Continuity of Sustainability Programs in the Face of the COVID-19 Crisis
While we always knew something like this could happen, the unprecedented scale of human and economic disruption caused by the current pandemic have been eye opening even for sustainability professionals - a gang rather familiar with “doomsday scenarios”. What’s more, we can safely predict that the next months will continue to be disruptive, at least until a vaccine is widely available and people regain their economic footing.
Many sustainability programs chose to wait out the last few weeks of lockdowns worldwide. But the period of ongoing disruptions that will follow requires more than patience alone. In fact, sustainability programs must now reconsider a range of intriguing ESG insights that the COVID-19 crisis exposed. But how do you expand, or even simply maintain a sustainability program’s continuity when we typically rely on the legwork of project-specific consultants and a distributed team diligently assembling information that is inherently fragmented within and beyond our businesses?
Digitization is the simple answer. But the details matter. For, if implemented correctly, digital tools can ease the burden of existing sustainability chores while also enabling the launch of new ones. Thus, necessity will have developed a capability that will serve your program for years to come.
Much of the pre-COVID-19 sustainability software relied on rigid methodologies and rather cumbersome (and costly) integration projects. The mere fact that this approach is no longer feasible actually presents an opportunity. With a truly “online native” design, the benefits of modern software challenge corporate sustainability managers to expand their reach in multiple ways:
Become more data-driven and quantitative with both disclosures and analytics.
Easily scale the program to connect more data from otherwise fragmented sources within and outside the organization, including remote locations or ones with otherwise incompatible IT systems.
Engage previously disconnected team members and stakeholders.
Overcome the greatest barrier to effective sustainability consulting and planning - the chronic lack of reliable and systematic data.
Harmonize the multitude of sustainability tasks using a single underlying dataset that serves as a single-point-of-record. These should include as many of the internal reviews, regulatory reports, voluntary disclosures and certification commitments as possible, including tasks performed throughout the various corporate tiers.
Rapidly develop customized digital solutions (i.e. integrated applications) that deliver current sustainability metrics and ensure information is granular and reliable.
Indeed, at ECO-OS we have recently been challenged by a number of our clients to hit the drawing board with new customized applications, including a couple reporting and benchmarking tools that will serve their most pressing tasks, as well as a new methodology to provide industry-specific ecological stress tests for a company with a global footprint. In all cases, these new applications feed off of the existing data and fully harmonize with the other applications on our clients accounts.
When it comes to information technology, sustainability programs have been notoriously bogged down with capabilities typical of the previous century. Now, as we transition to a period of sporadic disruptions, when it’s become crucial to ensure continuity of sustainability programs, the opportunity to supercharge them through smart digitization cannot be overlooked.
For more information on the ECO-OS sustainability solution and its harmonized application development process - contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org