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AI can help organizations in discovering key sustainability insights: Deepa Param Singhal, VP, Oracle India

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Sustainability has been a major trend, and is now a board issue. However, despite the eagerness to adopt and implement sustainability related initiatives, most organizations are still unable to successfully implement them. Deepa Param Singhal, Vice President, Cloud Applications, Oracle India, shares with us how technology can be effectively used to accelerate the sustainability journey

Some edited excerpts:

What is an important first step for business leaders to take in their ESG journey?

The most important step is commitment. Having business leaders commit time to frequent meetings. Business leaders and CIOs should establish an ESG working group that meets every three months and is made up of executives from every department inside the company.

This “ESG working group” makes sure that leaders from every area of the company are taking responsibility for the company’s ESG activities and delivering outcomes for ESG goals. Even with the greatest of intentions, without representation at the highest level, it’s far too simple for these aims to fall by the wayside.

How can business leaders engage employees as part of their ESG mandate?

Millennials and Gen Z will make their financial decisions and select employers according to their belief and ethics. Hence, companies need to embed sustainability-driven culture into their organisational DNA and make ESG a key capability and part of their operational backbone. Here are a few instances:

• Holding sincere discussion with employees and customers about how ESG affects them personally. Having ESG coaches, champions, and sponsors collaborate with employees to gain their support for business objectives. Collating ideas from employees and customers on how to enhance ESG strategies.
• Emphasizing the role of ESG in corporate culture; offering internal and external communications that back up your organization’s commitment to change.
• Giving confirmation that you followed through on your commitments.

What steps should business leaders take to set attainable goals?

Business leaders must set realistic objectives benchmarks in place that are clear, quantifiable, and—most importantly—achievable. In order to see results, leaders should start by setting attainable targets for the first year that are achievable. Several instances of these might include:

• Business leaders must set realistic objectives and benchmarks that are clear, quantifiable, and— By the end of year one, creating a net-zero carbon emissions objective and implementation plan.
• Striving to reduce Scope 1 emissions under the company’s direct ownership or operational control by 5%by the end of the year.
• Executing “One Big Project” (an initiative that matters truly to your employees) in one year.
• Increasing your profit margins to help global change (designate a small portion to one effort that makes the world a better place.) Putting an operational governance strategy in position for sustainability and climate risk reporting and disclosures.

Why is having a single, clean source of data critical for progressing with ESG initiatives?

According to our recent No Planet B Survey, 98 percent of Indian business leaders surveyed noted they are facing major obstacles when implementing sustainability and ESG initiatives. The key challenges include obtaining ESG metrics from partners and third parties (51 percent); a lack of data (39 percent); and time-consuming manual reporting processes (46 percent).

It’s almost impossible to accurately quantify and follow progress across an organization and find competences that drive progress, without one clean source of data,

ESG data is gathered from a variety of systems throughout the organization, such as HR, supply chain, finance, and customer experience applications. These systems can develop into powerful recommendation engines that help to increase efficiency and decrease waste when incorporated with cutting-edge technology like AI. Hence, corporate executives should look to invest in solutions that enable them to connect, manage and standardize data across all systems to augment planning and execution and precisely report on progress.

For instance, an organization that operates and manages supply chain data on the same platform as its financial data will be able to lower costs and carbon emissions by discovering the most efficient routes and transportation approaches. Simultaneously, these connected systems would be able to promptly report GHG Protocol Scope 1, 2 and 3 carbon emissions to demonstrate the impact that increased operational efficiency in logistics operations has had on its ESG objectives.

How can Artificial Intelligence (AI) assist organisations in making ESG progress?

Technology can now play a significant part in advancing ESG initiatives. In fact, 98 percent of business leaders in India think artificial intelligence (AI)-based technology would be better than humans at making decisions about sustainability and social policy.

By tapping into AI and automation, business leaders can gather various types of ESG data without error, reduce the amount of time that goes into manually obtaining and examining these key insights, better manage the complications of incorporating data across global supply chains, and discover key sustainability insights that can boost their competitive advantage.

This makes it much easier and quicker for business leaders across all departments to work in partnership, track progress, and distinguish clear paths forward to meet their set objectives.

How can business leaders make their goals more transparent and publicly share major milestones?

There must be responsibility if significant organisational change is to be mobilized. Being open and honest about your organisation’s goals means clearly and publicly communicating where your organization currently stands, where where it wants to go and the specific steps it is taking to get there. Increased openness fosters a strong sense of responsibility and aids in bridging the gap between goals and outcomes.

Hence, business leaders should be transparent with their stakeholders even when an organization falls short of some objectives. Similarly, when major milestones are reached, this should be communicated and celebrated. Recognizing this kind of success will help the cause gain momentum and stoke more excitement to work toward even better outcomes.

All of us have some role to play in driving our organization’s ESG efforts forward. By establishing an ESG suite, bringing workforce into the fold, setting clear goals, having a single source of data, tapping advanced technology, and leaning into openness, business leaders can indeed make ESG a precedence and accelerate progress.

What role does specialised solutions play in assisting organisations in developing scalable, transparent, and dynamic supply chains? And how do these contribute to ESG objectives?
Specialized solutions with embedded AI capabilities address the specific requirements of organisations. For example, while SCM solutions have been on the market for some time and have assisted organisations across industries in creating more sustainable supply chains. It is critical to recognise that not all businesses operate in the same way; some are more focused on the public sector, while others are more focused on the consumer, and so on. This is where specialised and industry-specific solutions excel.

Recently at our Oracle CloudWorld, we launched an industry-centric SCM solution for the healthcare sector – one of the core sectors for our company’s economic and public structure. Unstable supply and demand in the healthcare industry creates complex challenges for healthcare organisations, making it difficult to predict supply shortages, manage complex pricing, replenish orders quickly, and maintain accurate billing. These challenges result in unnecessary time and money spent on administrative tasks, affecting healthcare organisations’ ability to provide optimal patient care. To address this, we launched SCM for Healthcare, which assists hospitals and clinics in improving care quality, planning more effectively, reducing costs, and managing more responsive supply chains.

In terms of ESG, specialised solutions assist organisations in planning and developing data-driven processes based on their business operations and requirements, resulting in much smarter, more efficient, and cohesive ESG processes.

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