On June 20th, we hosted a webinar alongside Haltech Regional Innovation Centre and Innovation Factory. The panel discussion was lively, diving deep into topics surrounding sustainability, governance, and how to minimize risk in this space. From the discussion itself to the audience-fueled Q&A, there was a lot to be learned from this webinar. We wanted to share all of these learnings with our network. Even if you were unable to attend, you can still benefit from the strategies being shared.
Why Sustainability and Governance?
A recent survey from The IBM Institute for Business Value asked 2500 executives from 22 industries and 34 countries about their organization’s ESG strategy. Of the respondents, 76% say ESG is central to their business strategy. 72% view ESG as a revenue enabler rather than a cost suggesting that contrary to popular opinion, ESG and profitability are not at odds at all. Still, the “G” in ESG is often forgotten. In the webinar, we wanted to focus on the governance aspect of ESG and how you can effectively start integrating governance into your own sustainability strategy.
The goal of the webinar was to have the audience walk away with insights in three key areas:
- An understanding of the primary challenges associated with sustainability data governance
- The best practices for implementing effective data governance and AI within your own organization
- Some essential tips from our panel on how to minimize governance risk
Before we dive into the webinar content, let us introduce you to the moderator and panelists that made it happen!
Sheldon Sawchuk (Moderator)
A seasoned director of product, design, and development teams. Sheldon has worked for some of North America’s most important media brands and SaaS platforms including Postmedia and Rogers Media. With an extensive background leading innovative digital transformation and modernization projects, Sheldon focuses on providing utility and efficiency with a user-centered approach in his current role as Head of Product at ScriptString.
Warren Gedge has been a pioneer in the technology space for over 25 years. Throughout his career, Warren has served as CTO for Resolver Inc., several Venture Capital Firms, and Hedge Funds, and has held multiple senior advisory and leadership roles.
Warren is currently the CTO of ScriptString, following his true passion for helping others solve problems and evolve their business using technology.
People call Lindsay a business-minded tree-hugger. She Founded ThisRock, an ESG and Sustainability consulting firm, in 2022. ThisRock helps businesses get more sustainable in simple and profitable ways. Lindsay is a communications professional turned sustainability advisor with an MBA, an FSA Credential, and a 15-year career in B2B tech with IBM, SAP, and Jitterbit.
Dora Lutz is an award-winning researcher and international speaker who educates and inspires audiences on how to grow their social impact. Using the principles of ESG, Dora helps leaders leverage for-profit models to create sustainable revenue sources and profound social outcomes.
ESG Strategy and Quality Data
Why is data governance a crucial part of any ESG strategy, or is it?
How should businesses prepare for incoming regulations and improve their governance strategy to ensure they are ready for these mandatory requirements?
A lot of organizations struggle to manage, consolidate, and manipulate ESG data. What changes can be made to a company’s data governance strategy to address these challenges and manage the risk?
Guided by the above questions, each of the panelists spoke to their strengths around ESG strategy and data quality. Lindsay made it clear that ESG and sustainability data are a lot different than what companies are used to for financial reporting. It is cross-functional, unstructured, structured, and often siloed. Not having a good governance strategy could lead to many risks. Making sure you have a solid foundation of data is key in this area.
Dora pointed out that preparing for mandatory requirements and improving your governance strategy is important. You have to have a solid foundation, a current state benchmark, or a framework that can help you understand where you are and where you are going. This way, you can evaluate and make changes as necessary based on what the data is telling you.
For Warren, managing risk and challenges through a company’s data governance strategy comes down to measurement and alignment. You need to be able to bring all of the parts together and normalize them in a way that you can get an apples-to-apples comparison. Throw in your KPIs, goals, and objectives to be able to have a conversation, and form opinions on that data.
AI and Data Governance
How should businesses handle these new developments in AI to be able to use the technology to improve their business strategy while ensuring it is used responsibly?
What are some of the dependencies/risks organizations face in decision-making while integrating tools like Generative AI (ChatGPT) in their governance process?
How can small businesses apply AI technology in planning and operations to minimize risks?
As AI continues to develop and grow as a buzzword in business, there are a lot of questions about governing this technology while using it to improve business. Warren noted that it comes down to using AI technology appropriately. Focus on using the appropriate methods in the appropriate places and keep your core assets internal. You do need to be cautious but you do not need to be afraid of it. Embrace it but, in the right place.
To Lindsay, we have to treat AI as an amalgamator of information. Humans are still needed because they are the ones actually making these changes. Lean on AI to save time and get smart, but you have to be the one that stands behind your policy and metrics at the end of the day.
