6 Influential CIOs Offer Their Advice on ESG Initiatives

Peer Practices
Written by Nick Turner

Nicky Green

Group IT Director

LAVAZZA Professional Europe

Phil Brown



Dr. Michael Müller-Wünsch



Chris Groenewegen



Hans van der Waal

Global IT Director


Laura Kendrick


IPG Media Brands

According to Gartner, 86% of business leaders see sustainability as an investment that protects their organisation from disruption. As a CIO, contributing to the sustainability agenda may seem complex and daunting. With emerging technologies, such as generative AI, a lengthy list of legacy systems and increasing expectations from internal and external stakeholders, knowing how to tackle sustainability through IT can be tough.

Earth Day is celebrated on the 22nd of April each year, and this provides a perfect opportunity for CIOs to take stock of the impact they can have on enterprise sustainability goals, ensuring they have the capability to enable a host of sustainable outcomes using technology. 

But how can CIOs make the right decisions when defining IT strategies with sustainability in mind? We asked six CIOs who are members of Evanta communities what they are currently doing to achieve their goals for ESG and sustainability.

  1. Understand the Business Priority Around ESG Initiatives

CIOs are increasingly seen as business enablers and partners in the organisation. This puts them in a unique position to affect change and move the needle on sustainable business initiatives through IT. But having a comprehensive grasp on how the business wants to tackle sustainability is key.

“I think you need to understand what the business objectives are, then see how IT can possibly make any contribution to them,” shares Nicky Green, Group IT Director at LAVAZZA Professional Europe. “For example, our move to the cloud will have had a positive impact on energy consumption.”

Nicky went on to say, “As another example, in our business, we are looking at making all our vending machines connected (IoT enabled), which gives us the best chance of being operationally efficient (e.g. we can avoid sending engineers and fillers to sites when they are not needed). It’s also important to have both internal and external perspectives that can take a critical look at systems, infrastructure, and processes to establish any areas of improvement.”

Phil Brown, CDIO at Amey, added this about ensuring CIOs can achieve company objectives: “A CIO must be active in their role, understanding the scale of the challenge in their organisation, and ensuring the plans will achieve their targets and be sustainable for the organisation longer term. Having a culture of cross-company teamwork and shared expertise like the one at Amey creates more value across the organisation.”

  1. Define the CIO's Role in Driving Sustainability

Most CIOs will soon — if they don’t already — play a central role on their enterprise sustainability team, developing new technology solutions, services and IT/digital infrastructure and building critical data platforms to drive sustainable business strategies. The task seems enormous, but taking stock of where you can add value is critical to success. 

Phil Brown from Amey explains his approach: “Sustainability is a key part of Amey’s strategy, and I have found as CIO that I play an important role in both directly delivering IT-related sustainability improvements and creating the platform that enables the whole business to measure their sustainability targets.”

Phil goes on to say, “The key aspect for all digital projects is to ensure your data platform underpins everything and can scale.  If every enterprise initiative is aligned to the data platform strategy, then your digital initiatives, including AI, will be well placed to succeed.”

Sustainability projects require significant breadth and depth of data, some of which may not be easily accessible, so having a modern, scalable data platform to integrate and analyse all the relevant data is key.”

- Phil Brown
CDIO, Amey

  1. Digital Transformation with Sustainability at the Core

As CIOs are increasingly tasked with prioritising initiatives and driving digital transformation, what are some of the best ways to ensure IT strategies align with reducing the overall carbon footprint of the organisation? 

Here is what Dr. Michael Müller-Wünsch, CIO at OTTO, had to share: “Digital transformation and sustainability transformation must go hand in hand. As the importance of technology and data increases, so does the responsibility of IT for ESG compliance and the carbon footprint of the business model.” 

Michael goes on to share, “Data minimalism and computational efficiencies of algorithms and software architectures represent a new target dimension of overall business performance. IT departments are responsible for ensuring that the information and communication technologies used -- and their application -- are as environmentally friendly and resource-saving as possible. This applies across all phases of the value chain: from procurement, along the entire life cycle and to the recycling and disposal of the hardware.”

  1. How Can CIOs Get Started with Sustainability?

In a recent Gartner survey, 74% of CIOs stated that sustainability increases digital maturity, but many don't know where to start. Sustainable technology needs to incorporate both well-established and leading-edge technologies. CIOs should be prioritising technology investments based on the top material issues that their enterprises have identified as most important to future success. 

Chris Groenewegen, CIO, Lumileds, provides some advice on how CIOs should apply digital to wider enterprise initiatives. “You could start in a very practical way,” Chris states. “Create once, store once and use many times. The amount of emails with attachments is still huge in many companies. As a large organisation, one could learn from smaller boutique companies, for example, who have a digital mini supply chain of their processes and relevant documentation -- paperless, all in flows and highly collaborative.”

Chris continues, “Then again, IT can greatly contribute in waste prevention across the total supply chain or production by supporting the business with solid response times, helping to deploy and run the right solutions. Errors, rework, inaccurate planning and imperfect response times are possible contributors to waste in the supply chain. Addressing those with the business will help.” 

Chris goes on to say, “Consider AI and potentially generative AI. If this is not yet part of your core business, make sure you’re creating policies, guidelines – in essence, the overall governance. 

Hans van der Waal, Global IT Director at Travelex, adds this advice: “Cater for a sustainable, scalable and secure platform for anyone to consume, to enable their digital aspirations -- and to provide maximum transparency about the TCO and other metrics, including ESG-related ones. I think the most tangible thing to do is include ESG requirements in contracts with vendors and suppliers, whether new or existing, and make it a key part of the vendor management and RFP process.”

  1. Evolve Your Mindset to Drive Momentum Around Sustainable Initiatives

The role of the CIO is evolving and, as a CIO, you are expected to assume leadership of high-impact initiatives. It’s important to prepare your own mindset when it comes to tackling wider business issues like sustainability and understand the true potential that IT strategy has in directly impacting sustainable business.

Laura Kendrick, CIO, IPG Media Brands shares, “Sustainability is a very complex and evolving area, but one of the main requirements is robust measurement and reporting (financial/governance). Without suitable technologies in place, with emissions measurement at a granular enough level, it is not possible to identify opportunity areas to reduce waste and emissions.” 

Kendrick continues “I believe the evolving role of the CIO is to combine digital transformation across the enterprise applications landscape with sustainability objectives to evaluate and implement new technologies – like AI – to help the organisation transition to net zero and incorporate this into their IT roadmap and planning. Our expertise as CIOs puts us in a unique position to implement the right technologies to support new sustainability applications and digital tools to optimise energy use and reduce carbon emissions.” 

Ultimately, as a CIO, it’s vital to define your ambitions, set and meet clear goals, and unleash the power of technology to tackle arguably one of the most important challenges that face us today. 

For the latest insights on sustainability, ESG and other topics that CIOs are focusing on, join a CIO community near you. Or, if you are already a community member, sign in to MyEvanta to sign up for opportunities to get together with your CIO peers.

Special thanks to all participating companies.

by CIOs, for CIOs

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