When looking for a GHG reporting program, there is one element that is typically overlooked. This short video gives us more insight.

It is essential in today’s business landscape to measure and report environmental performance, corporate social responsibility (CSR), and adherence to environmental, social, and governance (ESG) principles. Stakeholders, ranging from investors and regulators to customers and NGOs, now consider both financial and non-financial criteria when evaluating a company’s performance. As a result, the need for comprehensive ESG reporting is rapidly evolving from a mere “nice-to-have” to a core business requirement. 

Navigating the Complexities of ESG Reporting

With the growing emphasis on ESG reporting, organizations find themselves challenged to efficiently gather, manage, and report sustainability data. The task becomes even more complex when a company’s data resides in spreadsheets or disparate applications that lack integration. Such manual and outdated processes hinder companies from meeting the escalating reporting demands. 

In the midst of this landscape, it’s becoming increasingly likely that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) will mandate ESG disclosure through a universal reporting framework in the near future. As a result, companies need to take proactive measures to streamline their ESG reporting processes. 

The Emergence of ESG Software Solutions

To tackle the intricate world of ESG reporting, businesses are seeking unified, enterprise-level software systems that can handle EHS (Environment, Health, and Safety), sustainability, and ESG reporting from a single platform. Such software must not only simplify data collection and management but also support reporting standards across multiple jurisdictions. 

Locus Technologies’ ESG Reporting Software

Locus Technologies recognizes the growing significance of ESG reporting and offers a powerful solution to address these challenges. Locus offers a comprehensive suite of tools for automating data collection, management, and reporting across EHS, CSR, and ESG domains. This all-in-one solution optimizes compliance, sustainability management, and reporting. 

Locus ESG software offers several key features:

  • Integrated IoT Data Streaming: The software allows real-time data streaming from various sources, such as sensors and smart meters, ensuring accurate and up-to-date information. 
  • AI and Blockchain Readiness: The software’s compatibility with AI and blockchain technology enhances data analysis capabilities and security. 
  • Built-in Workflows and Rules: Streamlined workflows and rule-based automation simplify complex processes. 
  • Robust Business Analytics and Reporting: Advanced analytics tools and reporting engines enable companies to derive meaningful insights from their data. 
  • Fully Integrated GIS System: The integrated Geographic Information System (GIS) enhances spatial data analysis. 
  • Configurability: The software’s off-the-shelf configurability allows companies to adapt the software to their unique needs without extensive coding. 

ESG Reporting Made Efficient

The transition from sustainability to ESG reporting reflects a maturation in business practices. It necessitates a holistic approach to evaluating a company’s environmental impact, encompassing emissions, energy efficiency, carbon footprint, waste management, supply chain transparency, and more. This comprehensive evaluation demands advanced tools that can seamlessly handle vast datasets and provide actionable insights. 

By integrating EHS compliance, sustainability management, and ESG reporting within a unified platform, companies can efficiently manage data, improve reporting accuracy, and enhance stakeholder communication. As regulatory requirements and reporting standards evolve, companies can confidently navigate the complexities of ESG reporting while demonstrating transparency, credibility, and a commitment to environmental and social responsibility. 

Want to learn more about Locus Software Solutions? Reach out to our product specialists today!

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    Wouldn’t it be great if you could just get compliance software with much less time and effort? That is where Locus’ pre-configured apps come in.  They are market tested and fully featured yet still allow for flexibility/configurability in key areas such as: 

    • Adding new data fields to capture industry specific information.
    • Adding or removing document or URL capture fields. 
    • Associating tasks with anything.
    • Adding data collection fields to any task completion.
    • Adding or removing workflows. 
    • Rearranging field order and specifying “required” fields.
    • Setting up audit tracking. 
    • Creating perfect mobile layouts for fast and efficient data capture. 
    • Adding text and comment fields to any form. 

    All these simple configurations can be done quickly and easily because our apps already contain all the basics needed to track compliance.  Simple configurations just let customers grab more data for reporting and dashboards so company rollups and targeted reporting are simplified. 

    Locus out of the box apps include: 

    • Compliance – Obligations/Permits > Requirements > Tasks.
    • Events – Any event needing tracking and follow up such as NOVs, regulatory inspections, spills etc. 
    • Waste – Track wastes, profiles, containers, storage, shipping and final disposal. 
    • Incidents – Track incidents from occurrence through resolution and follow up actions. 

