The advantages of bringing ESG materiality in-house

At GreenBiz23 Datamaran spoke with Amanda Cumberland, Director, of ESG Strategy and Reporting, Insights, and Impact at Cisco, a multinational digital communications technology conglomerate corporation headquartered in San Jose.

See the full video here, or focus on key points of interest for you in the links below.

Why did Cisco choose Datamaran? Watch the video icon

“We always did a comprehensive ESG materiality assessment with stakeholder input, many stakeholders with many interviews, and we did tonnes of research. We also benchmarked against other companies to deepen our understanding. What is so great about Datamaran is that we were able to get that all at our fingertips, it really limited the amount of manual research we had to pull together. Also not just once a year, we can do it regularly throughout the year.”

Who are your primary stakeholders? Watch the video icon

“During the materiality process, there are so many groups across Cisco and externally. We have executives, different functional leaders, SMEs, across the company, finance, and legal. We also work with input from our external stakeholders, like our customers and our investor groups and suppliers. We engage with our employees as well.”

How do you use data-driven insights? Watch the video icon

“Obviously, it's a reporting need and it's a really important process that we go through.

“For the materiality, what we really wanted to use it for was not just understanding what our stakeholders care about and what's happening, but where the field is headed, and where we should be focused. So we can see around corners, and share all those learnings with the functional leads that are actually doing the work in different groups, as well as our core team so that it can really drive the business strategy.”


How is the ESG team working cross-functionally? Watch the video icon

“They're actually engaged, especially the SME functional groups, from beginning to end with us. They not only help us ensure that we're focused on the right topics to start with but also stress test the results and see if they work with their own stakeholders. They're there from the very beginning through to the end. We do a lot of executive interviews, and we share the results with the executive team. That’s happening more at different levels across the company and in different groups.”

Has Datamaran unearthed any surprising insights? Watch the video icon

“There have been times where we thought okay, these all make sense with the way the results are coming out, but then start looking at a specific stakeholder group or start looking at some of the more forward-looking results, you start to see different things. We've got a lot of confirmation for our strategy and our focus areas, and we've also unearthed some really interesting insights that help us do something different or deeper in different areas.”

Why is it important for you to consider so many different stakeholders?Watch the video icon

“They all have similar but different priorities within those topic areas. And so, our employees; why they choose to work for a company, why they're staying at Cisco, for instance, we want to know what they really care about to ensure that we're focusing on those things. 

“If you look at something like the investor lens, they have a different take and view of where they think we should be focused as well. Our customers really are driving some of that too, because they're looking for us to constantly be upping our game, especially on sustainability. It's great that we can get different perspectives, and pull that together but also have that detailed understanding with each stakeholder.”

Is it important to retain ownership of ESG in-house?  Watch the video icon

“We've done more and more internally. It doesn't mean that we don't outsource some, but this is a great thing about the Datamaran tool, I feel like it's at our fingertips.

“We understand the Datamaran platform really well, we're able to get more and more knowledge. If a different topic comes up, we use Datamaran for other things besides just the ESG materiality, since it's that broad and it's pulling it all together for us. We are still using some external groups as well, at times, for different projects. Our team manages insights as well, so part of our remit is to continue to look for things and share that across the company to make sure that we are focused on the right things in the future, not just now.”

Are you more forward-looking with Datamaran? Watch the video icon

“We do a full ESG materiality assessment every other year, so in interim years, we can use Datamaran to see if we think anything has increased or decreased from the time before and to help us validate. We don't do a full materiality assessment, but we can do that great sense check and look forward using the tool as well.”

Is Datamaran supporting you as your focus on ESG grows? Watch the video icon

“Yes, the amount of data it covers and also the different product developments, such as the Executive Dashboard, I think there are many teams that can benefit from that, not only our core team. 

“If you look at the regulatory environment, and all the things that every company is dealing with, across the board, and all the learnings and where things are headed, Datamaran can definitely continue to add value. All these great product developments have just improved the platform since we first started working with you. There's more information and there are more uses for it as well.” 

What’s next for your focus on ESG? Watch the video icon

“I'm really excited. We just had a new chief sustainability officer named on our team, so we really want to make sure, not only are we driving towards the public commitments that we've made but have an even broader strategy around ESG, especially environmental sustainability. That's what our hope is because we have great differentiation and a responsibility to do those things. We have lots of plans, and we're excited to continue rolling those out and, and keep adding.” 

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