Among US companies, according to the Green Rankings, IBM is #1, Office Depot is #8, Ford Motors is #22 and American Express is #25. But what do those numbers really mean, especially considering that these firms represent vastly different industries?

Justmeans Lead Analyst Benjamin Whitney has a background in data visualization, specifically in the role that information plays within a sociocultural context. He also has experience designing knowledge management systems. In the following first part of a two-part interview, I asked Benjamin some questions about the concept of global rankings and the project he's been working on: Justmeans Insights, a new and innovative data visualization tool that allows users to compare a company's ESG (environmental, social and governance) performance to that of their peers in the same sector. The companies included have a market capitalization of at least USD $1 billion. (Full disclosure: I am a staff writer for Justmeans).

Being a data viz junkie myself, and obviously interested in the environmental impact of the private sector, I was very curious to see how this tool compared to ranking systems like Newsweek's and the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI). I talked to Benjamin and he gave me a walk-through of the program. My first impression is that Justmeans Insights is a pretty powerful tool for investors, consumers, journalists, academics, CEOs, CSR professionals—basically anyone who wants to know what the world's biggest companies are doing in terms of ESG. It was also really easy to use. I was able to make very clear and usable graphs in just a few seconds.

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Reynard is a Justmeans staff writer for Sustainable Finance and Corporate Social Responsibility. A former media executive with 15 years experience in the private and non-profit sectors, Reynard is the co-founder of MomenTech, a New York-based experimental production studio that explores transnational progressivism, neo-nomadism, post-humanism and futurism. He is also author of the blog 13.7 Billion Years, covering cosmology, biodiversity, animal welfare, conservation and ethical consumption. He is currently developing the Underground Desert Living Unit (UDLU), a sustainable single-family dwelling envisioned as a potential adaptation response to the future loss of human habitat due to the effects of anthropogenic climate change.