The new data challenge: Raising your company's ESG IQ

Environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues are now a top board concern, with employees and investors alike expecting companies to take an active role in improving society. CIOs have an opportunity to flex their data management expertise, serving as a trusted advisor on the quality and value of ESG data.

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Just a few days after the November election, the Deloitte Center for Board Effectiveness held a private workshop for senior executives on the hottest topics on U.S. boardroom agendas today. The guest speakers were a trio of experienced female board members with collective business expertise ranging from engineering, insurance, and healthcare industries to financial institutions, public universities, and media companies.

Pandemic response and recovery naturally topped their hot-topics list, followed by concerns about a 2021 economic recession. But it was the third topic that might surprise CIOs: Environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues are consuming more board attention today than ever before.

Before the global pandemic knocked the world off-kilter, the CIOs paying closest attention to ESG issues were chief investment officers, not technology leaders. Once exclusively the province of auditors checking for regulatory compliance or socially conscious investors tracking sustainability metrics, ESG in our post-pandemic world is now a strategic item on the board agenda.

Measuring company culture

"Many CIOs may not see the connection for them, but it's about data," says Kristen Sullivan, a partner who leads Deloitte & Touche's sustainability services. "ESG comes down to using data-driven ways to evaluate long-term strategy."

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