Talk with the experts on business sustainability, dei, and esg management

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Environment, social & corporate governance (ESG) management experts share about sustainability in business, diversity & inclusion in the workplace, and ethical AI.

30 May 2023 mins
Responsible ESG Talk With The Experts - Man working on a tablet

Being part of a purpose-led community means not only having a great vision, but taking action to bring about a real change for a more sustainable and equitable future.

During our Summer Executive Exchange, we invited three ESG management experts (one from each area) to discuss society’s progress and the role each of us can play within our organisations to make a lasting difference. Our Executive Vice President of Global Legal and Corporate Affairs at Iron Mountain, Deborah Marson, led this vital forum to help guide us through current and future equity, sustainability, and governance issues in the workplace.

Here are a few takeaways from our panel:

Sustainability in business: You can’t be sustainable alone.

What’s good for the environment, is good for business.

Put in the hard work to make a meaningful difference.

AI without governance can erode trust.

Sustainability in business: you can’t be sustainable alone

If we fail to look beyond internal workings with our own employees, we will have little to no impact on sustainability as a whole. It’s important to also collaborate with customers and suppliers who are actively deploying ESG best practices.

To make the biggest impact, Dr. John Frey, Chief Technologist of IT Efficiency and Sustainability at Hewlett Packard Enterprises reminded us to get started protecting the environment you can actively guide. “So often, we look at our own operations, which is an important place to start, but in HPE’s perspective, that’s 5% of our footprint. So, if we did that and stopped, we’d have a lot of opportunities left on the table.”

Adding to Dr. Frey’s point, our own VP of ESG Kevin Hagen shared “You can’t be sustainable alone. Sustainability is the description of a well-functioning system. So you can’t do it by yourself. The notion of collaboration and connection is really important.”

Esg management: what’s good for the environment, is good for business

Just because something’s more environmentally friendly, that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily an expensive endeavour. It’s a common misconception that serving the environment is a negative expense impact to the business, but with thoughtful planning what’s good for our planet, can also be good for your bottom line. “The stereotype, especially in the consumer-facing space, is that the better product costs more,” Hagen shared. “Just like the tradeoff of stereotypes in our own business, it’s a false narrative.”

HP is living proof that big sustainable investments pay off. By focusing their efforts on helping customers use their products in a more sustainable manner, HP was able to reduce their overall environmental impact and drive $847 million in new revenue.

“We have a team of technologists that work with our customers to drive efficiencies in the use of our product because that piece is 68% of our footprint - the largest piece of HPE’s global impact,” shared Dr. Frey. “Because of this proactive assistance, customers naturally think of us because we’re not just trying to sell them something. We’re helping them improve their operations connected to their own ESG programmes.”

Sustainability does not have to be at odds with profitability. In fact, implementing an ESG management system often leads to cost savings and profit increase as sustainable business practices reduce waste, conserve resources, and improve brand image. Concepts like sustainable development goals (SDGs) and environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) models have been developed to encourage organisations to adhere to the best practices in business sustainability. In an increasingly environmentally conscious world, companies that demonstrate a commitment to sustainability and strive for sustainable profitability will come out on top.

Workplace diversity & inclusion: put in the hard work to make a meaningful difference

Although it’s great to see organisations make a commitment statement to workplace diversity and inclusion, it’s not enough to do the bare minimum and think there will be real change. Alongside well-designed policies, procedures, and practices that stop inequity in its tracks, there must be a culture shift across the organisation.

As customers and employees demand greater company efforts on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), actions with little impact are a real risk. When we talked with DEI consultant and author, Lily Zheng, they encouraged us to look beyond diversity initiatives that are about visibility and more into putting in the hard work for a meaningful difference. “The more we link DEI to genuine business goals everywhere else in the organisation using this language of people metrics, the more we can create a functional case for it beyond vague metrics,” they shared.

There is a compelling business case for investing the effort in DEI, but we have to make bigger commitments to change. “At the end of the day,” Lily implores, “language is just language. The problem comes when organisations are so caught up in saying things correctly that they don’t do anything.”

It’s time to take action. The first action – ask questions, lots of questions and be open to hearing the responses.

Ethical AI: AI without governance can erode trust

Artificial intelligence - it’s the hot topic that everyone wants to talk about. As it continues to evolve, so do the way companies operate at their core. But if we want to be responsible organisations, we must take the time to thoughtfully document how these advancing technologies can and should be used. The implementation of ethical AI practices is essential to maintain trust between users and organisations.

In our conversation with AI Ethics Lab’s Founder and Director, Cansu Canca, she warned us of the dangers of operating without proper governance and ethical AI practices. She reinforces the on-going commitment required to get artificial intelligence right. “Between 2015 to 2021, the industry grew from four sets of principles to well over 100.” And we’re not done evolving yet. As a society, and as business leaders, we must commit to on-going governance monitoring, exploration, and implementation.

Iron Mountain can be a valuable partner on your ESG journey. Our commitment to corporate-level goals and progress enables us to be a responsible part of your supply chain and support you in achieving your ESG goals.

Leverage Iron Mountain’s expertise in secure shredding and paper recycling, responsible disposal of IT assets, and provision of renewable energy credits through our Green Power Pass programme to enhance your business sustainability efforts and propel your emission and waste goals further.

We are energised by the prospect for innovation that lies ahead. Iron Mountain invites you to work with us and challenge us as we continue down this path. Join forces with us on your ESG journey to make a positive impact today.

Contact an Iron Mountain Expert.