Majority of firms failing to meet business sustainability goals

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A majority of organizations are failing to implement improvements to bolster business sustainability despite a sharpened focus on reducing their environmental impact, according to new research. 

A report from Kyndryl and Microsoft shows that while 85% of organizations place a “high strategic level of importance” on achieving sustainability goals, only 16% have integrated sustainability into their strategies and data practices.

Eight-in-ten respondents told Kyndryl they place great significance in technology’s role in achieving their goals. However, fewer than one-third (32%) believe they are making full use of it in their organizations.

"Many companies are at different stages of sustainability maturity," says Faith Taylor, chief sustainability and ESG officer at Kyndryl.

"Companies are applying technology to unlock the full potential of sustainability. They are thinking beyond regulatory compliance to pragmatically execute and advance their sustainability goals."

Although CEOs and boards have made sustainability and digital transformation a priority, many believe they need help with the integration and execution of programs to meet their goals.

Of those companies that have implemented sustainability strategies for more than 10 years, only one-quarter said they have full alignment with finance while under half (44%) have fully aligned sustainability goals with their respective technology departments.

Just half are using automation to improve efficiency and build sustainable operations, and a similar number have digitized their workplaces to support a hybrid work strategy and use technology to reduce the environmental footprint of their organization. 

Similarly, six-in-ten organizations use AI to monitor energy use, but only 34% use current data to predict future energy consumption.

"Technology has emerged as a key enabler to sustainability success, and its role will only continue to grow with the advent of more sophisticated AI tools," says Shelly Blackburn, vice president, cross solutions area, Microsoft.

Driving business sustainability objectives

The report recommends streamlining data management for informed decision-making and successful execution of strategies. At present, only 15% of organizations believe they have the capability to provide employees with real-time sustainability insights.

Firms were also advised to expand the use of AI beyond basic reporting to include predictive analytics that assess Scope 3 emissions, forecast energy consumption, and anticipate potential risks such as natural disasters.

In addition, a strong emphasis should be placed on employee education with regard to sustainability objectives. Nearly half of organizations currently lack dedicated resources or have limited internal expertise to contextualize sustainability goals to the workforce.

Great pressure is being placed on organizations globally to improve sustainability, the study found, with much of this coming from customers. Pressure from governments, employees, and investors is also driving focus on sustainability.


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However, the report found that organizations are keen to see more explicit government mandates and clear-cut guidelines on the matter.

Respondents said governments should prioritize the introduction of comprehensive environmental policies, incentivize sustainable practices in businesses, promote public awareness, and improve international collaboration.

"The key lies in setting the right priorities and an active collaboration between governments and the private sector. Organizations need clear mandates and resources to accelerate their journeys to a greener future," the report concludes.

"The good news is that, globally and across industries, this commitment to sustainability is now important, a stark contrast from a decade ago when it was not even listed as a priority."

Emma Woollacott

Emma Woollacott is a freelance journalist writing for publications including the BBC, Private Eye, Forbes, Raconteur and specialist technology titles.