    What about getting all that information into the systemThat is another area where time and money can pile up and areas where people can prepare in advance.  

    • Pre-configured Excel templates already mapped to the software – available from Locus. Decide in advance how you want to phase in all your locations and break up the effort into manageable chunks. 
    • New permits/requirements not yet digitized?  Software implementation experts can help “deconstruct” the obligations and get the data ready for upload. Again, decide on appropriate phasing and break up the effort into manageable chunks. 

    Whether you’re looking to track 100 or 1,000 permits and ensure your commitments are assigned and completed, Locus Technologies out of the box apps can help your company achieve those goals. 

    Want to learn more about Locus Software Solutions? Reach out to our product specialists today!

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      paper-forms-excel-to-digital-locus-platform-environmental-data-laptop-simplify

      I am constantly reminded by the number of calls we receive, that no matter how robust a SCADA and HMI system is, there is always a requirement for in-field O&M verifications and documentation. It’s almost universal and spans a myriad of industries, large and small, the need to monitor and record thousands of periodic (daily/per shift/weekly, etc.) routine readings/recordings at a prescribed frequency often recorded on pen to paper field forms. The same processes sometimes use “template” spreadsheets for data collection that are then emailed/placed on shared file servers or otherwise sent to some central location for review and post-processing. These processes are antiquated and subject to data quality and record-keeping challenges.  

      It’s time for an upgrade! 

      Electronic forms are great for collecting data and almost every business entity has built such forms in spreadsheets, word processing, or simple databases to collect the information. In addition, there is a software category of form builders, and they can certainly build forms. The question becomes is it a good fit to solve your business process issues?

      Most customers have more sophisticated needs than simply collecting information on one or more custom forms – they want to do something with all the information collected far beyond what simple form builder tools can provide. Even customers with sophisticated spreadsheet forms, can’t manage them as they multiply exponentially or their Excel gurus retire. 

      Here are some examples of where you may require software tools beyond a simple form builder: 

      • Collecting equipment readings on each shift at multiple locations and reporting the data to centralized management, who review the data, and look for trends/issues. 
      • Verifying and validating data at the point of data entry to eliminate data entry errors. 
      • Automatically visualizing (charts or tables) information in near real-time to make operations decisions. 
      • Sharing the information with others. 
      • Scheduling activities related to periodic or infrequent data collection events. 
      • Receiving notifications when actions are due. 
      • Automatically creating regulatory reports in prescribed formats. 
      • Creating complex workflows and audited approval processes. 
      • Creating intelligent forms with calculations based on past data or other criteria.

      Locus Platform is a configurable platform with standard applications that are easy to configure to customers’ unique requirements. One of its many strengths is its powerful form builder capable of creating simple or complex forms with simple or sophisticated logic. So, for customers looking to move from paper and spreadsheet templates, it’s an excellent option to consider, especially if you require more than a simple “fill in the blank” form for transmittal using mobile devices. Best of all, the data are securely stored in a database structure for reporting and alternative business uses and analyses, compared to the almost impossible management of hundreds of spreadsheets or paper forms. 

      Here are some examples where sophisticated forms are integrated with a flexible database: 

      • Water Utilities – Tracking chlorination and aerobic digestion processes with daily inputs/outputs with a monthly summary and chart and tracking well production across well fields. 
      • Water Utilities – Tracking periodic sewer discharges and water samples for permit compliance. 
      • Agriculture – Monitoring food processing equipment for compliance with optimum equipment opeating parameters for air permits. 
      • Pharmaceutical/Chemical Manufacturing Facilities – Tracking EHS daily, weekly, monthly, etc. investigations and in-house audits. 
      • Universities – tracking chemical inventories. 
      • Facility Engineering – Documenting O&M activities for groundwater treatment systems.
      • Electric Utilities – Monitoring water/energy/gas usage from old-style meters for sustainability reporting with data entry validation. 
      • Refineries and Terminals – Collecting O&M, usage, and wastewater data.

      If you still rely on paper forms and template spreadsheets and are ready to streamline your process and enhance the value of your data, give us a call and we can show you a range of options that will retire the paper forms for good!  

      Want to learn more about Locus Software Solutions? Reach out to our product specialists today!

