What does your data strategy have to do with your ESG goals?

Giovanni Di Filippo, President EMEA, Infrastructure Solutions Group, Lenovo

You wouldn’t be alone in assuming that the data strategy of a company and its Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) goals are worlds apart when it comes to business priorities. And you wouldn’t be the first to wonder how the two could possibly be connected. After all, a strategy for data is an IT responsibility, where as ESG is something driven by the sustainability officer, right?


The latest research from Lenovo has found that if you are deemed a Data Leader, and successfully harness the value from your data, then you are likely to be profiting more than those that don’t. But the data also tells us that beyond your bottom line you are also considered better placed and more likely to be taking action against humanitarian issues like the energy crisis or global warming.

On reading the report when it was first announced, one of the most prominent results I noticed was the difference between Data Leaders and Data Followers when it comes to achieving their ESG goals. A staggering 89% of Data Leaders are said to have made significant progress towards their ESG goals vs only 23% of Data Followers. This is a huge difference between those with mature data strategies and those without and proves that while data is most certainly a tool for financial resilience, it is also a force for public good.

Maybe you’ve made some progress against your ESG goals this year, but I’m afraid this doesn’t mean you are necessarily a Data Leader. In fact, it’s essential not to assume you are a Data Leader. The research proved that this is a minority group at 16%, so I invite and advise you to review how your data strategy really stacks up. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Have you already adopted the technologies required to unlock the value of your data to its full potential?
  • Do your IT teams work in partnership with the business to deliver data-led initiatives on a regular basis?
  • Would you confidently describe your business culture as ‘data-first’ across the entire enterprise?
  • Does your data strategy focus on how data can be used to benefit your customers, your communities, as well as the planet?
  • Are your data solutions highly automated with the ability to easily share data with key stakeholders and partners?

This last question is key. The real differentiator of a robust data strategy comes from the ability and evidence of data sharing. There are significant advantages for those who share data, from increased efficiencies accelerating innovation and development processes, to the widened access to shared resources including insight and talent. The power of collaboration could in itself be considered a sustainable practice, but let’s leave that to discuss another time.

We can see the evidence of strong data sharing strategies and technology in a range of projects, for example in genomics where innovative data processing has increased the rate of scientific discovery as well as reduced wait times for medical results. In an unrelated industry, smart cities are also seeing benefits of data being in a decentralised network where real-time shared data enables citizens to travel around easier and safer than ever before.

Whether you believe you are among the Data Leaders in the market or not, this all raises one question, why is it important to meet your ESG goals?

Environmental sustainability is becoming more and more important to the consumer as each year passes. Gartner® recently described it as a ‘global megatrend’ of ‘immediate priority’, and an issue that is fast rising through the top ten ranking priorities for today’s CEO’s.1

What is even more compelling is that in less than five years Gartner also predict that “75% of organisations will increase business with those that have demonstrable sustainability goals and timelines”. While you will undoubtedly want to benefit from this increased business the real motivation is that the same prediction expects those without tangible progress towards ESG goals to be replaced by consumers for that reason alone.

So, weather you realised it or not, your ESG goals, and more importantly your progress towards them, is paramount to your longevity – in any sector. And, as the research shows, how you utilise and share your data is quite possibly the key to success here.

Now is the time to focus on your data strategy and ensure you become, or remain, a Data Leader so that you can both profit and have purpose.

1 Predicts 2023: Environmental Sustainability Is Now an IT Sourcing Imperative, Gartner, Dec 2022

GARTNER is a registered trademark and service mark of Gartner, Inc. and/or its affiliates in the U.S. and internationally and is used herein with permission. All rights reserved.

This article was originally published on LinkedIn on December 13, 2022. 


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