ESG Digital Transformation: Combining Sustainability and Digitization in Tech Upgrades

Sam O'Brien
Published 09/13/2023
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Combining Sustainability and DigitizationEnvironment, Social, and Governance (ESG) principles and digital transformation are two of the most impactful concepts helping to shape the modern business world.

How these two concepts overlap, and even inform each other’s implementation, may surprise you. Let’s explore them together in this article.


What Is ESG?

ESG, short for Environmental, Social, and Governance, is a set of criteria used to measure the impact of a business on society and the environment, and assess its transparency and accountability.

ESG factors are used to assess the ethical practices and overall sustainability of a business. The three components of ESG include:


1. Environmental

The environmental aspect of ESG evaluates the impacts of the business on the environment, and what steps it takes to manage environmental risks.

Environmental includes factors such as:

  • Carbon emissions and climate change initiatives e.g net zero, renewable energy usage
  • Waste management and recycling practices
  • Water usage and water conservation efforts
  • Compliance with environmental policies


2. Social

The social aspect of ESG focuses on the workplace culture of a business, and its impacts on wider society.

Social includes factors such as:

  • Employee diversity and inclusion
  • Health and safety standards for employees
  • Community engagement and social impact initiatives
  • Data privacy of customers and other stakeholders
  • Responsible sourcing and fair labor policies in the supply chain



Governance refers to how a business manages the processes involved in management, decision-making, and reporting.

Monitoring governance involves looking at criteria such as:

  • Board structure, including diversity
  • Board independence
  • Anti-corruption policies and practices
  • Transparency in financial reporting and audits


Why Are Companies Using ESG?

Adopting an ESG framework can have numerous benefits for businesses of all sizes. Let’s explore three of the main ones.


1. Improved Reputation

By incorporating ESG considerations, organizations demonstrate that they are conscious of how they impact the world around them, and that they have a transparent plan for making a positive impact rather than a negative one.

Customers expect companies to make efforts towards sustainability and other ESG initiatives, so demonstrating this can improve brand reputation, and lead to increased consumer interest.

chart of consumer attitudes toward sustainability efforts


2. Lower Risk

Undertaking ESG initiatives can help organizations to limit the risks to their business. Environmental impacts caused by a business, such as the improper removal of waste or hazardous materials, can lead to financial impacts in the form of fines or even lawsuits.

Similarly, breaches of data protection regulations can have costly ramifications on a company’s bottom line. Taking steps towards responsibly handling the environmental and social impacts of the business will ensure that these costs are avoided by properly handling data and disposing of waste materials.


3. Lower Costs

ESG initiatives can lead to reduced costs in many areas of the business. For example, reducing the amount of plastic packaging used to ship products has a positive environmental impact, but it also reduces the need to source and buy these packaging materials.

Similarly, actions such as switching to energy-efficient lighting will cut both the energy consumption and the carbon footprint of a company, while simultaneously decreasing the cost of energy bills.


What Is Digital Transformation?

Digital transformation is the process of changing how a business operates through the use of digital technologies. This involves integrating technology into existing systems and adopting new technological solutions in order to streamline processes, increase efficiency and productivity, and inspire innovation.


The Relationship Between ESG and Digital Transformation

The concepts of ESG and digital transformation may initially seem disparate, but they’re actually quite closely related. Digital transformation can be instrumental in helping organizations to achieve ESG goals. Simultaneously, the ESG considerations of an organization can influence how it implements digital transformation.


Data-Driven ESG Insights and Reporting

Undergoing digital transformation allows organizations to efficiently and effectively collect and analyze large quantities of data. This data has a multitude of uses, including allowing companies to measure their performance when it comes to their ESG initiatives.

Digital tools can be used to track, analyze, and improve a variety of metrics relating to their social and environmental impacts. What’s more, these tools also make it easy to visualize and share data with their employees, customers, other stakeholders, and the general public.

Graphs and charts can be easily generated using data visualization tools, which can then be shared with stakeholders wherever they are, through the use of features such as screen share in video conferencing solutions.


Social Engagement and Collaboration

Digital transformation facilitates easier communication and collaboration between a business’ various stakeholders.

Distributed teams can more easily stay in touch and work together using tools such as business messaging apps, cloud phone system, and project management platforms. This helps to reduce the impact of some of the potential pitfalls associated with remote work, such as isolation.

Customers can also make use of digital tools to easily communicate with organizations, giving them the ability to share feedback and air concerns about ESG practices.

Building trust with consumers is important when targeting ESG considerations. Even small actions, such as a New Zealand company securing a nz domain and using it to share environmental and social impact reports, can assure local residents that they are trustworthy and socially responsible.


Environmental Impact Reduction

A reduction in environmental impact is a positive side-effect of digital transformation for many organizations.

Technologies such as cloud computing can help to improve the efficiency with which resources are used. Cloud computing providers operate large server banks that are designed with energy efficiency in mind, and are shared among multiple clients. This allows for more optimized server utilization, and hence reduced overall energy consumption.

Adopting technologies that enable remote working, such as cloud computing or remote PC access, also allows individual employees to reduce their carbon footprint by removing the need to travel to work at peak times.


Governance and Data Privacy

Digital transformation often involves the gathering and storage of large amounts of data. ESG considerations demand that this data is stored securely, so as to maintain the privacy and confidentiality of customers, employees, and other stakeholders.

This need for string data governance will inform which tools are adopted as part of digital transformation initiatives. Organizations must make every effort to ensure that the tools they utilize offer strong data security and privacy features, enabling them to maintain the trust of their customers and the public, and avoid any of the costs associated with a data breach.

cost of data breaches

At the same time, digital tools can aid organizations in achieving stronger governance practices, enabling them to make more well-informed decisions when it comes to writing policies, and then making it easier to share these policies with stakeholders and the public.


ESG and Digital Transformation: A Match Made in Heaven

ESG and digital transformation are two closely related concepts.

ESG initiatives can be achieved with the help of digital transformation, with tools and technologies enabling businesses to reduce their environmental impact, safely and securely store data, and connect with their employees, customers, and other stakeholders.

At the same time, which digital transformation tools and technologies are utilized will be informed by the ESG considerations of the organization using them.

An organization wishing to undertake digital transformation must ensure that their efforts are in line with their ESG considerations, and take steps to develop policies and utilize tools that support both initiatives.


Disclaimer: The author is completely responsible for the content of this article. The opinions expressed are their own and do not represent IEEE’s position nor that of the Computer Society nor its Leadership.