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        air-quality-laptop

        Locus’ Air Quality app is designed to integrate with data sources to seamlessly calculate air emissions monthly or annually. Our application can then produce XML, CSV and other emission reports which can be uploaded directly to regulatory sites. 

        emissions-charts-air-quality

        Assets are compiled based on configurable templates. Each asset type has its own form with input values, and the associated emission factors and calculations are shown to transparently display the model used to calculate the asset’s emissions. To build out the model, data for every asset may be uploaded from Excel or migrated from legacy systems.   

        Once created, the asset presents a self-contained, transparent view of the asset properties, data, emissions factors, calculations, results, with the capability to add more information. 

        data-air-quality

        emissions-calculations-air-quality

         

        The current asset-types available include: 

        • Pumps 
        • Compressors 
        • Boilers 
        • Generators 
        • Scrubbers 
        • Pipelines 
        • Engines 
        • Tractors, Trucks 
        • Storage  
        • Fugitive sources 
        • Grain Terminals 
        • Flares 
        • Thermal Oxidizers 
        • Heaters 
        • Digesters 

        Locus Technology’s flexible configuration tool makes reporting your organization’s Air Quality straightforward. 

        Request a demo

        Send us your contact information and a Locus representative will be in touch to discuss your organization’s needs and provide an estimate, or set up a free demo of our enterprise environmental software solutions.

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          Locus Platform

          Locus Platform is the preeminent on-demand application development platform for EHS, ESG, and beyond, supporting many organizations and government institutions. Individual enterprises and governmental organizations trust Locus’s SaaS Platform to deliver robust, reliable, Internet-scale applications. The foundation of Locus Platform (LP) is a metadata-driven software architecture that enables multitenant applications. This unique technology, a significant differentiator between Locus and its competitors, makes the Locus Platform fast, scalable, and secure for any application. What do we mean by metadata-driven? If you look up metadata-driven development on the web, you find the following:  

          “The metadata-driven model for building applications allows an Enterprise to deploy multiple applications on the same hosting infrastructure easily. Since multiple applications share the same Designer and Rendering Engine, the only difference is the metadata created uniquely for each application.” 

          Why Multitenancy is Better than Single

          The Triumph of the Multitenant SaaS model, which Locus brings to the EHS/ESG industry.

          In the case of LP, it is the Designer and Rendering Engine cited in this definition. All LP customers share this engine and use it to create their custom applications. These applications may consist of dashboards, forms to enter data, plots, reports, and so forth, all designed to meet a set of requirements. Instructions (metadata) stored in a database tell the engine how to build these entities, the total of which form a client-designed application.  

          Locus Platform Evolution

          Locus Platform’s evolution to the leading EHS and ESG Platform.

          History has shown that every so often, incremental advances in technology and changes in business models create significant paradigm shifts in the way software applications are designed, built, and delivered to end-users. The invention of personal computers (PCs), computer networking, and graphical user interfaces (UIs) gave rise to the adoption of client/server applications over expensive, inflexible, character-mode mainframe applications. And today, reliable broadband Internet access, service-oriented architectures (SOAs), and the cost inefficiencies of managing dedicated on-premises applications are driving a transition toward the delivery of decomposable, collected, shared, Web-based services called software as a service (SaaS). 

          With every paradigm shift comes a new set of technical challenges, and SaaS is no different. Existing application frameworks are not designed to address the unique needs of SaaS. This void has given rise to another new paradigm shift, namely platform as a service (PaaS). Hosted application platforms are managed environments specifically designed to meet the unique challenges of building SaaS applications and deliver them more cost-efficiently. 

          The focus of Locus Platform is multitenancy, a fundamental design approach that dramatically improves the manageability of EHS and ESG SaaS applications.  Locus Platform is the world’s first PaaS built from scratch to take advantage of the latest software developments for building EHS, ESG, sustainability, and other applications. Locus Platform delivers turnkey multitenancy for Internet-scale applications.  

          Locus Multitenancy

          The Benefits of Multitenancy

          A single shared software and hardware stack across all customers.

          The same applies to many different sets of users; all Locus’ LP applications are multitenant rather than single-tenant. Whereas a traditional single-tenant application requires a dedicated group of resources to fulfill the needs of just one organization, a multitenant application can satisfy the needs of multiple tenants (companies or departments within a company, etc.) using the hardware resources and staff needed to manage just a single software instance. A multitenant application cost-efficiently shares a single stack of resources to satisfy the needs of multiple organizations. 

