Three Ways CIOs Can Drive Sustainability & ESG Initiatives

Peer Practices
Written by Nick Turner

Thomas Kleine

Country Digital Lead

Pfizer Germany

Hartmut Mueller

Vice President IT Technology & Cross Functions

Mercedes-Benz Group

Esteban Remecz


Iochpe Maxion

In what may be a new function for the CIO, senior IT leaders are increasingly being called upon to play a role in ESG initiatives and their enterprise sustainability teams. Their unique role – at the convergence of technology services and solutions, IT infrastructure, and data and analytics platforms – positions IT leaders to engage with sustainability peers and programs to drive real change in their organisation. 

According to Gartner, 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 strategy.”

Embracing a Role in Sustainability by Delivering IT Value

Enterprises face increasing pressure from internal and external stakeholders to prioritise sustainable initiatives. This presents an opportunity for CIOs to create digital sustainability through IT, automation and traceability, as well as engaging with wider business partners to drive initiatives forward.

“I am convinced that it is mandatory to put IT’s contributions to sustainability on the strategic agenda of any organization,” explains Thomas Kleine, Country Digital Lead for Pfizer Germany. “The CIO has to step up and lead this conversation with the board, as well as the team chairing the ESG efforts at the operational level.” 

Kleine continues, “It is not obvious to non-tech colleagues that IT has significant influence on how ‘green’ the company can be. That said, IT leaders may put their own names forward, lead sustainability communities or networks, chair or co-chair respective ambassador forums or also participate in respective workshops. In doing so, the CIO can educate the organization about where and how IT can contribute to the company’s sustainability goals.”

Assessing Whether IT Contributes to — or Combats — Sustainability  

In some industries, digital technologies can themselves be a material sustainability issue. In such cases, it’s vital for CIOs to improve the digital infrastructure and services themselves. This could be through increasing the energy efficiency of the IT infrastructure and workplace services or enhancing the ways in which IT measures their contribution to the issue.

It is crucial for IT organizations to work on meaningful standards and KPIs to make their performance more transparent and to be able to measure it.”

Hartmut Mueller, Vice President of IT Technology & Cross Functions for Mercedes-Benz Group shares, “A self-assessment and resource monitoring will help to define benchmarks and potential improvements. These need to be reviewed in terms of their effectiveness and economic efficiency on a regular basis. Creating sustainability reports, as part of a management concept and best practice, definitely requires IT-related KPIs. In this sense, Green IT is currently still strongly related to IT hardware and less to IT services and software products. However, factors such as power consumption and associated indirect CO2 emissions of IT services and software products should definitely be determined as well."

Applying Digital to Wider Business Initiatives 

Existing IT systems can’t address all the challenges organisations face around sustainability, so it’s important for CIOs to drive investment in solutions that help digitalise products, services and processes, improve resource and energy efficiency, and reduce carbon emissions. 

“CIOs are in the best position to understand the impact of the technologies they choose, and as such, they have a 360-degree vision if these technologies are a material issue,” shares Esteban Remecz, CIO of Iochpe Maxion. “The best way to address this is to partner with the function in the business as well as with the operations who would derive the best value from these technologies and define together a strategic roadmap to enable and deliver them.”

More and more, C-suite leaders must provide reporting and KPIs on their ESG programs for their shareholders and stakeholders. CIOs can add value through their abilities to offer IT platform and structural support, guide the measurement and reporting, and impact organizational change around large programs, as they already do with digital initiatives. In this way, CIOs can apply some of their learnings and experiences with digital transformation to another area of their organisations.


Special thanks to all participating companies.

by CIOs, for CIOs

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