Embed Sustainability While Unifying Operations

Town Hall Insights
Global CIO Community

Eric Libow

Distinguished Engineer, CTO Asset Management Solutions



Samantha Davis

CIO Americas

Arkema Inc.


Anuj Gaur

VP Global Information Technology

The Marmon Group


Yanna Winter

CIO, Head of Generali UK IT and GC&C IT

Generali UK

MARCH 2024

With increasing pressure to adhere to new ESG reporting rules and best practices, organizations around the world are exploring new ways to apply and analyze data. The ability to blend complex sets of disconnected data sources and services will determine the enterprise’s ability to measure and manage sustainability.

In their first event of the year, CIOs in the Global CIO Community got together for a virtual discussion about how to embed sustainability into their global operations. Eric Libow, Distinguished Engineer, CTO Asset Management Solutions at IBM, moderated the discussion, and Global CIO Governing Body members Samantha Davis, CIO Americas at Arkema Inc, Anuj Gaur, VP Global Information Technology at The Marmon Group, and Yanna Winter, CIO, Head of Generali UK IT and GC&C IT at Generali UK, led the small group discussions.

Eric Libow of IBM kicked off the conversation by talking about why sustainability starts with the CIO. He shared that sustainability “all starts with information and data,” and CIOs have access to that data and are the ones most often turning that data into insights, including through the use of AI. According to an IBM study, CIOs are also the leaders most likely to be categorized as “transformation trailblazers” when it comes to sustainability, relative to their peers in the C-suite. 

In the same study, IBM found that 76% of executives think that sustainability is essential to their business strategy, and 72% think of it as a “revenue enabler,” instead of a cost. The challenge for CIOs is making data and insights actionable and enabling the business to make changes and real-time adjustments.

Libow also outlined the reasons for CIOs to engage in ESG efforts, including the study finding that “organizations with more mature sustainability data capabilities financially outperform their peers.” He pointed out that as companies turn data into actionable initiatives, they can potentially increase efficiencies, extend the life of assets and facilities, drive topline performance, and create opportunities to transform sustainability into revenue for the business.

Libow then shared an example of the Great Belt Bridge in Denmark, where Sund & Baelt, working with IBM and Microsoft, projected a 100-year increase to its lifespan, as well as 750,000 tons of CO2 emissions being saved. Together IBM and Microsoft helped produce sustainable outcomes for the 11-mile bridge and tunnel combination that is the largest construction project in Danish history. 

In addition, Libow explained IBM’s five pillars for turning sustainability into action:

  1. Define your goals and strategies, consider regulations, and create data and reporting that capture business value.
  2. Modernize your energy infrastructure and transition from traditional sources of energy to renewable ones.
  3. Intelligently manage assets, facilities and infrastructure to reduce costs and create efficiencies.
  4. Implement responsible computing and green IT, which is about not only efficient workloads, but optimized ones.
  5. Foster sustainable supply chains – create a decision tree of supply chain choices that includes evaluating the cost, reliability, and ethical behavior and sustainability of suppliers.

During breakout groups, CIOs engaged in discussions on integrating sustainability into their operations and navigating challenges across borders and industries.

Key Takeaways from the Discussion

  1. Take stock in what you’re already doing.

Global CIOs shared that a first step in implementing sustainability initiatives is to document what has already been instituted at the organization. Some CIOs indicated that ESG initiatives are relatively new at their companies, and they “need a baseline” to measure what has been achieved so far.

They also believe that it’s necessary to ensure that their sustainability strategy is aligned with the overall business strategy and then surface data related to the objectives. CIOs thought that it’s important to “share wins with the business as we go” – rather than only collecting data and analytics to highlight it in arrears.

  1. Start with the IT organization and suppliers.

CIOs agreed that sustainability initiatives should encompass “what we do within our company – but also within our ecosystem.” From an IT perspective, they felt that they could use their technology levers to find efficiencies, reduce their energy footprint and clean up data. An executive indicated that they are measuring their carbon footprint and inquiring with suppliers about their sustainability practices. Another participant suggested that certain cutting-edge technologies might offer greater sustainability compared to previous options, emphasizing the importance of considering environmental factors when selecting tools.

  1. Applying AI to ESG initiatives.

The CIOs discussed not merely reporting on sustainability metrics, but how they could potentially apply AI to generate compelling insights regarding sustainability efforts. They highlighted the importance of connecting measurements to business results and “marrying the top-down goals with the bottom-up initiatives.” One noted that it would be ideal to use AI for analytics without building it from scratch themselves.

One CIO emphasized that while the metrics primarily focus on business results, there are additional benefits resulting from ESG practices, including enhancing brand and reputation and potentially boosting sales. Another executive pointed out that adopting best practices in ESG can “open up a different investor pool, if this is a strength of your brand,” as it would align with different investors’ mission and vision. 

As they wrapped up, CIOs debated whether ESG should be their focus area. Some concurred that their ability to apply AI and evaluate the supply chain makes it logical for ESG to sit with them. Others noted that high-priority digital business initiatives compete with ESG for their attention. At minimum, CIOs agreed that they should be part of the team that is working on sustainability at their organizations.

CIOs can continue the discussion on ESG, data, AI and other topics at an upcoming gathering, which you can find on our calendar. If you are already an Evanta community member, you can register in MyEvanta, or, if not, you can apply to join a community of your CIO peers to stay fully up-to-date on key topics for CIOs.

Special thanks to IBM and Microsoft.

by CIOs, for CIOs

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