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Become an ecosystem leader by conquering your data, road-mapping toward sustainability goals, and pulling others along with you.
Providers of technology and business services are increasingly developing solutions for the data challenges in making “sustainability transitions”; these same providers are also tying in their broader services portfolios to help clients make sustainability native.
At a high level, we know what we need to do to tackle climate change and move toward all 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which cover all aspects of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) sustainability. On climate change, for example, we need to reduce our worldwide emissions to net-zero by 2050 at the absolute latest to have a chance at staying below a 1.5-degree global temperature rise (since pre-industrial times) and avoid further, more catastrophic, and irreversible ecosystem breakdown and extreme events. “Roadmaps” or “pathways” are frequently used to plan this journey, but equally frequently, they come unstuck because of data. Measuring the current ESG footprint of a business, region, or country is tough enough—but add on continuously monitoring progress, optimizing performance, and reporting in line with varying global standards… and it’s an even tougher problem.
The need for enterprises to make rapid, sustainable transitions is an opportunity—and a responsibility—for service providers
The “pull” for sustainability services from providers’ new and existing enterprise clients is accelerating. Many enterprises, however, still need a push—especially in the case of providers trying to embed sustainability in their existing engagements. There’s an increasingly clear relationship between sustainability and business performance, but despite that, most enterprises remain nascent in their sustainability journeys, creating an opportunity for service providers to be driving forces throughout entire ecosystems.
More and more businesses approach service providers with sustainability demands driven by their C-Suites—while also incorporating metrics in their procurement processes (albeit these metrics have highly-variable weightings!). Providers increasingly cite deals they’re winning because of their sustainability capabilities. Chief sustainability officer (CSO) budgets within enterprises are still not where they need to be, but this is shifting after years of the CSO being a coordinating role (not that that’s a bad thing in and of itself!).
Eventually, regulation will force businesses to act—waiting for governments to catch up is no longer an excuse
There’s currently much uncertainty around the lead-up to and aftermath of COP26 (the flagship UN climate summit) this November, delayed from last November due to the pandemic. COP26 now comes six years after the famous Paris Agreement, and there’s widespread agreement that not enough has been done. The uncertainty around what agreements and regulation will happen in Glasgow (UK) this November is not conducive to planning—but quite frankly, we’re past the point where government and regulatory inaction is a good-enough excuse.
Businesses need to get ahead of regulation—regardless of its timing and form—and drag governments and their ecosystem peers along with them. In the US, for example, the new Biden administration has made a promising start and seems to be spurring enthusiasm through the provider and enterprise communities; time will tell whether there can be enough consensus between world and industry leaders to force the global shift we need.
There’s still an opportunity for businesses and service providers to lead their ecosystems in transitioning to sustainability. The opportunity, responsibility, and need are so vast that leaders can drag their ecosystems along. If you’re not ahead of the sustainability curve, then regulation will happen to you. But in that desperation to act, there’s also a chance to be instrumental in setting regulations.
Once your starting point is measured and your data is in place and in form—you can move along a roadmap and embed sustainability in all your processes. Mastering data will allow you to move past short-term token actions that look good on press releases and put together the plan you need for long-term sustainability—and making sustainability native.
There’s a growing ecosystem of service provider solutions for sustainability measuring, monitoring, reporting, and improvement
We’ve identified some headline examples of platforms and solutions addressing the data, measuring, monitoring, reporting, and optimization aspects of a sustainability transition, and the ongoing demands:
The Bottom Line: Measure your starting point to begin making sustainability native. You know the ultimate target. Partners can help with interim targets—and with data.
Customers, employees, and partners won’t accept businesses that wait for government regulation and fail to act now on sustainability.
Exhibit 1 is the HFS Data Cycle that all enterprises are grappling with in their transformations. The data challenge is true, whether it’s digital, diversity, or sustainability transformation… or all of the above. Keep an eye on HFS Research as we continue to develop the sustainability, technology, services, and data narrative throughout 2021.
Exhibit 1: Data platforms and service provider partnerships have a strategic role to play in sustainability transformations
Source: HFS Research, 2021