ESG software Q&A with Senior System Support Manager Oliver Boulton
What’s the secret to the success of sustainability performance for many large corporations? We know that often it comes down to efficient ESG/EHS data management. So, to shed light on this crucial topic, we sat down with our Senior System Support Manager Oliver, who has over 3 years of expertise working with enterprise-level software like Enablon and UL360. We had a chat with him to get his take and turn his pearls of wisdom into digestible takeaways just for you.
In your experience, how can specialised software solutions improve efficiency within a specific sustainability aspect such as safety, risk management, or environmental data?
The idea of specialised ESG software is quite simple. They enable the collection, quality checking, analysis, and reporting of various data sets such as those you mentioned. Typically, these processes are laborious and slow, with lots of margin for error either in the data entry or reporting phases. By using a software solution, you are automating these procedures, enabling your ESG professionals to spend their time making informed decisions based on reliable data instead of undertaking the administration of basic but time-consuming data collection, validation, KPI calculation, and information reporting. After all, that is what they are hired to do!
Key takeaway: Specialised software can free sustainability managers from mundane tasks, allowing them to engage in strategic decision-making, driving sustainability goals forward.
Can you talk a bit about the advantages that boutique systems offer in terms of customisation compared to the one-size-fits-all enterprise solutions?
There are a few benefits for using a boutique system over an enterprise one. Obviously, the cost of licensing and system integration are far cheaper as there is less functionality and customisation options. For that same reason, boutique systems are typically quicker and simpler to deploy which is essential for many organisations with smaller ESG teams who may not have the time or ability to dedicate to software implementation.
Finally, this may be seen as a positive or a negative, the boutiques typically offer something of a niche in the market. Many will target just one aspect of ESG for a particular industry. If your organisation can find one of these which fits their requirements and industry, you are rewarded with easy to use, cost-efficient system which is run by vendors who understand the needs of your industry well and speak your language.
Key takeaway: Boutique systems provide tailored solutions that fit like a glove, helping organisations navigate industry specific data challenges with ease.
Do you think that specialised systems can seamlessly integrate with other ESG software or platforms to enable holistic data analysis and reporting?
Most of the bigger software will offer integration with other systems. However, many vendors nowadays are moving towards a modular system model which houses various ESG data sets. This allows your organisation to centralise your information into one location (de-siloing) and by doing so, offers greater reporting opportunities without the maintenance of several software platforms. This saves on both cost and time spent on user training.
Key takeaway: Integration is the bridge to holistic sustainability. Specialised systems, with their modular approach, can facilitate an efficient and comprehensive analysis of sustainability data.
How do you think these specialised systems accommodate growth and change of sustainability and ESG strategy over time?
As we know, ESG strategies and reporting requirements are rapidly evolving in their complexity. I think this is why many specialised software vendors are finding a niche within the ESG realm, usually targeting a specific industry. This allows them to stay ahead of the curve, albeit for a very particular part of the sector. Those smaller vendors that are offering a more generalist solution to ESG reporting may struggle to keep up with the ever-changing environment. Of course, I think that the enterprise grade solutions can make this work as many are moving to a modular software model so they can release additional modules to comply with upcoming changes.
Key takeaway: Flexibility is key in the ever-evolving sustainability landscape. Specialised systems and adaptable enterprise solutions both play important roles in keeping organisations aligned with shifting sustainability priorities.
Are there any potential cost savings associated with using specialised systems as opposed to large enterprise solutions – e.g., maintenance, license fees, and ongoing support?
There is no doubt that a more specialised system will save on costs at the expense of functionality and customisation of the infrastructure to fit the specific needs of your business. For smaller organisations with fewer reporting requirements, this is a worthwhile trade. However, as a business grows and its ESG requirements become more complex, the effort saved in consolidating and automating data collection, analysis, and reporting with a more robust system is likely more cost-effective than the boutique alternatives.
Key takeaway: Cost-effectiveness depends on the journey. Organisations should evaluate their growth trajectory and sustainability needs to choose between the agility of specialised systems and the scalability of enterprise solutions.
In your experience, what challenges may arise in terms of data silos when using specialised systems for different sustainability areas?
With data siloing comes a series of challenges. There is undoubtedly a greater volume of human interaction needed to bring data sets together for reporting. Not only is this time-consuming, but it also increases the risk of mistakes being made, be it errors in manual calculations or the data itself. Change control for information becomes a lot harder and accountability for those changes is often lost.
Lastly, a large benefit for centralising your data is that this system becomes the single point of truth. As soon as data is moved from where it has been collected and quality checked, there is a risk that information will change as it is passed from one place or person to another.
Key takeaway: Data silos can hinder progress. Centralisation not only enhances data integrity but also streamlines the sustainability reporting process, ultimately benefiting the organisation and its key stakeholders.
How do you think organisations can ensure they remain compliant with upcoming regulations and standards when using specialised systems?
Nowadays, a lot of software vendors, big or small, will offer alignment to various ESG regulations and standards. This is something to consider when procuring or migrating to a new system and absolutely something to take advantage of when utilising one of these systems.
Key takeaway: Compliance is non-negotiable in sustainability. Choosing a specialised system that aligns with regulations and standards is a proactive step towards ensuring you’re able to go above and beyond with your sustainability commitments.
Lastly, in your opinion, what is the long-term viability of specialised systems considering the evolving landscape of sustainability and technology (e.g., AI)?
As an analytical tool, I believe that AI will soon pave the way most areas of business, including ESG. However, the need for efficient data collection and ambitious reporting will still be facilitated by specialised systems. Certainly, for the bigger systems on the market, I can see AI being at the forefront of their data analysis and validation functionalities in the not-too-distant future.
Key takeaway: The future of data is AI-driven, and the right specialised systems are ready to harness its potential. As sustainability and technology continue to converge, there are opportunities to use data-driven insights to drive meaningful change.
We hope this gave you a helpful overview of the ESG software landscape, and some insights into the future of sustainability data management. If anything here has got you thinking, don’t hesitate to get in touch! Oliver is more than happy to answer questions about all things ESG/EHS software.
Are you looking for a better system to advance your sustainability strategy? We can guide you in choosing the right software solution tailored to your needs.