          Single Tenancy

          Single-tenant apps are expensive for the vendor and the customer.

          Tenants using a multitenant service operate in virtual isolation: Organizations can use and customize an application as though they each have a separate instance. Yet, their data and customizations remain secure and insulated from the activity of all other tenants. The single application instance effectively morphs at runtime for any particular tenant at any given time. 

          The Waste of Single Tenancy

          Single-tenant apps create waste

          Multitenancy is an architectural approach that pays dividends to application providers (Locus) and users (Locus customers). Operating just one application instance for multiple organizations yields tremendous economy of scale for the provider. Only one set of hardware resources is necessary to meet the needs of all users, a relatively small, experienced administrative staff can efficiently manage only one stack of software and hardware, and developers can build and support a single code base on just one platform (operating system, database, etc.) rather than many. The economics afforded by multitenancy allows the application provider to, in turn, offer the service at a lower cost to customers—everyone involved wins. 

          Some attractive side benefits of multitenancy are improved quality, user satisfaction, and customer retention. Unlike single-tenant applications, which are isolated silos deployed outside the reach of the application provider, a multitenant application is one large community that the provider itself hosts. This design shift lets the provider gather operational information from the collective user population (which queries respond slowly, what errors happen, etc.) and make frequent, incremental improvements to the service that benefits the entire user community at once. 

          Two additional benefits of a multitenant platform-based approach are collaboration and integration. Because all users run all applications in one space, it is easy to allow any user of any application varied access to specific data sets. This capability simplifies the effort necessary to integrate related applications and the data they manage.  

          Gartner Chart Showing Locus Technologies

          Gartner recognized the power of the Locus Platform in their early research.

           


          This is the third post highlighting the evolution of Locus Technologies over the past 25 years. The first two can be found here and here. This series continues with Locus at 25 Years: How did we fund Locus?

          To celebrate a milestone 25 years of success in EHS and ESG software development, we sat down with Locus President, Wes Hawthorne for a brief discussion. In this post, we ask him a series of questions highlighting the past, present and future of EHS and ESG.

          1. What are the greatest challenges that environmental professionals are facing?

          One of the persistent challenges we’ve seen for the past 25 years is that the responsibilities of environmental professionals are continually expanding. Previously, almost all environmental work was localized, with facility-level permits for air, water, waste, etc. That has expanded over the years to include new regulations and reporting requirements for sustainability, social metrics, and other new compliance areas, while the old facility-level programs still continue. This has led to more pressure on environmental managers to keep up with these programs, and increased reliance on tools to manage that information. That’s where Locus has always focused our effort, to make that ever-expanding workload more manageable with modern solutions.

          2. What are the most interesting trends in EHS and ESG?

          The current flood of interest in ESG is certainly notable as far as bringing corporate attention to the environmental field, as well as having requirements originate from the SEC here in the US. We have become accustomed to managing oversight from multiple regulatory bodies at the local, state, and federal level, but SEC would be a newcomer in our line of work. Their involvement will be accompanied by a range of new requirements that are common for the financial world, but would be unfamiliar to environmental staff.

          Across other EHS fields, we are seeing increased demand for transparency in EHS functions. Overall, this is a positive move, as it brings more attention to EHS issues and develops a better EHS culture within organizations. But this also drives the need for better tools to make EHS information readily available across all levels of the organization.

          3. What are the most disruptive technologies available today?

          As far as technologies, the ones most likely to have significant impact in the environmental field are ones that don’t require a significant capital investment. Although there are definitely some practical advantages to installing smart monitoring devices and other new technologies, procuring the funding for those purchases is often difficult for environmental professionals. Fortunately, there are still many technologies that have already been implemented successfully in other fields, but only need to be adapted for environmental purposes. Even simple changes like using web-based software in place of spreadsheets can have a huge impact on efficiency. And we haven’t yet seen the full impact of the proliferation of mobile devices on EHS functions. We are still working on new ways to take advantage of mobile devices for data collection, analysis, and communication purposes.

