The Thought Leader's Voice: Podcasts

Drive Commercial and Cultural Success from Sustainability in Tech

23 August, 2022

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This podcast was originally aired on 23 August, 2022

Gurpreet Purewal

Drive Commercial and Cultural Success from Sustainability in Tech

We are thrilled to be in conversation with our very own VP of Sales – Thought Leadership, Gurpreet Purewal, in our podcast series, The Thought Leader’s Voice.

With over a decade of experience in strategic sales and marketing roles with global organizations, Gurpreet has been at the heart of growth teams leading technology, legal and financial services segments. Gurpreet knows how to drive sales growth, and his approach focuses on aligning the client’s marketing objectives to their business needs to achieve the desired outcomes.

His expertise lies in consulting on campaign strategy, media planning, market research, thought leadership, marketing activation and events, while staying ahead of industry trends, opportunities and challenges.

Gurpreet is particularly interested in sustainability and corporate purpose, business growth in times of economic instability and inequality, business ethics, and sustainability in times of financial and geopolitical pressures, focusing on the importance of human connection in a digital business world. In this episode, we hear Gurpreet’s insights as he shares his expertise on how technology businesses can reap the benefits of sustainability, drawing from some fascinating findings from the recent iResearch Services report, ‘How Sustainable is the Technology Sector?

Key Takeaways

  • An overwhelming 98% of CEOs say sustainability is important to tech companies, according to our recent research. How committed is the industry to ESG development and being more sustainable and ethical?
  • According to the same research, 58% of employees said they would work harder for a business that is ethical and operating sustainably. Who is responsible and actively involved in driving sustainability within organizations?
  • 68% of respondents said that sustainability would be transformational for their business and their operations, according to research iResearch Services conducted for Pegasystems. How can companies create a balance between the opportunities and challenges of sustainability? How can technology be a force for good?
  • 9 in 10 tech professionals surveyed by iResearch felt that greenwashing is pervasive across the industry, some due to overstating achievements at a company level or deliberately providing misleading information to mis-direct attention. How can tech companies adopting sustainable initiatives find a balance and create greater transparency to avoid criticism by the wider public?
  • How can sustainability be used as a sales and business development tool without greenwashing?
  • In what way can the right investments and partnerships provide value to tech organizations trying to achieve their ESG goals?
  • What technologies are supporting companies in progressing with sustainability?

Full Transcript of Podcast with Gurpreet Purewal

Rachael Kinsella:Hello and welcome to The Thought Leader’s Voice. I'm Rachael Kinsella, Editor-in-Chief at iResearch Services and your host for today's podcast episode on Sustainability and Tech. We're delighted to be joined by Gurpreet Purewal today. He has extensive experience gathered as VP of Sales of Thought Leadership at iResearch Services. He believes that the Tech industry can reap significant rewards from being more sustainable. Drawing on over a decade's worth of experience in key sales and marketing roles with global organizations, including the publishing giant Future, Gurpreet knows how to drive sales growth while promoting ESG and staying ahead of industry trends.

Gurpreet is particularly interested in sustainability and its purpose, business growth in times of economic instability, remaining true to purpose, ethics and sustainability in these times of financial and geopolitical pressures, and the importance of human connection in a digital business world. We discuss his insights and expertise today on how technology businesses can reap the benefits of sustainability and the fascinating findings from our recent report, “How Sustainable is the Technology Sector?” Welcome, Gurpreet. It's lovely to have you here today.

Gurpreet Purewal:Hi there, Rachael. Thank you for having me.

Rachael Kinsella:So, we'll kick off. We've got quite a lot to cover, quite a lot of findings from our sustainability in technology sector report, and quite a lot that we'd like to draw from your experience in the sector. So, if we dive straight in, in our study, we found that an overwhelming 98% of CEOs say sustainability is very important or fairly important to tech companies. Many tech firms endorse ESG, but how committed do you think the industry is overall to ESG development and to being more sustainable and ethical? Do we find that, that's being mostly driven by business leaders? Or is it also being endorsed throughout the organization by employees at all levels?

Gurpreet Purewal: So, I suppose Rachael, it's quite a big question as the first one, but...

Racheal Kinsella: Really meaty one want to kick off with!

Gurpreet Purewal: Quite a meaty one. But I think, across the whole globe, and I don’t think it's just the technology industry, but I think every industry is well aware of the benefits of kind of moving to a higher ESG profile, and the highest ESG ranking. And you know, these things have been coming from many years ago, starting with organizations looking at, first of all, kind of, these kinds of circular economies or circular models, where organizations could basically lean up efficiencies and create high profitability margins. And I think that the first time, when circular models came through, there was a lot of questions and challenges around the implementations.

