Environmental conservation and protection are part of one analytics firm’s strategy to make corporate social responsibility a part of its culture.

How are organizations doing their part to realize a more sustainable future through social innovation on the week of Earth Day 2021?

Three critical environmental issues need to be addressed: stopping rainforest deforestation, improving reef health, and reducing operational carbon footprints. To that end, Amazon Conservation (not part of the e-commerce company) and the Healthy Reefs for Healthy People (HR4HP) Initiative, led by the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, has been a guiding light for global organizations wishing to do their part.

One firm has not only subscribed to the initiative but has used its expertise in analytics to do more. As part of the current crowdsourcing experience, analytics firm SAS and Amazon Conservation will incorporate deforestation alerts from the University of Maryland’s Global Analysis and Discovery (GLAD) lab, which uses high-resolution satellite imagery to collect weekly data on deforestation across the tropics.

By prioritizing the highly threatened, protected areas and indigenous territories, the project will tap the power of crowdsourcing and AI to help automate the process of determining whether deforestation is natural or man-made.

Building upon the current GLAD alerts (which are limited in that they only indicate areas of possible deforestation and not the actual cause) government officials and local communities will be able to now use the additional insights provided by the group to help them understand the source of the deforestation and assist them in determining its legality in real time, so quick action can be taken on encroachments into protected or indigenous lands before it is too late.

Said Susan Ellis, Brand Director and Head of Social Innovation Programs, SAS: “We feel a responsibility to use our technology and our resources to find answers to the world’s most pressing needs. But it is our employees’passion and commitment to social innovation that makes it a powerful force for change.”

Improving reef health through awareness

SAS is also working with the HR4HP Initiative to use data collected by scores of regional partners over the last 14 years to educate the global community on how they can help protect and improve the health of the Mesoamerican Reef (MAR), home to the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere.

Globally recognized as a hotspot of marine biodiversity, the MAR stretches 625 miles along the coast of Honduras, Guatemala, Belize and Mexico. Over two million people depend on the MAR for their livelihoods while countless others obtain food, medicine and protection from storms and rising sea levels. HR4HP is working to protect that important ecosystem.

To help individuals understand why the reef is in danger, SAS is partnering with HR4HP to feature their 2021 EcoAudit and 2020 Report Cards on reef health in GatherIQ, a free app that lets users engage with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to make the world a better place by 2030.

By bringing attention to reef health data, the partners can help the world learn about the reef and how individual actions have an impact. HR4HP’s work has helped improve the condition of the MAR but increasing awareness and taking steps to make a difference is still needed for this resource to continue to flourish.

According to Dr Melanie McField, who is the director of HR4HP and a Smithsonian Working Land and Seascapes scientist: “Coral reefs are one of our planet’s most diverse, valuable and threatened ecosystems, and the Mesoamerican Reef is right on the global frontline of the fight to save them using collaborative, science-based adaptive management. For over 15 years, 73 regional partner organizations have been collecting reef health data, using data to inform policy action, and then evaluating what each country is actually doing to protect the reef: but we also need the global public to assist by understanding the problems better and altering their individual actions that contribute to problems.”

Smarter operations, lower carbon footprint

As a corporate sustainability leader and advocate, SAS is committed to lowering its carbon footprint and uses its own software to manage and report environmental performance. The firm recently had its emissions reduction targets approved by the Science Based Targets initiative as consistent with levels required to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. SAS’ targets covering greenhouse gas emissions from its operations (scopes 1,2 and 3) are consistent with reductions required to keep warming to 1.5°C and avoid the most damaging effects of climate change.

SAS employees are also doing their part to help reduce carbon emissions and have had the chance to apply their curiosity, passion and expertise to help address this environmental issue and others as part of its annual Social Innovation Summit.

One of the ideas generated during last year’s summit was how employees could help SAS achieve its net-zero emission goal by 2050. As a result, SAS is working on an Employee Air Travel Tool to help employees improve their understanding of carbon footprints and the actions needed to reduce travel spend and emissions by optimizing their travel planning.