          4. What do you think are the biggest innovations of the last 25 years in our field?

          We’ve seen a number of innovation milestones in the past 25 years, and while we didn’t invent SaaS, we’ve been largely responsible for adapting it and perfecting it for environmental purposes. One of the major innovations we’ve integrated into our products include online GIS tools where users can easily visualize their environmental data on maps without expensive desktop software. Another one was our fully configurable software platform with built-in form, workflow, and report builders tailored for environmental purposes, which allows anyone to build and deploy environmental software applications that exactly match their needs. There have been many other innovations we’ve incorporated into our software, but these two stand out as the most impactful.

          5. Where do you see Environmental and ESG reporting in the future?

          More and more, we are seeing all types of reporting being converted into pure data exchanges. Reports that used to include regulatory forms and text interpretations are being replaced with text or XML file submittals. This transition is being driven largely by availability of technology for EHS professionals to generate and read these files, but it is also promoted by regulatory agencies and other stakeholders receiving these reports. Stakeholders have less time to read volumes of interpretive text, and are becoming more skeptical of potential bias in how facts are presented in text. These are driving the need for more pure data exchanges, with increasing emphasis on quantifiable metrics. These types of reports are also more readily compared against regulatory or industry standards. For reporters, lengthy corporate reports with volumes of text and graphics are becoming less common, and the success of an organization’s programs will be increasingly reliant on robust data sets, since ultimately only the data will be reported.

          6. What has been the key reason for Locus’ success for the past 25 years?

          There are actually a few that immediately come to mind. One reason is the nature of our continually evolving products. By providing our solutions as SaaS, our software adapts with new environmental requirements, and with new technologies. If our software was still the same as it was 25 years ago, it simply wouldn’t be sufficient for today’s requirements. Since our software is updated multiple times each year, it is difficult to notice the incremental changes, but they can be readily seen if you compare today’s software with the original in 1997. And we’re committed to continuing the development of our products as environmental needs change.

          The other primary reason for our success is our excellent staff and the environmental expertise we bring to our customers. We simply could not provide the same level of support without our team of environmental engineers, scientists, geologists, chemists, and an array of others. Having that real-world understanding of environmental topics is how we’ve maintained customer relationships for multiple decades. And our software only has value because it is maintained and operated by staff who appreciate the complexity and importance of environmental work.


          Locus President Wes Hawthorne meets with Locus Platform dev team 2016Mr. Hawthorne has been with Locus since 1999, working on development and implementation of services and solutions in the areas of environmental compliance, remediation, and sustainability. As President, he currently leads the overall product development and operations of the company. As a seasoned environmental and engineering executive, Hawthorne incorporates innovative analytical tools and methods to develop strategies for customers for portfolio analysis, project implementation, and management. His comprehensive knowledge of technical and environmental compliance best practices and laws enable him to create customized, cost-effective and customer-focused solutions for the specialized needs of each customer.

          Mr. Hawthorne holds an M.S. in Environmental Engineering from Stanford University and B.S. degrees in Geology and Geological Engineering from Purdue University. He is registered both as a Professional Engineer and Professional Geologist, and is also accredited as Lead Verifier for the Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Low Carbon Fuel Standard programs by the California Air Resources Board.

          Want to discuss EHS and ESG solutions with our product specialists? Contact us today!

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            Joint Press Release with N3B Los Alamos

            MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA and LOS ALAMOS, N.M., 21 April 2022 —

            A significant software improvement is driving enhanced decision-making on N3B Los Alamos’ environmental cleanup at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).

            Samples collected of soil, sediment, water and other parts of the environment potentially contaminated by historical LANL operations now receive faster and more comprehensive validation due to software tool improvements made by N3B and leading environmental software provider Locus Technologies.

            The improved software functionality is part of a database containing all data associated with environmental cleanup at LANL. N3B implements the legacy portion of that cleanup on behalf of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Environmental Management Los Alamos Field Office. Legacy cleanup involves the remediation of contamination from Manhattan Project and Cold War era weapons development and government-sponsored nuclear research.

            The software improvement ensures more thorough validation of results from third-party analytical laboratories that analyze collected samples for various contaminants, which may include metals, radionuclides, high explosives, and human-made chemicals used in industrial solvents, known as volatile organic compounds.

            The types of contaminants potentially found in these samples, along with levels of contamination, guide N3B’s cleanup.

