As organizations embrace environmental, social, and governance (ESG) strategies, healthcare technology leaders and Chief Information Officers (CIOs) must be ready for how a comprehensive approach to ESG will impact the underlying technology and services that run the business today.
What is ESG?
Most of the early press for ESG focused on for-profit enterprises with exposure to public markets. Socially conscious investors began using ESG criteria to screen potential investment opportunities. Today, we know that ESG applies to for-profit and not-for-profit enterprises alike. ESG criteria consider how an organization performs across a myriad of measurable key factors. Environmental measures consider how an organization discharges its responsibility as a steward of natural resources. Social measures consider how an organization manages relationships with employees, vendors, customers, and the community it serves. Finally, governance measures examine the organization’s leadership, pay structure, audit policies, internal controls, and rights of the owners.
Each of the elements of ESG is quite extensive and goes beyond a simple checklist of to-dos.
We believe enterprise IT departments need to prepare for the impact ESG will have on enterprise and department-level applications and systems. Key considerations for environmental, social and governance dimensions include:
- How does your hospital or healthcare organization go about reporting on its carbon footprint today? Energy efficiency is at the center of effective environmental strategy. Building management systems will move from a department-level facilities application to an enterprise managed application that can track and report on energy efficiency. According to the International Energy Agency, buildings account for nearly 40% of the total direct and indirect CO2 emissions, and a well-run building management system can improve building energy efficiency by 20%.
- Effectively implemented energy management and fleet management software allows organizations to track and manage emissions as they transition to a near net-zero footprint.
- Does your prime vendor monitor progress on increased levels of sustainability for high-volume suppliers? Do they share those reports with your organization?
- Is child labor or illegal labor part of your organization’s upstream supply chain? How do you know, and just as important, how do you report on it?
- How is adherence to workplace health and safety? How is adherence being reported and monitored?
- Are hiring practices following established standards for equality, and how is the organization promoting social good in the communities it serves?
Each of these items directly impacts data capture, application management, and business reporting. Much like quality and patient safety reporting of past years in healthcare, these initiatives will need the appropriate focus from enterprise IT support teams to ensure upgrades are properly implemented, applications are properly managed, and business reporting meets the needs of the business stakeholders.
While corporate or community governance may not seem like it is in the purview of enterprise IT, CIOs must be prepared to support and proactively address the needs of their stakeholders. Key governance considerations include:
- How does the organization give back to the community it serves?
- Does the organization have financial and accounting transparency?
- How is executive compensation handled, and what is the role of the Board of Trustees in the governance of the organization?
- Is leadership diverse?
- How are decisions made regarding vendors and suppliers, and what transparency exists for purchase transactions?
Each of these governance questions, among many others, impact enterprise applications and reporting requirements that the organization’s IT team must support.
Forward looking enterprise IT departments need to be ready for the impact of ESG reporting and the underlying systems that will be required to support ESG strategies. If your IT plan does not include investment streams or workgroups for ESG support, talk to your CEO about what is needed for ESG.