The silent role of data in a strong ESG strategy

  • Solutions
  • Cybersecurity and Risk
  • 2023
  • Cathy Mauzaize
30 August 2023

The silent role of data in a strong ESG strategy

From the French Government’s Green Economy plan, to increased fines for corporate environmental offences in the Netherlands, there are plenty of reminders in the media about the importance of environmental, social, and governance (ESG). Put simply, ESG is a business imperative, and one that organisations should be taking seriously.

As I speak to leaders across EMEA, I consistently hear about the importance they place on ESG. In fact, ServiceNow, working with ThoughtLab, surveyed 1,000 C-suite executives worldwide and the findings tell a clear story that ESG is rising on the C-suite agenda. ESG strategy is the second most important priority for leaders across EMEA (33%)—tied with maximising profits (33%)—second only to accelerating digital transformation (40%).

This is most prominent in France, with half (50%) of French respondents claiming ESG is the most important strategic priority, while Netherlands (35%) and the UK (35%) are close behind in holding the same view. Equally, across EMEA an average of 21% of executives plan to increase investment into ESG significantly, with this number rising to 29% for both France and Ireland.

Yet I still hear about many headwinds when I speak to customers and prospects. We’re still seeing organisations being held back by a lack of visibility, unclear metrics, and sub-optimal reporting capabilities—so much so that just 11% of executives in EMEA believe ESG data is fully traceable and usable within their organisation. This is a problem.

Stakeholders, regulators, employees, and consumers in EMEA all demand action when it comes to ESG. It’s not as straightforward as simply discussing the actions you’ve taken. To truly meet demands, organisations should be able to point to concrete, tangible results. Getting these results requires organisations to understand that there’s often a missing link in their strategies: data.

Transparency and information drive ESG

Regulatory pressure and consumer demands for ESG action require organisations to track and measure concrete metrics. Calls to successfully demonstrate results are intensifying. More than half (52%) of executives in EMEA state they’re seeing a high level of regulatory pressure regarding ESG matters, with this number rising to 62% in Sweden. Ignoring demand for visibility and transparency regarding ESG is a luxury that business leaders simply can’t afford.

Implementing a complete strategy that can be successfully tracked and measured requires more than just time and money—it requires a high level of data and information. Without access to the right data, it can be much more challenging to drive successful ESG results, regardless of how much time, budget, or effort you sink into it.

For many organisations, access to this data remains elusive. In fact, our research shows just 11% of EMEA executives are confident that ESG data is fully available, traceable, and usable for decision-making within their organisation. This figure varies from country to country, peaking at 13% of executives in France and Germany, and dropping to just 6% in Ireland.

Clearly, organisations across multiple regions in EMEA are facing obstacles when it comes to tracking and measuring ESG performance. The UK and Netherlands seem to be navigating these obstacles most successfully, with 35% and 31% of executives respectively claiming their organisations are currently in the advanced stages of reporting.

On the flip side, other countries in the region are falling behind, with just 18% of executives claiming they’ve reached advanced stages of reporting in both Spain and Germany.

Navigating data for a stronger ESG strategy

Often, data is split between multiple complex technologies and platforms, making it difficult to gain a complete 360-degree view of everything going on at any one time. Equally, we often see organisations unable to realise the true potential of data because it’s trapped in clunky or outdated legacy systems.

Business leaders should look to modernise their systems where possible. This can help revolutionise processes, bringing all operations together and increasing visibility, while also improving efficiency across the board.

Once this information is available to organisations, it’s important to consider how to manage it. Storing and analysing data can often be a laborious, time-intensive, and complicated process. Edua Dickerson, vice president of ESG and finance strategy at ServiceNow, explains it well:

“Companies often capture their ESG-related data across a variety of spreadsheets and emails. As a recovering auditor, I can tell you that manually inputting data in siloed software tools is tedious, difficult, and error-prone. It often leads to widespread issues with data integrity and auditability, knowledge capture, and retention.”

In today’s challenging economic landscape, resources should be protected where possible, and laborious manual processes aren’t feasible for most companies. Instead, business leaders should consider how to make use of automated workflows or hyperautomation, specifically when it comes to inputting the volume of data required for successful ESG reporting.

The long view of ESG

Successfully driving a tangible ESG strategy is possible when business leaders view data as an integral part of the process. Keith Pearson, global head of financial services at ServiceNow, explains:

“Without a holistic overview of data from across the whole business—including our customers and suppliers—we can’t begin to understand the extent of our exposure to ESG risk. That means we can’t properly mitigate that risk. But once we clear up that picture, we know exactly what’s going on at all times, we know exactly what to change, and we can report it immediately.”

Organisations should look to invest in technology that empowers teams to increase visibility, unlock access to previously untapped ESG data, and use that data to make informed business decisions. Those that do have a real opportunity to take control of their ESG strategy and drive a high level of success.

A single server platform that can streamline processes is a great place to start. The Now Platform was designed with simplicity in mind, making it possible to bring everything together in one place to increase visibility across all operations. This, in turn, can empower organisations to successfully navigate a strong ESG strategy both now and in the future.

Find out how ServiceNow can help accelerate your ESG strategy.


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