COVID-19 could be a catalyst for ESG adoption by tech companies

by | May 28, 2020 | Covid-19, Public Relations

Technology companies are placing more importance on environmental, social and governance (ESG) practices, driven by the current COVID-19 pandemic situation, regulatory requirements and investors’ expectations, according to new analysis from professional services network KPMG.

The 2020 KPMG Technology Industry Innovation Survey, which comprises responses from more than 800 global leaders in the industry from 12 countries, shows that while technology companies are aware of the importance of embedding ESG into their operations, more regulation and standards in the area of sustainability are required, as stated by 86 percent of technology leaders surveyed

However, only 26 percent of technology companies have so far significantly incorporated ESG into their strategic planning

Meanwhile, 34 percent of respondents said that climate change is having a high impact on their company’s investments and funding. Stakeholders will go beyond looking at financial results to evaluate these companies COVID-19 reaction and performance in general through an ESG lens, KPMG expects.

“People are more reliant on technology now than ever,” said Pat Woo, partner and head of sustainable finance, Hong Kong, KPMG China, in a news release. With technology becoming very much intertwined with our daily lives, tech companies have the social responsibility to think carefully about how their business practices are affecting society positively or negatively. We have reached a tipping point where ESG is concerned. Skin deep ESG reporting is no longer fit for purpose. Investors, bankers and their customers are now demanding businesses to improve their ESG practices and will increasingly be asking for tech companies to be accountable for their business practices. It is essential that tech leaders take concrete steps to integrate ESG into their decision-making process and their business models.”

Beyond COVID-19, other catalysts, such as climate change and social inequality have long-lasting impact and illustrate a need for companies to embrace longer-term sustainable, robust ESG practices.

There are several reasons why ESG is crucial for technology companies:

First, companies are being analyzed and rated by a number of indices and research firms which provide ESG ratings and reports for investors to understand a company’s management of ESG issues. Investors will also examine the ESG rating of an acquisition target when evaluating a potential transaction.

Second, customers not only require technology companies to offer products/services at competitive prices and quality but are increasingly looking for them to improve their ESG performance. Anyone can now reveal stories via social media relating to ESG failures or undesirable business practices. These stories can circulate globally before companies can respond, causing severe reputational damage.

Third, corporations have the resources to accomplish exponentially more than individuals, and as a result bear the responsibility to be good corporate citizens. This is widely recognized by investors, customers, regulators, employees, and corporate leaders.

Finally, environmental and social changes continue to alter the business landscape. Hard-to-plan-for incidents such as COVID-19, climate change events, and cyber breaches are causing businesses high losses from suspension of operations or theft of customer or company data. Organizations that possess adaptive capacity in response to environmental and social risks will be better positioned to compete and thrive than peers that do not.

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Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 12 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richardc@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter

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