June 22, 2022 By Kareem Yusuf, Ph.D 5 min read

For nearly 20 years, IBM has surveyed thousands of CEOs about their biggest challenges. In the latest survey, sustainability ranked at the top, a 5-spot jump from 2021. Nearly 60% of CEOs told us they see significant demand from investors for greater transparency on sustainability. They are also feeling the pressure from multiple stakeholders. Regulators and governments in most top economies have developed corporate disclosure requirements around environmental impact. Customers want to buy from sustainable businesses. People want to work for these companies and invest in them. From the boardroom to the operations centers, all stakeholders want to play a role in making a positive difference for our world.

However, while 86% of companies say they already have a sustainability strategy in place, only 23% say they are implementing sustainability strategies across their entire organization. Many organizations with good intentions are stalled at the planning stage because implementing sustainable practices is complex and they don’t know how or where to make an impact. Despite this delay, the same IBV CEO study found that 80% of CEOs believe investments in sustainability will improve their own business results within 5 years. How can you turn strategy into results?

Take the first steps to build and operationalize sustainability

Becoming more sustainable is an opportunity to innovate, make a difference and grow. Take action by following these three steps:

Define your Sustainability goals – To succeed, your business needs to set and act on clear environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals, then execute with exceptional data discipline across the enterprise.

Establish your ESG data foundation – Create a clear baseline to underpin every goal from which to determine your current impact, track progress and implement adjustments. This requires a single system of record to integrate and manage ESG data that aligns to your goals. Collect, correlate, visualize, and analyze relevant data so you can deliver transparent, verifiable, financial-grade information and more easily identify where improvements are most needed.

Operationalize your sustainability goals – Full benefit can then be achieved by leveraging the links between this system of record for ESG data and the underlying operational systems that run across all the departments and business units of your organization. With these links in place, you can automate feedback loops that enable actions based on insights. These insights help drive sustainable transformation through intelligent facilities and assets, resilient IT Infrastructure, and circular supply chains.

Focus on three key operational areas

Intelligent facilities and assets — Monitoring and recording operational data from your organization’s physical assets and real estate facilities is a good place to start. The data you collect can fuel insights to drive significant energy savings, optimize waste management and provide predictive maintenance data to help reduce unplanned downtime.

Resilient IT infrastructure — Data centers provide multiple opportunities for improving sustainability. Upgrading IT infrastructure with newer, more energy-efficient equipment can help you reduce energy consumption and eliminate wasteful, outdated hardware. What’s more, the same steps you take to improve business resiliency across your organization also help you improve customer experiences and productivity while you work towards meeting your sustainability goals.

Circular supply chains — Encouraging reuse and providing customers with transparent sourcing data for the products they buy is something more consumers are demanding. Deploying intelligent workflows and taking advantage of automation opportunities can not only reduce waste but also optimize fulfillment and delivery paths with lower carbon footprints. Solutions powered by AI and backed by blockchain can help you progress toward a net zero supply chain.

Advance your journey with IBM

As you embark on your sustainability journey and tackle each of our 3 recommended steps, IBM and its ecosystem of partners are on hand to support and help you along the way. We recognize that no one can do it alone, but together we can turn sustainability ambition into action.

Define your sustainability goals with IBM Consulting™ — IBM experts, strengthened by our strategic alliances and partnerships, are helping clients embed sustainability into the fabric of their business to increase operational efficiencies, expose innovation opportunities and drive competitive differentiation. Many businesses rely on IBM Consulting as their partner for the new rules of modern business. We believe open ecosystems, open technologies, open innovation, and open cultures are the key to creating opportunities and the way forward for modern business and our world. Our expert advice helps you leverage sustainability as a catalyst for profitable business transformation.

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Establish your ESG data foundation and a clear baseline with IBM® Envizi — Envizi provides a single system of record to manage ESG data that aligns to your goals in a verifiable and auditable way. Automate the collection and consolidation of more than 500 data types, with support for internationally recognized ESG reporting frameworks, to manage environmental goals, identify efficiency opportunities, and assess sustainability risks. Proactively plan and manage the economic impact of weather and climate change events with IBM® Environmental Intelligence Suite®.

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Operationalize sustainability goals with IBM technology — At IBM, we are building a comprehensive portfolio of capabilities in collaboration with our network of partners, including AWS, EY, Microsoft, Salesforce, SAP, and WBCSD among others. We help you realize sustainable transformation by leveraging the connections between your ESG data and your daily operations. Many of our clients choose IBM® Maximo® as their foundation for operational insights on physical assets to drive clean energy transition, efficient water and waste management, and decarbonization using AI, analytics and IoT. If your goal is to automate workflows and establish resilient IT infrastructure, IBM Turbonomic® is a no-fuss solution that helps you improve data center efficiency, performance optimization and cloud workflow tracking. IBM LinuxONE can also bring sustainability to mission-critical workflows, helping you manage server sprawl and contain your corporate carbon footprint. And if you seek to improve responsible sourcing and supply chain transparency, IBM Supply Chain Intelligence Suite provides insights and intelligent workflows to enable equitable, net zero supply chains through AI and blockchain. No matter where you decide to act, IBM and its partners have the capabilities to help you achieve your sustainability goals.

Find out more about sustainability solutions from IBM

Industry leaders rely on IBM solutions to help meet sustainability goals

BestSeller—Reducing return rates, driving supply chain efficiencies, and stepping forward to sustainable fashion with the help of IBM Garage, by developing “Fashion.ai” to help customers purchase items that fit their physical dimensions and preferred style.

Celestica—Consolidating, streamlining, and automating ESG data reporting with IBM Envizi Sustainability Performance Management to produce finance-grade, auditable data and transform sustainability reporting across the manufacturing portfolio.

Sund & Baelt—Digitizing maintenance and asset management processes using IBM Maximo to extend the life of critical infrastructure (like bridges and tunnels) by 100 years and avoid 750,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

Carhartt—Deploying cloud-first strategy with IBM Turbonomic® Application Resource Management to ensure 24×7 performance while reducing application needs and energy consumption.

BBVA—Adopting IBM z15’s central processing equipment to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and energy consumption of BBVA Data Center processors by 50%.

Partnership for Carbon Transparency—Partnering with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and others to enable the secure exchange of verified, standardized product emissions data across organizations.

Explore IBM sustainability software

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