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Interview with Data Ahead Analytics

Could you shortly tell who Data Ahead Analytics is and what you do?

Data Ahead Analytics is a Zurich based tech company. We enable our customers to get the carbon footprints of their value chains at a very granular level. We help them calculate the impacts and seize opportunities in their journey towards decarbonization.

What is Data Ahead Analytics background story?

Christian Spindler, CEO of Data Ahead Analytics, has a passion for bringing long-term sustainability dimensions to the business side of companies.

“When you look back at how sustainability was originally defined, there was a balance between the ecological, social and economic aspects of well-being: one aspect should not compromise the other aspects. In order to ensure overall sustainability, we should bring all these three elements together, in order to have thriving businesses that are ecologically and socially sustainable.”

Christian has a background in physics and was engaging in data science, already before the word “data science” had been coined. During his PhD he started to combine climate research with data-driven modelling. He specifically worked on the statistical analysis of aerosol measurements, one of the contributors to climate change that still has many open questions. He enjoyed bringing together data science on the one side and sustainability measures on the other. Christian then developed his professional career in large corporations, such as ABB and in the large consultancies Deloitte and PwC. At the end of 2018 he decided to engage full-time in the environmental fintech start-up, Data Ahead Analytics.

Dr. Christian Spindler

The idea of Data Ahead Analytics started back in 2015 around the COP21 (Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)) that took place in Paris in November 2015. The conference achieved a breakthrough in international climate negotiations and, consequently, in international climate economics. All the participating nations committed to intensifying their actions and investments to achieve a sustainable, low carbon future. Still five years later, the Paris agreement is considered very successful, because it was the very first time that all nations agreed to undertake such ambitious efforts to combat climate change. The idea of Data Ahead Analytics was developed around this momentum.  We thought that when something with this magnitude happens, the entire accounting system and the way we measure sustainability impacts and sustainability related risks, will have to change – over the globe and for every company. We saw this as our opportunity to make a difference. We wanted to bring the carbon disclosure and the carbon risk measurements that were then used to a much deeper and more detailed level. This proved to be very valuable, because there are many companies that want to become carbon neutral by 2030 but lack the means to achieve it. We help them on their journey by providing the means to count in detail, where in their processes carbon is emitted and navigate them through the current uncertainty of the decarbonization ahead. And, of course, identifying business opportunities found in decarbonization of a company is very exiting!

Now Data Ahead Analytics is run by three co-founders working with four students. We are also looking for more software developers.

Why is it important that Data Ahead Analytics exists?

It is important because on the long term we will be forced to build up the same kinds of accounting mechanisms for carbon neutralization that we currently have in the financial world, for example the IFRS standards (International Financial Reporting Standards). In the future, we will also have to take other externalized impacts into account, such as biodiversity degradation, waste, or air-pollution. But for now, we focus on carbon. This means that we hope to see a world where we count each and every molecule of carbon in the same way we count every dollar and cent in the financial books of organizations. We are on the forefront in shaping holistic carbon accounting. We also work on incorporating all the mechanisms available in the financial industry, for example risk analysis, into the world of sustainability.

Who can profit from your services?

We have two major customer segments that profit from our services: financial services and non-financial companies. On the financial side, we are screening climate risks for both real-estate investors, and for corporate loan books of banks. On the non-financial side, we provide dynamic product carbon footprints that go deep down to a single process level and analyse granular emissions at each step in a certain process path, identify decarbonization potential and map emissions to future financial costs from a sustainability perspective. Our customers are individual businesses with all the services and products they offer.

It is exciting to see the different fields enforcing each other: pressure from the financial sector on corporates forces the companies to evaluate their sustainability processes. Then the large companies will push this need up their value chains, and this way sustainability accounting expands to smaller companies, who may not necessarily have as much knowledge of or experience in ESG.

How do your customers find you?

Through feedback from our previous or current customers. Our customers specifically appreciate the collaborative philosophy of our work. And the field of sustainability analytics is still young and not very standardized, so many customers need upskilling and are happy if we can help bringing them to the next level in this exciting field.

Can you give some concrete examples?

An example from the finance field is a real-estate investment firm, who are looking into sustainability risks in objects on the market. We are developing an API (Application Programming Interface) based solution, where few basic input data points of properties are sufficient for a thorough analysis of the sustainability risks, particularly climate risks, of a specific asset.

On the corporate side we recently concluded a very innovative project with the multinational company Siemens in Germany, where we went down to the granular production processes of a single product. We designed and implemented carbon foot printing for each individual product that run through the line. We are currently industrializing the solution to deliver continuous, automated, and verifiable product carbon footprints. This demonstrates that we can go to new levels of depths with our technology.

What are your biggest challenges?

Our biggest challenge is that we have more possibilities to add value than we can thoroughly deliver. This is why it is especially important to focus on the relevant issues that we know we can deliver well. But this is not always easy, with all the different areas that simultaneously move forward fast today. We are unfortunately often forced to say “No” in order to keep on the relevant track in serving our customers.

How do you see the future of Data Ahead Analytics and what is your long-term goal?

Our vision is to run companies with a fully developed sustainability accounting system – catering the same kind of regulations and following the same kind of standardization that we currently have in financial accounting. Today we are in a situation where we can build sustainability accounting from the green field software development – doing things the right way digitally, end to end.

For businesses we are developing a Software as a Service product that allows companies from the financial and non-financial sector to acquire ESG data and run impact, risk, and opportunity analyses.

We want to keep being an innovative leader in this young field.

Is there anything else that you want to add?

We are looking out for software developers, please feel free to drop Christian a note if you are interested to learn more!