CIO: A Critical Stakeholder in ESG Success

CIO: A Critical Stakeholder in ESG Success
Published: 15 October 2021

The last two years have brought CIO’s to the forefront of driving change and successful change adoption; a great platform for continued value generation as we tentatively emerge from the grip of the pandemic. As Boards look to recovery and growth, the critical topic of sustainability is returning to their lips. Ever more important to customers, investors and employees alike, Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) is a topic that must be front of mind for the whole Board, to ensure effective design and adoption of ESG practices. Matt Cockbill, Head of the IT & Digital Leadership practice at Berwick Partners, explains.

Green-IT isn’t new. It was a good start, but its altogether too parochial these days. The ESG imperative is entirely more fundamental, and one in which the CIO must take a lead in driving positive enterprise-wide change delivery & adoption.

The pandemic has forced huge behavioural changes – many of which are enabled by the CIO function. Where face to face global client engagement was a must, an ever-evolving Teams/Zoom culture has replaced the air miles. Similarly, the daily grind of a commute has been challenged. Commuting and business travel habits are indelibly altered as we move towards more effective remote engagement, supplemented by more consciously ‘necessary’ travel.  Similarly, collaboration across teams would historically require gathering of people in a physical space, is ever more facilitated by technology. Think Slack, Yammer, 365, Google Keep, GoToMeeting etc…

Arguably those are one off changes. There is much more to play for in the realm of real time dynamic business change. Sensors and smart devices fuel data-led thinking, decisions and actions. It is here that the ‘I’ in CIO is finally coming into its own. Mastery of data in defining ever more sustainable operations and processes, sees a CIO building business resilience, emboldening risk management, managing costs and protecting reputations.  

The best CIO’s succeed through impactful delivery. They think ‘forward’ and own the realisation of change. Amidst the drive to deliver net zero, ethical and sustainable business products, services and practices, expect to find them in the vanguard of landing ESG targets. They will expect to see their Board colleagues doing the same. Hold them back, or fail to commit, and you can expect them to be successful elsewhere.

Matt Cockbill is a Partner and leads the IT & Digital Leadership Practice, Berwick Partners (an Odgers Berndtson company).

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