Did you know that over 100 companies responsible for 71% of global emissions?
Yet sometimes companies don’t have the visibility that they need. So whether it’s through the limitation of information or ignorance or sometimes deliberate avoidance. One way or another this lack of transparency is a huge problem for everyone. In the global study, 54% of the manufacture surveys claimed they don’t have visibility to their suppliers and sustainability-related risks.
But what if we had a better way? What if we could have faster and accurate data? What if we could scan business-related activity and its influence on sustainable development? What if technology could help us to solve and crack the sustainability code?
Nowadays, industries are beginning to deploy this sort of technology that enables people like us to react to the information we’ve received. Therefore, many companies are actively integrating sustainability principles into their businesses and adopting software sustainable tools for generating reports.
Tracking the carbon footprint and having a full range of information about greenhouse gas emissions have become easier than ever. All due to the new sustainability reporting platform - Normative. In this article, our team will discuss some crucial features of the Normative app and the main challenges of the development process that we faced by our devs.
Normative: Sustainability Reporting Tool of the Future
Normative makes sustainability easy. By being the catalyst for the next generation change, the main goal of the app is to contribute to a faster transition towards a sustainable society. One thing to do so is by helping companies get better at measuring their sustainability level. The Normative team is going to achieve this goal by making every purchase in our economy transparent. This will enable people to move towards achieving the UN SDGs faster and efficiently.
About Normative. The vision to fight for a more sustainable planet appeared in 2014. Initially, the focus was within the B2C market in the form of a mobile application for consumers. Later, to have a much bigger impact on society, the idea transformed into the B2B.
In 2019 Normative closed a significant seed investment round by some of the leading venture capital funds in the Nordics. There has been a significant revenue and user growth for the company. As a result, byFounders, Eric Wahlforss (co-founder of Soundcloud), Luminar Ventures, Wave Ventures, and others became the project’s investors.
We asked the co-founder and CTO of Normative, Adam Wamai Egesa to share his inspiration behind creating the Normative platform.
A.E.: “One of the founders of Normative (Kristian), was doing research applying AI-models on global catastrophic risks at the Future of Humanity Institute, Oxford University. A research institute financially funded by the likes of Elon Musk and Jan Tallinn (co-founder of Skype). There he discovered the threat to the quality of human life that an increase in greenhouse gases actually imposed. Droughts, flooding, and rising sea levels are the reality if we keep ignoring our increased output of greenhouse gases. Frustrated about the fact that academics care more about quotations from other academics, then actually creating a transfer of the research to the public's awareness, he decided to do something about it, and hence started Normative.
We wanted a way to measure how we personally affected the planet. Because with other things, if we don’t measure it, it’s hard to improve. If we want to eat more healthily we start with investigating what we actually eat and then optimize based on that. Similarly, if we want to reduce our carbon footprint, land usage, water usage and the myriad of other key point indicators we have to start with measuring what kind of affect our purchased services & products have. Once we have the metrics we can then do what we can depend on our own means and preferences.
Thus we started out developing a commercial app for everyday users. Along the way, we, however, realized that companies often were equally clueless but with much better means to actually do something about it, in particular large enterprises. We thus ended up pivoting the app towards large companies and have since helped companies mitigate 0.5 M ton CO2 equivalents, similar to the yearly CO2 emissions of Gambia.”
Big and small companies trusted their sustainability reporting to the Normative. The platform is an innovative and the only software capable of assessing a company’s social and environmental impact automatically by analyzing their purchases, using artificial intelligence combined with the world’s largest sustainability research database.
The aim is quite simple - to make the social and environmental cost of every purchase in the economy transparent. This will enable humanity to move towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
How Does It Work? A company should upload their data files into the Normative platform. Aftermath, choose and map the data so it could further process and provide it to you automatically once it is done. Explore, edit and customize the detailed statistics and create automated reports.
Normative will assist you in terms of:
Automatic calculations. Upload the data sources and automatically assess the sustainability statistics. The process is quite simple and should not take more than a couple of minutes. Upload the file with the rough data on your company activity into the Normative system. Map the data you are interested in, so the platform will process your data automatically. You can choose different types of sources that will be included in the final calculations. After this, you can examine the results of the sustainability statistics of your company. Easy as that!
Visual analytics. Displaying the statistics and getting a clear overview with the possibility to dig into details. You can get a full overview of your sustainability index data. Using different graphs help you to get a deep vision of the received statistics. In addition, with the help of benchmarks, you can compare and improve your sustainability index with no effort.
Easy reporting. Automatically generating sustainability reports with no time. The platform allows you to customize your reports by including different tools, sources, etc. The Normative automatically generates reports. The Normative team offers an application platform that helps the customer to build audit annual reports and enable them to share results with consumers and stakeholders.
Benefits of using Normative. Sustainability software tools are growing viral right now, which consequently would create a software sustainable industry Comparing Normative to other similar platforms we would like to stress the key benefits of the platform. Precisely:
Advanced Automatic Calculations. Normative automatically assesses your sustainability and generates sustainability reports, by analyzing bookkeeping records and ERP systems.
