Insights from ESG leaders: your internal ESG team is a trusted business partner
At GreenBiz23 Datamaran spoke with Elizabeth Wayt, Director of Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) at Booz Allen Hamilton, a global IT Services and IT Consulting firm.
See the full video here, or focus on key points of interest in the links below.
How has the responsibility of ESG teams changed in recent years?
“Three years ago, a lot of focus was on data collection, monitoring, and understanding what you're doing. We were in our own little world doing our own special niche thing. Now ESG has really started focusing on the importance of ESG as disclosure for a company, you're not just talking about what you're doing, we're aligning it with the risks to the organization. We’re really understanding and partnering more with our financial team and our securities team so that when we make claims, or assertions, and we talk about our ESG programme - our goals, metrics, and accomplishments - we really are in step with them and aligned on how we're talking about it. That's been a huge and fundamental shift in how we think about the whole world of ESG.”
How do you start creating ESG alignment across a business?
“Collaborating! It's communication, it's talking, it's really understanding your business. It's taking the time to work with other practitioners at your organization, to understand what they're doing, why they're doing it, and then tying in or layering the ESG into that. By doing that, you get people to see that it's not an add on, it's part of the organic way of thinking about an organization. So yeah, it's partnership, collaboration, education.”
What was the key challenge that required Datamaran?
“When we started reorganizing, we thought about why we needed Datamaran. It goes along with shifting to a faster pace. We did our first materiality assessment the old fashioned way, and at least had an understanding for what our risks might be, and what issues we wanted to be tracking. There are so many!"
“In the universe of topical issues there's so many, but for an organization like us to think about all the things we need to track, and then we look at our team and we think we don't have the capacity as human beings to really know everything that's going on in those areas. So when we were introduced to Datamaran it was like, ‘Okay, here's a platform that can really support data collection and analysis so that we can sit there and understand what our issues are, and we can focus’.
“What Datamaran allows us to do is also think about, and track over time, what we think might be secondary or tertiary issues, and we can understand when they might become more important. And it's that change that Datamaran has really helped us transition towards. There's no way that we could know everything, or do everything on our own, and really do a good job for our business.”
What are the most valuable insights for leaders across the business?
“In terms of putting outputs in front of other internal leaders, one of the things that we found particularly helpful is where we can compare ourselves to our competitors, and really understanding it's part of a bigger analysis."
“If we're thinking we may want to increase disclosure in a particular area, Datamaran helps us understand industry trends and where are we going as an industry with disclosures. Are we midline or are we pulling the industry with us?"
“Does it really matter? Is it going to change things if we disclose that? Are we a laggard or do we need to catch up? It really helps us see that picture very quickly, and then it helps us dig into whether we are going to do that disclosure, or are we going to make that improvement. What does that actually mean? It helps us to very quickly dig in and say, ‘Okay, if we're going to increase our disclosure in this area, what do those disclosures actually look like, and what does a good disclosure look like in that area?’ Then we get into the discussion around can we get there, or how do we get there?”
What are the pitfalls of not knowing what peers are doing or stakeholders care about?
“If you're not in tune with what your stakeholders or your competitors are doing, you're really going to fall behind in your competitive posture. For us, and in other companies like us, it's so easy, in this world of so much information and things moving so fast, to just stay your path and not venture off it. When you do that, and you're not stepping back and looking at the full landscape, you really run the risk of getting caught off guard by something, which none of us wants, whether it's from a business competitive sales perspective, or a PR or marketing perspective. You really have to not look at it as a moment in time, but as movement over time.”
Is ownership of ESG changing within your organization?
“Ownership has definitely transitioned, we have a very strong governance structure with the intent of embedding responsibility and accountability throughout the enterprise.”
What has helped most with issues prioritization?
“Datamaran has definitely helped us with prioritization and figuring out what we need to do over the long term. Using the information that we had from Datamaran, that we started to track our two to three year disclosures plan, that's been tremendously helpful for us. We can ask 'What is the top priority that we're missing?’ and identify the low hanging fruit. We have trackers so we can look at our data and our development over time. As we're developing that disclosure strategy, we're also continuously monitoring what's happening in the marketplace, and what's happening around the world to see where we have to pivot and when we have to adjust. That makes that so much easier for our team."
“Then having the data to communicate that to our leaders really helps with their buy-in and the understanding, and they are coming to us to a lot of times saying, ‘In our realm we're doing the best we can to understand, can you guys help us understand and do the analysis to tell us where we are competitive compared to our peers, or compared to this specific industry group?’ Maybe it's a best in class group for their area and we're able to quickly do an analysis set for them and share it with them. This is exactly what they need to know where to focus programming where we can differentiate and where our solution is going to be more impactful.”
Has Datamaran helped you answer key questions from leadership?
"We're definitely more comfortable answering the questions about where we stand and what our risk areas are. Five years ago, if somebody from our talent acquisition, or a D&I team asked me, it would probably have taken me weeks to dig and figure out who do I have to look at, reading through all of their reports, finding out the datasets myself and putting my own spreadsheets together, it would have been a long term analysis. Whereas now, I can do it in probably half an hour to an hour with interruptions, and get it back to them pretty quickly.”
How did you manage before Datamaran?
“Staying on top of everything was exhausting, you feel like you have to have a chunk of your day, that's really set aside to read articles all the time. I had to have a formal way of tracking what I'm hearing - it was just so laborious, and so time intensive, and there was always that fear that I was missing something.”
Has Datamaran helped create new systems that integrate ESG?
“The team is looking at using the inputs from Datamaran to systematize how we share the business intelligence with our leaders. One of our priorities for this next fiscal year is being able to take all those business insights and put them into standard dashboards and business communications for various leaders so we can quickly and easily give them information specific to their needs and their role in the organization an update overall, where we stand on ESG. But also specifically to where their program stands.”
What should I consider when managing ESG externally?
“If you don't want to manage it internally or you don’t have the tool, you're going to have to pay somebody else to do all of this for you. You're gonna have to have somebody that's keeping up to date with it, and that's regularly feeding you the information. I imagine it's a very manual process. You lose the fact that the person doing the first line of receiving actually isn’t in your organization, doesn’t understand your organization, because they're consultants, they come from a consulting world, they can only understand so much about what the client organization is. That's where you miss the real nuanced touches if you're outsourcing and having somebody just tell you what you need to do. I think that there's a trust factor that would be missing there.”
Is there an advantage to owning ESG in-house?
“I do think it's definitely an advantage that we own it internally. It gives our team credibility within the organization to be able to understand where our business drivers are, where we're trying to grow as an organization. They see us more as a business partner."
"It's not just us coming to them and asking them for the information that we're going to disclose. It's us bringing them business intelligence, helping them improve their programs, and then turning around and telling the world what great things they're doing.”
Now that you are able to look beyond compliance, how are you utilizing ESG to drive value?
“Being able to look up and see strategically what the real global landscape looks like and where we fit in."
“It allows our leaders and me to ask ‘What are we missing? What can we do to be stronger?, Where can we actually make ESG and our ESG performance a market differentiator?"
"We have strong technical capabilities, but we also have strong ESG - how can we use that to get people to want to hire us and know us better and know what they're buying?”
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