Sustainability professionals have to navigate a complex world of data that can be time consuming, fragmented, and expensive. Zooterra is a sustainability data platform designed to save time and money for companies seeking to develop and improve sustainability strategies. The platform offers customers the ability to benchmark company efforts against competitors in the industry, to find projects that can help customers achieve their sustainability goals, and to explore project background and history.
At the time of this project, Zooterra was still in the beta phase. The client approached Net Impact to help them better understand the competitive landscape of sustainability data platforms, whether or not Social and Governance metrics are necessary to include, and to help identify the ideal customer.
The group was split into three teams with two people on each team; the Data Team, the Social and Governance (S&G) Team, and the Customer Research Team. The Data Team created a database of competitors, identified ten key competitors, and summarized their findings and pricing recommendation in a word document for the client. The S&G Team wrote an executive memo for the client that provided definitions and context of S&G, highlighted sustainability platforms currently in the market with an S&G focus, and made a recommendation on whether or not the client should include these metrics on their platform. The Customer Research Team designed a survey to understand pain points for sustainability professionals and develop use cases in order to help identify a target customer base.
Key Findings and Recommendations
The competitive analysis revealed that an increasing number of sustainability data providers are entering the market, with many large providers acquiring niche players. Our research confirmed the interconnected nature of environmental data with social and governance data, with insights from the competitive analysis, S&G specific research, and customer research all supporting the notion to include S&G data on the platform. The customer research revealed that a recurring challenge for sustainability professionals is having to do manual research and analysis due to the lack of standardization. We recommended that the client target consultancy firms and small cap companies for their customer base. For pricing structure, we recommended a base product with options for add-on features as well as a free trial offering.
In the beginning, it took the team some time to understand the client’s unique value proposition and to define the boundaries of the project. We also experienced some challenges in finding competitors’ price points because they often required a consultation. The S&G team initially approached the project through a policy lens as a result of their academic backgrounds. When workshopping with the client, they were asked to pivot their focus more on the business case to support their recommendation.
Identifying the relevant audience for the survey and getting the participants to complete the survey was also an obstacle to overcome. We learned how to use every resource available through our networks and get creative about incentivizing responses. Extra attention was needed to overcome “survey fatigue” that occurs in the industry as a result of so many players working to find the best solutions to the challenges faced in sustainability data and reporting.
Ultimately, we were able to deliver the client with a comprehensive overview of the sustainability data landscape, the importance of including social and governance metrics on the platform, and the customers that would be best suited to use this platform. Throughout the project, the team learned how to pivot when needed and approached each challenge as a learning experience.