This article was co-authored by Katherine Kennedy, an Associate at Metis Strategy.\n\nFor years, ESG has been little more than a sub-bullet or appendix slide in most CIOs\u2019 strategy decks. But changing consumer sensibilities and heightened investor scrutiny have swept ESG, and technology\u2019s role in it, to the top of the agenda. Corporate strategies hinge on it.\n\nESG is new territory for many technology leaders and getting up to speed quickly is essential. In a recent survey conducted by Lenovo, 45% of respondents said the CIO should play a critical role in executing the enterprise\u2019s ESG mission. While the scope of ESG is of course much broader than environmental sustainability, the need for speed here is particularly heightened as the SEC moves to enact rules that will require publicly traded companies to disclose their emissions data as early as 2024. For many CIOs today, the first question often is: Where do I start?\n\nNick Colisto, SVP & CIO of Avery Dennison Corporation, has some ideas. ESG has been a priority for him since he joined the company, which designs and manufactures a variety of labeling and functional materials, like tapes and bonding solutions. Over the past several years alone, his team launched a web application that powers AD Circular, a program for recycling used paper and filmic label liners. The team also developed an enterprise-wide system for tracking ESG metrics, like Scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions. Insights from that system are highlighted regularly in the company\u2019s sustainability reports.\n\nBelow, Nick suggests a few areas CIOs can start on the journey to creating a proactive ESG agenda that anticipates compliance requirements:\n\nDedicate a sustainability leader to the CIO organization\n\nA dedicated sustainability expert focused on how data can drive the enterprise agenda while satisfying relevant ESG policies and guidelines is essential, Nick says. \u201cData is essential to a modern ESG strategy, and you won\u2019t make strides of any respectable length if you\u2019re constantly fighting for the time of the company\u2019s shared ESG resource.\u201d\n\nIf your search comes down to hiring someone with ESG policy knowledge versus technical expertise, prioritize the former, Nick says. That way, the person can narrow the scope of ESG use cases to those that will drive the most meaningful results before involving the technical talent responsible for delivery.\n\nOf course, finding the right person is only half the battle. CIOs must set sustainability leads up for success. That means giving them visibility and access. Nick\u2019s leader sits on Avery Dennison\u2019s sustainability council, where he has visibility into the enterprise ESG agenda. He also has a mandate to engage business leaders to collect requirements for any initiative the council pursues, which he then translates into technical specifications and tracks from start to finish.\n\nFocus on data governance\n\nData governance is vital to ESG initiatives. At minimum, it will form the backbone of your ESG reports, which will command much of your focus at the start of your ESG journey. In addition to ensuring compliance, data will also inform which goals your organization pursues and how it tracks them. Thus, the quality of your data must be exemplary.\n\nSecuring that high-quality data, Nick says, starts with establishing a single source of truth. This has been on many a CIO\u2019s docket for a while, but the work often is not prioritized because the value of the data was relatively low, used mostly for historical reporting to support brand positioning and annual sustainability reports. \u201cAs investors demand increasingly detailed data to assess climate-related risk, data quality is critical,\u201d Nick says. \u201cDisparate data will not work for ESG as it's too difficult to analyze and report on. Also, consolidated ESG data has increased operational and strategic value.\u201d\n\nOnce a single source of truth has been established, it must be maintained with robust data governance and management policies. These policies will become especially critical once the scope of regulatory reporting expands to include Scope 3 emissions, those a company generates indirectly, through its supply chain, products, and partners, which are particularly hard to track, says Nick.\n\nDrive accessibility and transparency\n\nOnce a lead has been established and a clear governance process put in place, the next step is to make your data accessible and transparent. That means making sure anyone who needs the data can get their hands on it and, once they do, easily understand it. That task is harder than it sounds, but it\u2019s worth your while. ESG programs are unlikely to gain momentum if every routine compliance report requires employees to endure a scavenger hunt for the necessary data. More importantly, people are less likely to invest themselves in a cause that is opaque or poorly understood. Knowing your ESG goals, who they involve, what data they rely on, and what activities will move the needle will make your employees feel they are part of the process. Our team sees four key ways to do this:\n\nThe principles above, when applied in earnest, can do much more for companies than simply earn them a sticker for compliance. Nick\u2019s focus on ESG at Avery Dennison demonstrates the central role CIOs can play in asserting IT\u2019s role not only as a service provider, but also an active contributor to an organization\u2019s ESG mission and, ultimately, its growth.