Sustainability technology is a necessity, but how to make the right choices?

Series: How to set up your ESG data, technology, and people for success 

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The landscape is changing rapidly – for both sustainability initiatives and technology solutions – and 70% of businesses aren’t yet ready to meet their reporting obligations. The complexity is unprecedented, and the right data is essential, but it should be quality-assured and auditable. Reaching that standard could require significant effort, but it can be achieved by understanding and balancing long-term business objectives and short-term compliance priorities.

There’s no “silver bullet” solution – yet. Sustainability involves a fundamental transformation of people, processes and data, but the technology is immature. Although the market is evolving rapidly, no current platform or vendor can do all the work, even if they claim to. For now, organisations should choose an approach that suits their own needs, but – done right – that choice can support business objectives as well as compliance obligations.

Everyone’s in the same boat (or, at least, sea), and the only across-the-board advice is to start early. That doesn’t reduce the effort needed, but it does bring a more realistic perspective. Companies that started early have now learnt how much work is involved, and have often shifted focus from the immediate compliance goal, to a strategic aim of becoming a sustainable organisation.

Sustainability mirrors the journey made by finance many years ago. Despite initial resistance, the standards, data and processes became normal business practice, and the technology caught up, so benefits such as high-quality management information are now standard. However, financial data (i.e., money) has always been counted by business, but sustainability demands new data, on many activities that lie outside traditional business accountability.

Bold sustainability goals mean nothing without practical action in 2023. For instance, organisations that haven’t yet started CSRD preparation have less than a year left. That’s not much time, but it’s enough to take a considered approach that can also benefit the business. 

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