            “Decisions on legacy environmental cleanup are based on the validity and quality of this analytical data, including the nature and extent of contamination, how much we clean up, and how well the interim remediation measure is working to mitigate migration of the hexavalent chromium groundwater plume,” said Sean Sandborgh, sample and data management director at N3B. “If you have lapses in the quality of analytical data, that could have negative effects on our program’s decision-making capacity.”

            Once N3B personnel collect samples from potentially contaminated sites, they send them to a third-party laboratory for analysis. When N3B receives the results of those samples, they perform a validation process to demonstrate data is sufficient in quality and supports defensible decision-making.

            “Validation consists of determining the data quality and the extent to which external analytical laboratories accurately and completely reported all sample and quality control results,” Sandborgh said.

            The process can catch data quality issues that may result from incorrect calibration of equipment in a laboratory or issues inherent in the samples, such as improper preservation or temperature control, that mask detection of contaminants.

            With the improved functionality, more of the validation process is automated, instead of manually conducted, which means a lower likelihood of errors.

            Another crucial improvement is the ability to evaluate sample results containing radioactive material at lower activity concentrations, which provides quick information on the potential for low levels of radionuclide activity.

            The improved functionality is also being used by LANL’s management and operating contractor, Triad, and will soon be used by the New Mexico Environment Department Oversight Bureau.

            The software improvement saved N3B 265 hours of labor and more than $25,000 in taxpayer dollars since its launch nearly one year ago.

            “As we’ve done for the past 25 years, Locus is committed to continually improving our solutions for the often costly and complex data review process,” said Locus Technologies President Wes Hawthorne. “We are proud to enable a data-forward approach with a focus on accuracy that results in confident and correct decisions.”

            “The quality and defensibility of environmental data generated from sampling activities is a key component of an effective remediation process,” said Sandborgh. “When the automated data review is used in conjunction with manual examination of sample data packages, we meet and exceed our data quality requirements.”

             

            ABOUT N3B Los Alamos
            N3B manages the 10-year, $1.4 billion Los Alamos Legacy Cleanup Contract for the U.S. Department of Energy Environmental Management’s Los Alamos Field Office. N3B is responsible for cleaning up contamination that resulted from LANL operations before 1999. N3B personnel also package and ship radioactive and hazardous waste off-site for permanent disposal.

             

            There are two promising technologies that are about to change how we aggregate and manage EHS+S data: artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain. When it comes to technology, history has consistently shown that the cost will always decrease, and its impact will increase over time. We still lack access to enough global information to allow AI to make a significant dent in global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by merely providing better tools for emissions management. For example, the vast majority of energy consumption is wasted on water treatment and movement. AI can help optimize both. Along the way, water quality management becomes an add-on app.

            AI is a collective term for technologies that can sense their environment, think, learn, and act in response to what they’re detecting and their objectives. Possible applications include (1) Automation of routine tasks like sampling and analyses of water samples, (2) Segregation of waste disposal streams based on the waste containers content, (3) Augmentation of human decision-making, and (4) Automation of water treatment systems. AI systems can greatly aid the process of discovery – processing and analyzing vast amounts of data for the purposes of spotting and acting on patterns, skills that are difficult for humans to match. AI can be harnessed in a wide range of EHS compliance activities and situations to contribute to managing environmental impacts and climate change. Some examples of applications include permit interpretation and response to regulatory agencies, precision sampling, predicting natural attenuation of chemicals in water or air, managing sustainable supply chains, automating environmental monitoring and enforcement, and enhanced sampling and analysis based on real-time weather forecasts. Applying AI in water resource prediction, management, and monitoring can help to ameliorate the global water crisis by reducing or eliminating waste, as well as lowering costs and lessening environmental impacts. A similar analogy holds for air emissions management.

            The onset of blockchain technology will have an even bigger impact. It will first liberate data and, second, it will decentralize monitoring while simultaneously centralizing emissions management. It may sound contradictory, but we need to decentralize in order to centralize management and aggregate relevant data across corporations and governmental organizations without jeopardizing anyone’s privacy. That is the power of blockchain technology. Blockchain technology will eliminate the need for costly synchronization among stakeholders: corporations, regulators, consultants, labs, and the public. What we need is secure and easy access to any data with infinite scalability. It is inevitable that blockchain technology will become more accessible with reduced infrastructure over the next few decades. My use of reduced architecture here refers to a replacement of massive centralized databases controlled by one of the big four internet companies using the hub-and-spoke model concept with a device-to-device communication with no intermediaries.


