Foundations: Trust Framework for data discovery and sharing

The Icebreaker One Trust Framework — five foundations

  1. Cohesive — common rules across markets 
  2. Interoperable — common processes, frameworks, connections
  3. Legal — common frameworks for data rights, liability, redress
  4. Controlled — common, rights-based consent management for access to data
  5. Universal — open to the whole market
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Why is a Trust Framework for data sharing needed?

Lack of trusted data flow is leading to poor decisions that make it more risky and difficult to quantify and invest in the transition to net zero.

Huge quantities of data are being generated from our financial systems, our built world and our environment. But we’re missing the opportunity to use it to get to net zero.  To use it, we need to connect it to see the whole picture – it can generate rich insight into lowering emissions, adapting to climate change, and direct financing to impact. 

This isn’t a problem that needs new technology. Many attempts to consolidate—new databases and portals—struggle to scale and we’re letting this opportunity slip through our fingers. Our economic and infrastructure systems are being digitalized in a decentralised and distributed way. There is no ‘centre’ in a system like this: we need to connect data, not collect it.

What does a Trust Framework enable?

We want data to flow more easily and this means we need to clarify the rules of the road. We want to reduce the friction of finding, accessing, and using both commercial and non-commercial data in a timely way.

What does it do?

The Trust Framework is a very ‘thin’ layer. It assures that (a) organisations are who they say they are; (b) consent is given to share data with the pre-agreed rules; and (c) enables that consent to be linked to rules for licensing, liability transfer, legal and operational processes (e.g. open standards for data, APIs, etc).

What is Icebreaker One doing?

We are creating a web of net-zero data – connecting financial, industry and environmental data to help inform net-zero decisions. Much of this data is restricted, so we’re enabling that web by creating policies and guardrails that ensure data is comparable, machine-readable and trusted. To achieve this we are working across industries and governments.

Icebreaker One addresses decentralised data governance (ie. when there are many data suppliers and many data users in a sector, including regulators and/or regulated entities).

We do not store, process or analyse data. Instead we enable data to be connected between companies and across sectors. Our role is to enable data governance so that others in the ecosystem build data portals, systems, intelligence, analysis and reporting more easily, with appropriate processes and controls to manage risk and compliance. We do deploy tools that support net-zero data search and access control to accelerate action.

Based on the Icebreaker Principles, we create multi-disciplinary, multi-sector collaborations (through a process called ‘Icebreaking’) that create net-zero data strategies and define open standards to enable data access, sharing and interoperability. These result in a framework for data sharing that includes, principles, processes and policies.

We operate a Trust Framework which codifies and operationalises (makes usable) these rules to make data flow more easily between organisations and across sectors.


Our three priorities to deliver a cohesive and interoperable data infrastructure:

1. Design for search — the foundation for discovery and access

Data must be usable by machines, not just humans. Policies must mandate that data be machine-readable in order that it may be collected and used in an efficient manner. As important is the ability to discover that the data exists, what it is, where it is from, and how it may be used. This ‘metadata’ is a priority to make available so that data may be found and information about it accessed. Policies must mandate the production of meta-data that will aid discovery.

This first priority is independent of the specifics of any taxonomy, ontology or other structural design. Such designs are numerous and domain-specific.

2. Address data licensing policies — the foundation of access and usage

Licensing can determine how data may be used. To unlock the value of Priority 1, policies must mandate the publishing of licenses (or usage rules) as metadata under an open license. This is essential to enable large-scale, many-to-many discovery that data exists in a usable form.

Policies should mandate the publishing of any non-sensitive data under an Open license (this mirrors the open-by-default policies of many countries). Policies should mandate the publishing of sensitive data using a Trust Framework.

3. Address data governance — the foundation of open markets

Data increases in value the more it is connected. A focus on systemic cohesion and interoperability reduces the burden of sharing by creating common rules and frameworks for sharing that address good data governance. It ensures data is used appropriately for the purposes intended, addressing questions of security, liability and redress. Organisations must address their own data governance and should aim toward common rules and processes to increase adoption, reduce costs and simplify interactions between data suppliers and data users.