Save Time and Money. We believe reporting should be simple. Therefore, Normative automates the process of reporting according to international standards like GRI, CDP, and GHG protocol, following the laws and regulations of the EU.
Calculate the Footprint. Normative not only calculates your business's carbon dioxide emissions and energy use in Scope 1, 2, and 3 with ease, but a myriad of other things, such as how your company affects biodiversity and human health.
Regarding the main advantages of the app, Adam Wamai Egesa gave us a profound vision of the competitive advantages of the Normative:
2mc: From your point of view, what are the main advantages of the app?
A.E.: “I would highlight three competitive advantages of using the Normative platform compared to alternatives.
Organizational overhead. Without an actual platform, you end up sending multiple versions of homemade excel spreadsheets and keeping track that everyone’s always using the latest version of the excel sheet leads to large overhead and huge pain, just organizing your sustainability work. Also, Normative makes sure that you report according to the very best international standards, making sure that investors and stakeholders can understand and use the data provided from the Normative software. Today our by far largest customer base is international private equity that uses the system for all the companies in their portfolio, being praised as a solution that finally enables them to compare apples to apples, and sending data to the market that creates real impact.
Scope. Using our platform makes calculations easy, like really easy! The calculations are made automatically and you can also calculate your indirect emissions from your suppliers, commonly called scope 3. Today this can only be done with trained professionals spending months on making the calculations manually, or spending a smaller fortune on big4 consulting firms. Thus most sustainability reports lack this scope of emissions which often stand for around 90% of total emissions.
Many impact types. Although many only talk about CO2 emissions we also support and collect data for hundreds of different environmental impact factors. As the market matures and people continue to look more and more holistically and at the UN Sustainable Development Goals we believe this will become more and more relevant.”
So, what does your company actually need in order to improve the sustainability reporting experience?
Where scope 1 emissions are direct emissions from owned and controlled sources. Scope 2 are indirect emissions from the generation of purchased energy. And scope 3 are all indirect emissions that occur in the value chain of the reporting company, including both upstream and downstream emissions.
Scope 1: Direct GHG Emissions. Direct GHG emissions occur from sources that are owned or controlled by the company, for example, emissions from combustion in owned or controlled boilers, furnaces, vehicles, etc.; emissions from chemical production in owned or controlled process equipment. Direct CO2 emissions from the combustion of biomass shall not be included in scope 1 but reported separately. GHG emissions not covered by the Kyoto Protocol, e.g. CFCs, NOx, etc. shall not be included in scope 1 but may be reported separately.
Scope 2: Electricity Indirect GHG Emissions. Scope 2 accounts for GHG emissions from the generation of purchased electricity consumed by a company. Purchased electricity is defined as electricity that is purchased or otherwise brought into the organizational boundary of the company. Scope 2 emissions physically occur at the facility where electricity is generated.
Scope 3: Other Indirect GHG Emissions. Scope 3 is an optional reporting category that allows for the treatment of all other indirect emissions. Scope 3 emissions are a consequence of the activities of the company, but occur from sources not owned or controlled by the company. Some examples of scope 3 activities are extraction and production of purchased materials; transportation of purchased fuels; and use of products and services.
#2 Sustainable development goals (SDG) benchmarks
Agreed in 2015, SDGs are the milestones marking the path towards the future humanity wants to achieve. These goals couldn’t be achieved without the firm commitment of the private sector to work with government and civil society to deliver the solutions and investments needed to achieve the SDGs. Enhanced transparency and understanding can fundamentally change the quality of multi-stakeholder engagement and align corporate performance with sustainability objectives.
#3 Detailed analytics view
The importance of analytics could not be mentioned enough. Analytics provide insights to quantify the effects of your company's strategy and operations. That is invaluable to the process of analyzing the outcomes of your activity, as well as the process of improving and optimizing your future activity.
#5 Quick customer support
Customer service and support are important to your business since it retains customers and extracts more value from them. By providing top-notch customer service, businesses recoup customer acquisition costs and cultivate a loyal following that refers to customers, serves as case studies, and provides testimonials and reviews.
Normative - future prospects
So far Normative shows great results in helping companies to calculate their sustainability index. The team continuously shows that no matter the size of your company, it’s possible to calculate the impact of what they do.
2mc: Could you please share your scaling plans for the next 5 years?
A.E.: “For a startup 5 years is almost an eternity and I imagine that we might end up scaling to more form factors in the coming years and for those we’ll have to adapt as we go. For the systems, we already have there are however some different plans. When discussing scaling you can look at different things and so I’ll break things down a bit.
Team: We currently have a team at Normative in Sweden and another team at 2muchcoffee in Ukraine. In the Normative team, we have a mix of designers, data scientists, frontend and backend developers in addition to a product owner. As we continue we’ll likely break our Normative team into different areas of the app depending on where we see the most logical enhancements needed but likely continue to have a mix of 2muchcoffee and Normative in each team.