            This post was originally published in Environmental Business Journal in June of 2020.

            Locus has been preaching on the pitfalls of Excel for a long time. It’s no surprise that one of the worst imaginable errors in Excel that could’ve happened, did. Almost 16,000 COVID-19 cases in England went unreported because Public Health England hit the maximum row count in their version of Excel.

            This is not the only example of Excel being misused or being the wrong tool entirely for the job. Excel is not in any way a data management system for complex or vital data. When it comes to sustainability reporting and environmental data management, the evils of the grid are a force to be reckoned with. We have highlighted a few examples that will have you shivering.

            Excel Horrors - Evils of Autofill

            Case 1: The Evils of Autofill

            Take a look at this harmless-looking chart. It shows monthly electricity consumption for a facility set to report:

            Month  Monthly Electricity Consumption (MWh) 
            January 2019  133,500 
            February 2019  122,400 
            March 2019  138,900 
            April 2019  141,600 
            May 2019  141,601 
            June 2019  141,602 
            July 2019  141,603 
            August 2019  141,604 
            September 2019  141,605 
            October 2019  141,606 
            November 2019  141,607 
            December 2019  141,608 

            During review, the auditor notices a distinct trend from April to December, indicating false data overwritten by a stray double-click. Eventually, the auditor required re-entering all invoice data for dozens of facilities to correct the issue. Where the original data went and how autofill went astray remains a mystery.

             

            Excel Horrors - Phantom File Editor

            Case 2: The Phantom File Editor

            Imagine using a massive spreadsheet with lots of linked calculations for your annual sustainability report. One of the team engineers works on the file to input more data and get it ready for presentation. But in the final steps, they accidentally delete one of the formulas that sum up the indicators. The annual total looks great for the presentation since you’ve effectively removed a portion of your resource consumption, but afterwards you discover the conclusions were incorrectly calculated.  How did that error get introduced?  The spreadsheet has no auditing capabilities on the individual values, so you may never know.

            Excel supports multiple users editing one document simultaneously, but not well.  Multiple records are saved, edits are lost, and vital data vanishes, or at best is very hard to recover. The Track Changes feature is not infallible, and over reliance on it will cause hardship.

            Excel Horrors - Date of the Dead

            Case 3: Date of the Dead

            Excel has a frustrating insistence of changing CAS numbers into dates, even if they are something like “7440-09-7″ turning into September 7, 7400. If you’re not explicit in your cell formatting, Excel isn’t happy leaving values as they are.

             

            Excel Horrors - Imposter Numbers

            Case 4: Imposter Numerical Values

            You meant to type 1.5, but you typed “1..5” or “.1.5”. Does Excel reject these imposter numbers or let you know of a potential error? No, it’s stored in Text format. This can throw off any averages or sums you may be tracking. This minor identity theft can cause a real headache.

             


             

            Other Significant Cases:

            Other data quality issues with using Excel include, but are not limited to:

            • Locations with multiple variations of the same ID/name (e.g., MW-1, MW-01, MW 1, MW1, etc.)
            • Use of multiple codes for the same entity (e.g., SW and SURFW for surface water samples)
            • Loss of significant figures for numeric data
            • Special characters (such as commas) that may cause cells to break unintentionally over rows when moving data into another application
            • Bogus dates like “November 31” in columns that do not have date formats applied to them
            • Loss of leading zeros associated with cost codes and projects numbers (e.g., “005241”) that have only numbers in them but must be stored as text fields
            • The inability to enforce uniqueness, leading to duplicate entries
            • Null values in key fields (because entries cannot be marked as required)
            • Hidden rows and/or columns that can cause data to be shifted unintentionally or modified erroneously
            • Inconsistent use of lab qualifiers— in some cases, these appear concatenated in the same Excel column (e.g., “10U, <5”) while in other cases they appear in separate columns

            As you can see, the horrors of Excel are common, and terrifying. Without a proper system of record, auditing features, and the ability for data to vanish into the ephemera, Excel offers little in the way of data security and quality for organizations managing vital environmental and compliance data. Many are learning firsthand the superiority of database management systems over spreadsheets when it comes to managing data. Now is the time to examine the specific shortcomings of your current system and consider your options.

            Contact us today to learn how Locus makes complex data management a little less spooky!

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