Last month we recognized Earth Day and the ongoing, global effort to address our impact on the planet. For many, the effort to limit their environmental impact isn’t just an Earth Day effort but an everyday effort. For example, take the businesses that are deeply engaged in reducing their greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). There are many, and Sphera is proud of the role we play in helping companies measure, track and reduce these emissions.

This role recently earned Sphera recognition from Fast Company, which named us a finalist in the Large Business category in its 2024 World Changing Ideas Awards. Sphera was recognized for providing innovative solutions to support companies’ global decarbonization efforts.

It’s common for companies to set emissions reduction goals as a way to become more sustainable. But sustainability encompasses many things, and for some organizations, water and waste management or energy usage, for example, may rank higher than emissions reductions. (As a quick aside, materiality assessments help companies determine which sustainability topics are most important for their business, according to their stakeholders.)

Environmental issues are often the first to come to mind when the topic of sustainability is raised. At Sphera, we go beyond the environmental factors and view sustainability through three lenses: people, planet and performance. So, when examined within the context of everyday business operations, sustainability matters are not limited to one or two departments. Sustainability involves everyone.

For example, the “people” component might involve health and safety, employee relations and labor standards. “Planet” covers GHG emissions, raw materials or carbon monitoring, among other things. And “performance” can include items such as regulatory compliance, operational risk management or cybersecurity. We refer to the management of these people, planet and performance elements as enterprise sustainability management (ESM).

The best approach to ESM is three-pronged, involving software, data and consulting.

  • Software allows companies to monitor metrics, processes and activities; manage workflows; and aggregate information and report out to stakeholders, among many other things. It’s akin to an ESM engine that optimizes operations to keep a business moving forward with efficiency.
  • Data can include product, supply chain, health and safety, compliance or emissions data. It’s fed into the software to provide actionable information that allows businesses to manage their people, planet and performance issues. Data is the input, or fuel, for the ESM engine.
  • Consulting provides the topical or industry-specific expertise that’s tailored for a particular business and its sustainability goals. It’s the intelligence that helps businesses extract the most value from its software and data. Keeping with the automobile analogy, consulting functions almost like the driver. It maps out a company’s destination and the best route toward that destination, ensuring that the right data and software are utilized for the journey.

So, those are the essential components of effective ESM. The benefit of ESM is visibility into the entire organization—a visibility that can lead to surprising performance improvements. It starts at the corporate level, where corporate sustainability reporting to shareholders, investors, government regulators and other stakeholders takes place.

The information needed for this comes from the operational level. Examples of this kind of information include permit information from a company’s permit to work capabilities; environment, health and safety information; or risk information from an advanced risk assessment. Obviously, an enterprise can have vast quantities of information. It needs software to make the information manageable and useful.

Drilling down further, we get to the product level. At this level, a business might conduct a life cycle assessment (LCA) to determine a product’s environmental impact—or use LCA automation to generate information on an entire product portfolio. The granularity achieved at this level can advance a company’s understanding of its environmental footprint in a remarkable way.

Finally, we get to the supply chain. Visibility at this level is becoming more critical, as regulators include Scope 3 emissions disclosures in corporate reporting requirements. Given the size and complexity of many companies’ supply chains—imagine Walmart, for example—any tool that offers access to the data needed for Scope 3 calculations and sustainability reporting is now a must-have.

By applying the three essential components of software, data and consulting, ESM pulls everything together for a comprehensive approach to sustainability. Again, sustainability means different things to different organizations, and the materiality assessment helps businesses define the concept in their own terms and lay the foundation for their sustainability strategy.

Whichever sustainability topics are most important to your business, Sphera is ready with the tools and expertise you need to set your sustainability goals and track your progress toward them. For us, this isn’t just about achieving our mission to create a safer, more sustainable and productive world—it’s also our passion.

–Paul

Learn more about Paul Marushka.

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