In our webinar hosted by Carolyn Clemmens, Senior Sustainability Project Manager with Antea Group, two guest speakers took a deep dive into how environmental, social, and governance (ESG) topics are emerging in the tech industry. Amy Schmidt, Manager of Corporate Sustainability at Commvault, and Tara Brown, Director of Corporate Responsibility at Jack Henry & Associates, shared their insights and experiences with ESG in the tech industry.

Integrating ESG: Driving Factors and Successful Tactics

Both Brown and Schmidt noted that investors, customers, and employees have been their most prevalent external drivers increasing demand for more ESG disclosure. Investors are seeking more transparency and disclosure on relevant ESG topics, while customers and partners want to feel confident in knowing the company values ESG. In addition, employee expectations are some of the biggest driving factors for integrating ESG into business strategy.

As Brown observed, both new talent and existing associates are attracted to companies with strong ESG programs, specifically related to social and environmental issues, and are eager to participate. Moving forward, the two companies will rely on employee collaboration to continue to grow and develop these programs.

On a similar note, one key to successfully introducing sustainability initiatives into the workplace has been placing a focus on awareness campaigns. At Commvault, Schmidt saw success in educating and engaging employees throughout the process of introducing a sustainability initiative. Not only did this help employees understand why the programs are being implemented, but it helped employees understand their role and how they can contribute.

Successful ESG programs are not carried out by just one employee in a sustainability role or just the C-Suite but are integrated across many functions, touching every area of the organization. As stated by Schmidt, “This [structure] allows us to have ESG champions throughout the company – not just silos.”

A Year In: Challenges and Successes

One year after beginning the process of putting together their corporate sustainability reports and introducing formal ESG programs into their companies, both Brown and Schmidt overcame challenges and found successes along the way. They shared the sentiment that gathering information for and producing their inaugural sustainability reports was an intense task and initially seemed like a major hurdle. However, they have gained appreciation for the work their companies were already doing and are excited for futher development of ESG strategies and reporting.

“ESG can be really overwhelming,” stated Brown. “From ethics to human rights, to greenhouse gases and carbon footprints, there is a lot under the umbrella of ESG.”

Completing a materiality assessment was a major benefit in guiding their report content and supporting ESG strategy development. Materiality assessments helped both companies distill key areas of focus and made it easier to tell their sustainability stories.

In a brief period of time, both companies have seen their employees embrace ESG. Employees have become more involved in ESG programs, especially during this tough year marked by the pandemic and social unrest. Employers and employees are putting in the work to have necessary difficult conversations and are taking initiative to drive the change they want to see in their workplaces around diversity and inclusion, among other topics. Jack Henry & Associates continues developing business innovation groups, such as the Go Green group, that empower employees to take action and be change agents in the organization.

Advancing Technology, Disclosure, and ESG Scores

With changing technology, cultural shifts, and an increased focus on standardized reporting, ESG reporting is not expected to diminish. Going forward, both panelists feel they will be better prepared to collect the data needed to compile future corporate social and sustainability reports. This will, in turn, lead to more confidence in their reporting.

While Jack Henry & Associates plans to use greater employee collaboration to collect data, Commvault will be looking into external partners to help tell their story. In both cases, the companies hope to demonstrate progress and a deeper understanding of ESG within the tech industry. They feel that the best way to prepare for the potential rise in mandatory reporting and disclosure is to work hard at growing and developing their current strategies.

As for ESG scores, both companies take a similar stance. They have found certain raters and rankers better align with their business practices and ESG goals, and they will continue to monitor changes in this space. However, this is not their primary driver for developing ESG reports and initiatives. Both organizations are aiming to do the right thing and run their businesses ethically, and that is where they will measure success.

Lessons Learned

At the end of the discussion, both of these women thought-leaders had valuable lessons to share from their ESG journeys. Tara Brown from Jack Henry & Associates reminded us that there will be many challenges in pioneering a new function in an organization and that failure will happen. The important thing is to fail fast, move forward, and do not take anything personally! Similarly, Amy Schmidt of Commvault shared that everyone must start somewhere. The key is to start something, so you have a foundation to build on. You must be willing to learn, move on, and be agile.

Take the time to figure out what ESG topics are most relevant to your business and stakeholders, then decide how ambitious you want to be in those areas. Not all ESG topics are created equal, and not all companies feel the same pressures. It’s important to understand where your company can make the biggest impact and own your story along the way!

Are you wanting to tackle ESG within your company and don’t know where to start? Contact us for a materiality assessment to help guide and support your ESG goals.

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