How Tech CXOs Can Impact ESG Initiatives

Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) Technology is picking up mindshare within the enterprise after years of being a lower priority for many companies. Our Q4 Sierra CXO Advisory Board call focused on ESG and how Tech CXOs can make an impact on initiatives within their company. Speakers included Narges Baniasadi, Adjunct Professor of the Emergence Program at Stanford, and Dawn James, Director of US Sustainability & Environmental Science at Microsoft.

Sierra Ventures Q4 CXO Call with Stanford and Microsoft

3 Points were emphasized during the session: 

  • Timing is Right for ESG
  • Walk Before You Run
  • ESG is an Organization-wide Effort

Timing is Right for ESG

A combination of increasing public focus, rising rates of natural disasters attributed to climate change, and increased flow of capital into ESG-related companies has brought the sector to the forefront over the past few years. These tailwinds have created a market environment for more ESG efforts and people are ready and calling for change. 

  1. Double Materiality – Double materiality exists when a companies’ positive bottom-line revenue and positive impact on ESG efforts are aligned. Consumers are pushing companies to prioritize ESG in their product goals and capabilities. According to EY, 68% of consumers believe companies need to drive positive societal and environmental impact and investors agree with consumers as Edelman reported that 90% of institutional investors view companies that prioritize ESG as having better potential long-term returns
  2. Decarbonization – With temperatures rising due to the effects of climate change, decarbonization of our atmosphere is a global priority. There is demand across multiple sectors for technologies to better track and measure carbon emissions, and in Deep Tech, to actually capture these emissions. 
  3. Capital Inflow into ESG Tech – According to PwC’s State of Climate Tech 2021, $32B has been invested into Climate Tech alone (through October 2021) – ~30% higher than 2020 as a whole. More institutional investors are adding Climate Tech to their portfolios and there has been a significant proliferation of startups within the sector. We see this first-hand at Sierra Ventures with the creation of new companies in the space increasing and ESG Tech has become a focus area for us.

Some of the top areas within ESG Tech in 2021, covering both software and Deep Tech sectors include:

Software

  • Carbon Accounting 
  • Climate/Earth Data
  • Responsible AI 
  • Energy Grid Analytics  

Deep Tech

  • Carbon Capture 
  • Electric Transportation  
  • Next-Gen Batteries/Fuel 
  • Sustainable Alt Foods 

Walk Before You Run 

Enterprises that have best-in-class ESG programs all have at least one thing in common: they take the time to measure their current ESG footprint before starting their ESG initiatives. While there is definite urgency behind achieving ESG goals, if companies do not fully understand the factors that drive their impact on society and the environment, they may miss the optimal way to structure their ESG strategy. It is important to map out which sources of data are most relevant to your company’s business operations. 

For example, common sources of data that Tech CXOs can consider within the environment and sustainability category specifically include: 

  • Carbon Emission Output 
  • Data Center Utilization 
  • Water & Electricity Consumption
  • Supply Chain Footprint 
  • Office Waste & Recycling 

Additionally, you can’t fix what you don’t measure. Microsoft’s Sustainability Cloud helps enterprises better track ESG data to accelerate their sustainability journey. Their Record capabilities connect data sources to more accurately represent the full emissions footprint of a company’s operations and value chains. This foundation allows companies to systematically Measure, Report, and Reduce their ecological footprint over time. 

ESG is an Organization-wide Effort 

ESG goals cannot be executed solely by the Chief Sustainability or Compliance Officer(s). Leaders and stakeholders from all departments need to be included in ESG conversations and bought into the organization’s strategy for it to be successful. ESG needs to be a part of the company culture and a priority for everyone for it to be most effective.  

Narges leads Emergence at Stanford, a program that fosters an inclusive, healthy, and sustainable future through purposeful entrepreneurship. She stressed the importance of integrating ESG work across both the public and private sectors. Narges shared that enterprises will need to work with government institutions and universities to achieve planetary-scale and key societal innovation goals.

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A big “Thank you” to our Speakers for their insights! We’re looking forward to seeing how ESG efforts progress over the next few years. If you’d like to discuss any of these trends or new ones you’re seeing please get in touch at brendon@sierraventures.com.

Learn more about the Sierra Ventures CXO Advisory Board.

Check out more CXO Insights.

Resources: 

Brendon joined Sierra Ventures in 2017 and leads business development operations for the firm, including the CXO Advisory Board and Annual CXO Summit. In addition, he partners with management teams in the Sierra Ventures portfolio to accelerate their growth by identifying mutually beneficial CXO engagements, key strategic partnerships, and providing support with analyst relations strategies. Brendon also works with the Investment Team on sourcing and due diligence. Brendon has a background supporting CIOs in the healthcare industry and investors in the Venture Capital & Private Equity sectors through his work at Gartner. Brendon holds a MS in Entrepreneurship and BA in Environmental Science from the University of Florida. Outside of work he’s an avid golfer, traveler, and big Florida Gators fan.

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