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Why sustainability needs to be part of a CIO’s strategy

The CIO is in the best position to map information for ESG metrics and reporting.

Why sustainability needs to be part of a CIO’s strategy
[howtogoto / Adobe Stock]

A company focused on sustainability thinks not only about the environment but also about its impact on society. How and how much we consume continues to strain natural resources, and warnings of the effects of climate change get more dire every day.

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For leaders, sustainable business practices and a circular economy are at the center of discussions about short- and long-term environment, social and governance (ESG) practices that make the world more productive and more sustainable.

As people, CIOs should be deeply aware and concerned about ESG practices. As leaders, CIOs have an opportunity to champion digital transformation and implement systems that provide data to influence ESG improvements.

COMBINING KNOWLEDGE

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Organizations that have successfully undergone digital transformation have a chance to expand that work to include sustainability initiatives. The two go together because when you make data easier to access, decision-makers can understand and use that data in real-time.

In almost every industry, ESG issues require new investments to measure and maintain how those investments affect the bottom line.

CIOs are the ones making the choices—from data infrastructure to technology—and those investments will accelerate a company’s ability to reach sustainability targets and achieve ESG goals. And a CIO’s commitment to environmental stewardship will influence best practices across an organization and across the value chain to improve a company’s ability to:

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• Enable their customers to achieve ESG goals, like reducing packaging and better utilizing natural resources.

• Create innovative, sustainable products and solutions.

• Support local communities and have an impact that extends beyond the organization.

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INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL DRIVERS OF SUSTAINABILITY AND DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION

CIOs are in the best position to help organizations broaden sustainability efforts to cover ESG impacts and digital transformation because they have so many cross-functional relationships. Those functions influence each other and the success of initiatives.

Both internal and external drives support including sustainability as part of a CIO’s responsibility:

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1. Shareowners expect a sustainable business. CIOs can help the company operate as one by etching sustainable business practices into the information technology (IT) and operations technology (OT) mindset. Where there’s ownership, there’s influence, and what better place to land than with the CIO?

2. Everyone is watching. As more people have higher expectations, CIOs are feeling the pressure to prioritize sustainability. According to Cone Communications’ corporate social responsibility study, 73% of Americans would stop purchasing from a company that doesn’t care about climate change, and 75% of corporate sustainability professionals say that businesses need to get better at including sustainability into business strategy to address global mega-trends.

3. New targets require agile technology. The best plans, strategies, and tactics are nothing without the ability to track activities and measure impact. Analytics and metrics around materials, energy, water, waste, and even compliance come from technology that’s changing rapidly and is embedded in digital transformation. New sustainability targets will require agile technology to keep up.

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4. Sustainability makes employees and consumers happy. Investments in sustainability can help attract and retain top talent. Many employees prioritize working for a company that demonstrates and communicates a commitment to ESG. The CIO is key to clear communication that builds trust and reputation. Consumers want transparency, so it’s important to capture sustainability practices within your applications and processes, validate, and share current practices.

CIO COLLABORATION

CIOs should look to one another to collaborate on best practices for digital transformation strategies. The CIO is in the best position to map information for ESG metrics and reporting. As organizations continue to add structures and resources that focus on ESG, the CIO can accelerate and align efforts to build sustainability into the current and future portfolio. With the CIO’s influence, these offerings will help customers achieve their sustainability goals by providing innovative ways to reduce waste and increase operational and resource efficiency across value chains.

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Chris Nardecchia is Senior Vice President, Chief Information & Digital Officer, Rockwell Automation
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