Frontend tech: We’re currently using Angular as the frontend framework and believe strongly in its continued ability to deliver value for the type of business apps we continue to build. In particular, we see that with the recent Ivy compiler Angular should be in very good shape to be a front-runner in terms of performance, while we continue seeing strong support for multiple other features such as Server-side Rendering and Progressive Web Apps. We continue seeing a strong commitment from Google to continue developing the framework together with the community. Though we see signs of Angular not having or regaining the strong dominance it once had on the SPA ecosystem we still continue seeing a very large and active community around Angular.
With the release of the latest compiler, it should be particularly easy for us to scale into multiple Angular apps and re-using functionality without getting a bloated initial load. This is in particular due to the strong focus on tree-shaking and performance that the Angular team has managed to achieve with the latest compiler.
Backend tech: On the backend, we’re using Node.js, Express and TypeScript and see that all of them continue receiving wide-spread popularity and enjoying the good performance. We thus don’t see any large barriers to using these technologies. We are still deciding between using AWS lambda and using containers with individual or multiple stateless Node.js instances.
We use MongoDB Atlas for our database and we’ll thus continue being able to scale this by simply changing the configuration in MongoDB Atlas.
Code repositories: We currently develop all the frontend & web server code in two respective repositories with a few extra for private npm packages. Using TypeScript in both we’re planning to potentially put all of it in one monorepo using nrwl to make it work well. Similar to Facebook and Google we see large benefits with this, specifically, we can avoid spending time tracking multiple different versions everywhere and “just'' make sure we continuously keep things working.
Code Quality: We continue having Language-wide code formatting and linting rules applied as automatically as possible. This ensures that the code looks as similar as possible across the app and that we don’t have various different personal configurations across the organization. In particular, we avoid many commit diffs containing only personal formatting preferences.
Data science: Although we see much success with a monorepo approach for our TypeScript code we will however likely go in a micro-service direction for our data science. With multiple different services, each living with their unique purpose. With many organizations seeing success with the approach and depending on the Python ecosystem we believe we’ll see great success scaling this up.
Infrastructure: We’re currently looking into exactly how to scale everything in detail but for now the intention is to largely lean on the AWS platform. With the enormous adoption across the market and strong competition from Google, Microsoft and IBM we are confident that making a few changes that lock us into the AWS platform will still remain relatively low risk.”
Development of Sustainability Reporting Platform
Being the company that is interested in innovative projects we are very proud to have had the chance to assist the Normative team in web app development for sustainability reporting.
Normative’s algorithm will instantly output environmental feedback based on the data uploaded. You can get clear concise insights into carbon dioxide emissions and energy use in Scope 1, 2, and 3. Additionally, you will gain a myriad of other insights, such as how your company affects biodiversity and human health. The algorithm immediately returns several quantitative KPIs for each report that is supplemented with qualitative data templates that cover that specific standard.
But what web technologies were used to build such a complex platform? And what tech challenges were solved during product development? We are glad to share our knowledge with everyone who is interested in web application development such as Normative.
Our team is provided the full scope of services to improve the existing Normative app. Our devs were working on the website development of such features as:
Tech stack includes Angular, Typescript, RxJS, NGXS, Express, NodeJS, Web Design.
One of the main challenges for Normative web app development was a very slow operation and a large number of lags of one of the pages. Additionally, the data storage on this page was slow, too. The reason for this was the amount and method of data storage. All data was stored in the service without using the state, the same problem was renting a large number of elements on one page.
As a solution our web developers applied:
The team fixed the use of Angular material tabs, now only part is rendered and this allowed to remove part of the lags;
Removed data mutation - this allowed increasing the speed of the page itself;
Added the use of NGXS state this made the whole logic more transparent;
The team added a socket connection socket.io in order to remove the delay after a request to change data, now changing data is many times faster;
Also, the use of NGXS was introduced throughout the project - this made it possible to remove many bugs and make the functionality more transparent.
Nowadays, sustainability is a huge buzzword. But there is a reason for that. Current environmental issues have reached the critical point, where the capacity for the biosphere and human civilization to peacefully coexist is challenged.
Basically, we have been depleting resources at an extremely unsustainable rate, and especially to capitalism, humanity has been harming the planet, animals, and people. In recent years, the general public has become much more aware of the devastating effects of climate change and the fact that our consumption is a big factor in that.
Having over 6 years of experience in full-cycle product development, we at 2muchcoffee ready to assist great projects with complex architecture. We believe in the importance of developing truly valuable products while following the best practices. In a particular case, Angular helped our team to develop a truly robust platform. The product that will contribute to the transformation of the future of global sustainability. The product such as Normative.
Normative is the first app in the world to automatically quantify the ethical and environmental impact of organizations and consumers in real-time. Based on companies’ transactions the platform automatically deduces what you or your organization has bought and what socio-environmental impact it had on the planet. Using a Normative you get access to detailed analytics enabling you to track your organization's socio-environmental footprint (including indicators like greenhouse gas emissions, land use, water use, etc..).
Note, that the current cataclysms are the outcomes of the climate change which is here now and affecting each and every one. And it’s going to get worse unless we dramatically change. We have to change our attitude towards sustainability and monitor our carbon footprint while we still have some time.