When speaking about small businesses applying AI, Dora noted that smaller businesses tackle sustainability by thinking strategically. Think about what you need to do, what your customers going to be asking of you, and where are the opportunities for you to create new value propositions or reduce your costs. Really think about how it fits into your profitability and value statement. Where can AI be an empowering and enabling technology? If you already have a lot of the data or processes. How do you overlay that so we are telling a cohesive story and not having to start over with an entirely new process? It’s about being able to pull it into a decision-making tool that small businesses can leverage.
Climate risks are growing significantly. How can companies adapt their governance strategy considering these risks to manage them and not see harm down the line? Will incorporating sustainability into your governance keep a company protected from the effects of climate change?
Losing employees due to not focusing on ESG factors is a reality today. How can companies adapt their governance strategy to mitigate this risk and retain employees?
What are some ways a company can manage its data governance strategy so as to not face security risks?
To Dora, if you are incorporating sustainability into your governance strategy the right way it should protect you from climate risks by giving you a long-term lens to understand what is coming down the pipe and to be proactive in it. Current and incoming climate legislation is built for this with due diligence at the center. It starts with building the processes, then it moves to how do you mitigate and implement them. It won’t happen immediately but it is a long-term shift towards security.
Lindsay spoke on adapting your governance strategy to mitigate the risk of losing employees due to a lack of focus on ESG. If you can show that you are incorporating ESG into your business strategy you can in fact increase productivity and employee satisfaction. Your brand reputation will also increase your ability to hire better candidates. If your governance and business strategy is showing that you care more people will want to join your team.
Although technology has been cited as a game changer for fighting climate change, sometimes new technologies can put your company’s security at risk. Warren spoke about managing the security aspect of your business to manage these risks. In a practical sense companies will roll out a data security strategy that will protect their assets while also enabling the business to grow and thrive. You should use AI and other technologies available to help you. Keeping your assets internal as well as continuously adapting and changing your data management strategy to enable your business is something all companies should do.
Accountability and Transparency
How should businesses ensure that their reporting is transparent and shows a balanced image of their company’s ESG factors?
What is needed to ensure businesses are held accountable and making progress is brought into their business strategies?
A large part of governance is ensuring the most fitting people are working on your team and the right teams or people are governing certain aspects of your business. When it comes to ESG – how should this aspect of their business be governed?
When showing transparency and balance through reporting, Dora recommends using existing standards to determine what is material and relevant to your industry and organization. As well, benchmarking against competitors to know what they are doing and figure out what customers and employees are asking for. Then do a materiality assessment independently to determine what makes the most sense. Be truthful in your reporting, nobody expects perfection, and especially in the first years, it looks suspicious.
Lindsay acknowledged that businesses do need to be held accountable – the key to doing this, ensuring complete honesty and transparency. Tying performance on ESG to profits is also key. Other stakeholders, not just customers will care about this. Using frameworks plays into this as well – speaking in a language that people are used to hearing will help you achieve what you promise. Sustainability can help the full industry grow and is all about collaboration, growing more sustainable together can be beneficial to your industry’s future. You should share how you are getting more sustainable, incentives, and resources with others in your industry.
There are people out there with solutions and ones that understand the problems and how they can be solved. Dora believes bringing these people or their solutions into your organization can help you. At the same time, everyone is and should be doing ESG. It is not contained to one department and shouldn’t be governed in that sense. It is just changes in language and strategy that should be embedded in the people already doing the work.
The Q&A portion was full of great questions from those who attended. Check them out with a short summary of the panel’s answers below!
Are there any emerging trends or technologies that are shaping the future of sustainability data governance and risk management?
The right tools depend on where your problems are, but the short answer is yes. Know where exactly your problem is and there is likely a person or a technological solution that can help you.
How does a company get its ESG reporting started?
Do a review in each area. You can use a tool to do this to get a full view of your business such as ScriptString’s free ESG assessment. Then benchmark against competitors. Finally, determine your strategy, rollout, and communications.
How can organizations leverage qualitative and quantitative data in conjunction with AI to bring efficiencies to their organizations?
You can use AI to connect pieces and areas of the business that we wouldn’t normally see. From there you would have to use your own brains to understand why and get creative in resolving issues and seeing progress.
What role do stakeholders play in shaping sustainability data governance practices?
They empower. Everyone needs to support you in moving in a way that is profitable and sustainable. They give motivations in shaping the practices as importance increases.
Continuing the Conversation
We are so proud of this webinar and the interesting conversations it contained! While we were unable to include everything in this recap – if you are interested in hearing the full conversation you can watch the webinar below!
If you have further questions about bettering your governance to minimize risk in the sustainability space – we would love to chat. Book a time to chat today to understand how ScriptString can help you with your sustainability governance and managing your data today!