Organisations worldwide are taking bold and transformative steps to achieve environmental, social, and governance (ESG) goals. A global ServiceNow and ThoughtLab survey of 1,000 C-suite executives found that the vast majority (95%) of self-proclaimed ESG leaders are implementing ESG technology to drive results.
“Digital technology gives companies the tools to understand their impact and help them achieve their ESG goals,” explains Edua Dickerson, ServiceNow vice president for ESG and finance strategy, and guest editor of the Spring 2023 issue of Workflow Quarterly. “To be sure, technology isn’t enough. Success also requires strategic acumen and committed and passionate people.”
Business leaders recognise that a holistic approach to ESG that includes operational and cultural objectives, as well as financial targets, offers advantages. Among those surveyed, 48% say ESG programmes are a top priority with the C-suite and board. Four out of 10 leaders are working to hire and retain employees who can help them achieve ESG goals.
Organisations are adapting their business models across individual areas and operations to align with those goals. The report shows that 53% are incorporating ESG into their digital transformation plans and 56% are using advanced technology to reach their targets.
While 48% of respondents agree ESG drives better financial results in the long term, more than one-third (35%) say the current economic environment hinders their efforts. Concerns include rising interest rates and energy costs, as well as supply chain problems and geopolitical tensions.
Some executive teams, feeling pressure to produce profits, are placing their ESG goals on the back burner. Nearly one-quarter (24%) report that it’s difficult to achieve both advanced ESG initiatives and shareholder expectations in the current macro environment.
However, our research shows that this is a false choice. “It’s never been clearer that the right ESG strategy can help a company boost productivity, control costs, and manage risk,” Dickerson says. “In today’s unsettled economic environment, ESG champions are positioned to come out on top.”
One way they’re doing that is by embracing technology. While 63% of executives currently use the cloud as a tool for ESG initiatives, 74% plan to do so in the next two years. Companies are also adopting AI, advanced data management, cybersecurity technology, the internet of things (IoT), robotic process automation (RPA), and workflow automation to support their ESG efforts.
In addition to enabling transparency and reducing costs, adopting digital technology can help organisations reduce pollution, increase governance, and improve social sustainability.
Technology also improves visibility. Leaders understand they can’t know where they’re going unless they know where they’ve been. Data collection to track ESG progress and results determines how initiatives and outcomes affect operations. Tracking enables decision-makers to assess effectiveness, manage risk, and inform employees and stakeholders.
The leaders in our survey expect progress in ESG to yield financial, operational, and strategic benefits over the next few years. Although numerous challenges remain, ESG technology allows companies to advance their ESG commitments, linking profits and purpose.
Gain more insights in the Workflow Quarterly Spring 2023 issue.
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