Information Systems for Environmental Sustainability

IT, Resource Productivity, Environmental Preservation, and the Fourth Industrial Revolution

CERES Report: Too many companies are only taking small, incremental steps

Leave a comment

Two years ago, CERES published its “Roadmap for Sustainability” outlining what companies can do in the areas of governance, stakeholder engagement, disclosure, and performance. In a recent follow-up, CERES interviewed 600 companies to gauge their progress on these dimensions, summarized in its just-released (and aptly titled) “Corporate Progress on the CERES Roadmap for Sustainability.” Overall, CERES concluded that:

there are encouraging pockets of sustainability leadership in the U.S. business community, but far too many companies are only taking small, incremental steps.

It’s helpful that CERES went back to see how companies are doing – well done for calling it like it is.

One criticism that may play into the report’s findings about slow progress of U.S. companies is that the report under emphasizes strategies and tactics based on digital innovations. For example, SAP is a leader in transforming environmental sustainability strategies and practices by using innovative information systems that transform the very meaning of “sustainability reporting” and enable social business strategies for stakeholder engagement. But no mention of SAP or these strategies systematically in the report. As I mentioned two years ago:

The report essentially says: measure this, measure that, in these time periods, reported in these ways, according to these standards, benchmarked as such, verified thusly. Essentially, the report urges companies to collect reams of data on new sustainability practices and processes, slice and dice it, and report it in myriad ways. How is this possible without innovative information systems? [which are not discussed in the report].

Perhaps CERES can address this shortfall by adding vignettes on leading-edge digital strategies to achieve sustainability performance. Another possibility is to add a chapter to the report that addresses digital strategies in one place. In any case, please don’t refer to these systems as “tools.”

Author: nigelpm

Associate Professor of Information Systems, Stephen M. Ross School of Business, University of Michigan - Helping organizations to navigate digital transformation.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s