July 23, 2023
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In today's data-driven world, effective collection and analysis of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) data are essential for organisations committed to sustainability and responsible business practices. However, the manual process of data entry from various internal documents can be time-consuming, error-prone, and resource-intensive.

Fortunately, advanced Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology offers a transformative solution for automating ESG data collection. In this blog post, we will explore the ways in which AI can revolutionise your data collection efforts, enhance efficiency, and provide valuable insights for your ESG reporting.

Automating Data Collection with AI

Thanks to the power of AI, organisations can now automate the collection of ESG data from a wide range of internal documents, including PDFs, CSV files, ERP systems, and accounting documents. AI-driven solutions leverage advanced algorithms to swiftly and accurately identify relevant information, eliminating the need for manual data entry. By simply uploading your documents, these solutions can pre-fill your ESG questionnaire and report by automating data identification and calculation. This streamlines the process, saving you time and effort. (**AI and Data Analytics in ESG Integration**, United Nations Global Compact).

Why should we automate ESG data extraction?

Automating ESG data extraction offers several key benefits for investors and businesses.

Secondly, automated data extraction ensures accuracy and consistency, mitigating errors that can arise from manual data entry. Research such as the Accenture report on digital transformation in finance underscores the role of automation in improving data accuracy.

It saves massive amounts of time:

Automation of ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) data extraction can significantly reduce the time required to gather and process information. It enhances efficiency by reducing manual data collection and processing efforts, allowing for real-time insights and faster decision-making. Studies like the Deloitte Global Outsourcing Survey (2020) highlight the operational efficiencies gained through automation. ESG data is often scattered across various sources, including company reports, regulatory filings, websites, and news articles. Manually collecting and consolidating this data can be a time-consuming and labor-intensive task. By utilising automated tools, such as web scraping and natural language processing (NLP) algorithms, the process becomes much more efficient. This frees up valuable time for analysts and decision-makers to focus on higher-value tasks, such as data analysis and strategy formulation. (Atan, R., Rahman, R. A., & Rosli, M. M. (2018). The impacts of environmental, social, and governance factors on firm performance. Management of Environmental Quality: An International Journal)

The most recent survey conducted by Ernst & Young in collaboration with the Financial Education & Research Foundation (FERF), a non-profit research organisation, has revealed a surprising revelation regarding the present status of ESG data collection and reporting procedures. As per the findings, a significant 55% of companies continue to depend on spreadsheets for ESG data storage, and the process of gathering and reporting ESG information remains laborious and time-consuming. Nearly 70 percent of workers say the biggest opportunity of automation lies in reducing time wasted on repetitive work. And nearly 60 percent of workers surveyed estimate they could save six or more hours a week — almost a full workday — if the repetitive aspects of their jobs were automated. (Based on findings of Smartsheet).

Moreover, automation aids in handling large volumes of data, a common challenge in ESG analysis. **MIT Sloan Management Review (2020)** emphasises how automation enhances the ability to process extensive datasets.

It makes data and reporting more accurate and in line with GDPR:

Human error is inevitable in manual data extraction processes, resulting in inaccuracies within collected ESG data. However, AI-powered automation provides a more efficient and accurate alternative. According to Chen et al. (2012), the automation of data extraction can help organisations minimise errors by reducing manual data entry and manipulation. By automating the process, organisations can ensure that the data is extracted accurately and consistently from specified sources, reducing the chances of human error. Furthermore, automating data extraction also addresses data privacy concerns by reducing the exposure of sensitive information during manual handling, and by anonymising internal documents.

Proactive Risk Management and Informed Decisions:

Automated ESG data extraction enables businesses to proactively manage risks and make informed decisions with a focus on sustainability. Real-time monitoring of ESG indicators identifies potential risks, fosters resilience, and helps capitalise on sustainable opportunities. This approach aligns strategies with societal expectations and ensures a more adaptive and responsible business model. (Atan, R., Rahman, R. A., & Rosli, M. M. (2018). The impacts of environmental, social, and governance factors on firm performance. Management of Environmental Quality: An International Journal, 29(6), 1253-1267). This reliable ESG data is vital for informed decision-making, risk assessment, and demonstrating transparency to stakeholders, offering a proactive approach to sustainable business practices. (AI for Sustainable Investing, Deloitte).

Using AI does not mean that human verification is not required

While AI plays a significant role in automating data collection, it is crucial to emphasise the importance of human verification and validation. AI-powered solutions serve as valuable tools that assist humans in the data collection process rather than replacing them entirely. Human expertise is essential for ensuring the accuracy, relevance, and context of the extracted ESG data. By combining the efficiency of AI automation with human judgment and critical thinking, organisations can achieve robust and reliable ESG reporting. Human validation helps to identify and address any potential errors, inconsistencies, or biases in the data, ensuring that the ESG information presented is credible and trustworthy.

Additionally, involving human experts in the verification process allows for deeper insights and context that might not be readily captured by automated systems. This collaborative approach strengthens the overall data integrity, enhances the credibility of ESG reporting, and reinforces the organisation's commitment to responsible and transparent practices.

As a result, organisations can confidently use the verified and validated ESG data to make well-informed decisions, communicate their sustainability efforts to stakeholders, and drive positive social and environmental impacts. (Sustainable Investing with AI, PwC).


In today's data-driven world, automating ESG data extraction through AI offers transformative benefits for organisations committed to sustainability and responsible business practices. By saving time, increasing data accuracy, and enabling proactive risk management and informed decisions, AI-driven solutions streamline data collection efforts, enhance efficiency, and provide valuable insights for ESG reporting. However, it's essential to combine AI automation with human verification and validation to ensure robust and reliable ESG reporting. Embracing AI technology empowers organisations to make data-driven decisions, align with societal expectations, and foster a more sustainable and responsible business approach