Framing sustainability success will help create impact where it matters most
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Framing sustainability success will help create impact where it matters most

Framing sustainability success will help create impact where it matters most

From ESG reporting and finance to climate risk assessment, business leaders must recognise sustainability as a core element of their business strategy and plan accordingly


Public expectations have never been higher for organisations to understand the impact of their operations around the world. Today, a company’s ability to uphold environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives is as important as traditional performance metrics. Reassessing a business’s fundamental purpose in its broader industry ecosystem is a chance to put sustainability at the core of its future growth and success.

In fact, four out of five CEOs expect sustainability and ESG investments to improve business results in the next five years. These investments are more than a trend. They are part of a corporation’s licence to operate and can be a recruitment tool as well.

In particular, a renewed sense of urgency has emerged on climate change – one demanding swift action from corporations. This movement is significantly increasing as countries across the GCC are launching bold strategies to reduce carbon emissions. The UAE, for example, has set an ambitious target to cut carbon emissions by 31 percent by 2030. But it is not doing this alone. The Ministry of Climate Change and Environment has also rolled out the UAE Climate-Responsible Companies Pledge to increase engagement among the enterprises. To date, more than 20 companies have joined the pledge to intensify collective efforts in combatting climate change.

Many companies know the time to act is now. Yet progress is hindered by a lack of expertise or not knowing where to start. A recent study identified that 27 per cent of CEOs saw inadequate skills and resources as their top challenge in achieving their sustainability objectives. Regulatory, consumer and boardroom demands are increasing, and companies must demonstrate meaningful and timely progress against their public commitments.

To make the biggest impact with their ESG practices, organisations would do well to revisit—or perhaps begin crafting—a comprehensive sustainability strategy and roadmap. This business imperative can embed sustainability into an organisation’s operations and culture across key practice areas.

From ESG reporting and finance to climate risk assessment and circular supply chains, business leaders must recognise sustainability as a core element of their business strategy and plan accordingly. In our case, IBM is responding to societal demands by refocusing its ESG practice around a new framework designed to develop a more sustainable, equitable, and ethical future. It is a future not only for the company, but our partners, our employees, and the world.

At the heart of this framework there are three pillars that represent the areas in that we believe we can have the most impact: securing the environment, ensuring equity and inclusion, and prioritising ethics and accountability.

Environmental leadership has been a strategic imperative for over 50 years in our operations but can now be seen more clearly internally and externally via our IBM Impact framework. This is evident in our commitment to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Of course, large societal challenges are beyond the ability of any single public or private entity to overcome. It is only through collaboration that we can drive innovation and advance progress.

Examples of strong, collaborative ESG frameworks are being formulated across the GCC. In Saudi Arabia, for instance, the government’s launch of the Middle East Green Initiative marks a commitment to reducing the impacts of climate change, facilitating knowledge transfer between countries, and developing other policy solutions. This drive is also visible in the UAE where the Statistics Centre Abu Dhabi (SCAD) has collaborated with IBM to accelerate their digital footprint and drive a sustainable strategy across operations by leveraging our technology to automate processes, optimise digital infrastructure performance and minimise costs.

Ahead of this fall’s COP27 conference where we have been selected as a technology partner, we all must come together as ESG enablers. It is only through leveraging the collective intelligence of an expanding community that we can hope to address current and future risks. ESG reporting and CO2 commitments to address urgent societal and environmental issues aren’t just necessary — they are essential to our prosperity. A concerted effort to address these issues right now can help us recalibrate the trajectories that we are already on. It is our duty to make such efforts through principled decisions, clear commitments, and effective communication, which will ultimately help us all to turn sustainability ambition into action.

Christian Noll is the managing partner at IBM Consulting – Middle East and Africa

Read: UAE’s e& commits to net-zero operations by 2030

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