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Companies that embrace environmental, social and government goals and sustainable climate-related practices into their organizations’ business practices outperform those that do not.

According to a new study from Genpact, Tech for Progress 360: Accelerating climate action with data-led insight, 70% of ESG leaders also have adopted new technologies over the previous two years, compared to 45% of ESG laggards.

“These findings demonstrate that forward-thinking companies understand the criticality of using digital technologies and data across their organizations and the importance of putting environmental sustainability practices front and center in their businesses,” the study said.

Which technologies help companies reach climate goals?

Artificial intelligence and advanced analytics are cited by 45% and 40% respectively of the survey’s respondents for their potential to advance climate-related sustainability goals. Those who have less established ESG practices are less likely to call out the value of these technologies.

ESG leaders also said they use data and insights to reduce waste and improve overall sustainability efforts (40% vs. 30%) as well as encourage partners to make progress on environmental goals (55% vs. 47%). They also use data to influence their supply chain partners to make progress towards their ESG targets (58% vs. 47%).

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Fifty percent of respondents said that remote working brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic has had a positive impact on their organization’s carbon reduction goals.

“Combining advanced analytics, AI and automation with human judgment plays a vital role in helping enterprises drive meaningful transformation that builds resilient companies, a healthier environment and stronger communities,” said Katie Stein, Genpact’s chief strategy officer, said in a press release.

The technologies ESG leaders cite as being the most impactful include:

  • The automation of processes to reduce resource-intensive activities (48%)
  • AI and natural language processing to predict the impact of climate on their businesses (45%)
  • Advanced analytics to recommend efficient use of resources and real-time performance analytics (40%)
  • Cloud to transform processes and enable remote work (35%)
  • Internet of Things and smart devices for data gathering (20%)

ESG leaders are no more likely to track performance against climate goals, report on emissions or monitor regulations than other respondents, the report said, yet only 37% of respondents say their organizations use data and insights to identify opportunities to reduce waste and improve sustainability.

Explaining this disparity, Sanjay Srivastava, chief digital strategist for Genpact, said sustainability “is a journey and companies are at various stages of evolution and maturity. Many questions need to be answered that we haven’t gotten to yet. We expect the ‘using data and insights to’ area will become more important as we progress down the path.”

For CIOs interested in upping their organization’s ESG game, Srivastava said they should:

  • Build a comprehensive enterprise reporting framework and measure KPIs
  • Automate recommendations and nudge decision makers with alternatives and tradeoffs at the point of decision making
  • Collaborate with partners in their supply chain and broader ecosystem to work out better alternatives that lead to better sustainability outcomes

About the survey

Genpact and FORTUNE Brand Studio conducted an online survey of 500 senior executives across the US, UK, Germany, Australia, Japan and Canada in the fall of 2021.