But as the years have gone on, we saw that as almost like an over-first step into kind of looking at ESG, and how organizations did start to reap the rewards. But for CEOs in technology, particularly, I think they're becoming more and more aware of their place within the ecosystem for every organization, as we see across, you know, technologies integrated, it's probably the single convergence across every industry of how they're trying to improve their business, their products and services and their efficiencies and their business.

But I think one of the hardest challenges for the CEO is, how do you implement such change across the whole organization over the next kind of 5 to 10 years? And where to really start? And I think some of the challenges lie with, you know, some of the challenges that have happened over the last, you know, 2 to 3 years with the pandemic coming in, obviously, geopolitical pressures that are happening now.

And it is really trying to extract, how can we become more sustainable? And the way in which you can kind of look at it is in the sense of with the pandemic coming, obviously, there was shift of many organizations having to become digital-first. This whole philosophy of, we now need to become much more customer-centric, we now need to create a digital-first approach.

That model was fundamentally about businesses pivoting very quickly. And obviously, the future digital transformation implementation started to occur across multiple organizations with technology companies being the driving force for that. But it's really challenging in a time where you must pivot so quickly and try and create agility within the organization to try and hit every single objective that the business requires while still, you know, appeasing your shareholders.

So it's kind of this thing where organizations are right now really trying to move as quick as they can, but obviously, are taking pressures that are externally caused by, you know, like we've mentioned geopolitical issues and you know, things like pandemics which are things that they wouldn't have really planned for in the past; and it's kind of, ‘How do they create this overwhelming philosophy of ESG across the board?’ So, I think it's really important for CEOs at the moment, but I think not just for CEOs, but their entire C suite to make sure that this kind of moves forward and works well.

Racheal Kinsella: Yeah, absolutely. That actually leads me really nicely on to my next point, which was sort of, you know, who's responsible for this? Is it coming from the CEO? Obviously, does it extend to across the C-suite and senior management? And how can that be rolled out across employees? One of the things that we found with our survey findings is that it's a motivational factor for employees. On average, 58% of our respondents said that if a company has an ethical and sustainable business model, that they're encouraged to work harder.

So, that kind of leads to a model where you're conveying sustainable and ethical practices right across the organization and that everyone has engagement and accountability. What do you think is the most motivational point about that? And who do you think needs to be actively involved and responsible for sustainable initiatives?

Gurpreet Purewal: So I would say, it kind of goes on two points. So, I think it's truly… We're in a time now and this goes across, again, all businesses, but incorporated into technology businesses is that obviously, there's a huge requirement now for staff; and there's, you know, workforce challenges across the board of employees trying to get the right specialisms and the right people into the business to make impact. And I think what we're starting to see is some of these generational aspects where employees are now looking at businesses on who do they want to work for?

And what are they doing? And what are they serving? Are they being a force for good? What's their purpose? What's their culture? And the whole idea of ESG is hugely important. Now, employees at every level will be looking at an organization going, are they a force for good? What is their purpose as a business? And also, you know, when we look at ESG, that kind of social, societal element where, you know, they want a fair representation of will they progress within this company, as well?

Do they have a good, you know, diversity and inclusion space? Can they make impact as well? So, I think in that respect, it's very much, you know, if you want the right…, you want the best players in the market, you want the best employees, you need something like your ESG standards to be a really good level, because that will have an impact on securing the right type of individuals for your organization.

In respect to, I suppose, driving the ESG initiatives, I think it's really challenging because it's…when you're integrating it across your whole business, there's no easy, simple solution, right?

It's very much that CEOs drive the vision. So, they are kind of driven by their shareholders. Different economies and different continents have a different viewpoint on this. So, what you'll see kind of Europe, within Europe and North America, you are seeing shareholders begin to drive and request that from CEOs to become more of a sustainable business, and really trying to lead the way, so CEOs are being pushed by their shareholders, and obviously trying to drive that vision.

APAC is a little bit different. From research that we've done previously, we know that some of those nuances are sometimes regulatory. Change of government policies need to drive the force, because obviously, the most important thing is shareholder growth and revenue growth for the organization. So, they have different nuances, but I think the challenge lies for who's driving this initiative is, like I said, the CEO kind of has its ‘knights of the roundtable’, as I call them, which you keep corporates [going], the Chief Operating Officers, the Chief Information Officers, or even to the extent of CMOs and Chief Delivery Officers and these individuals are really integral to be able to drive these changes.

And if you look at technology today, why they're such an interesting industry is, because obviously, they're creating this new digital platform, this digital-first approach, but whilst technology can have a really positive role to play in businesses to help improve supply chains, create efficiencies within that, within their processes and their services, it also can cause implications for organizations in respect to energy consumption as well.

So, if we take, for example, if we look at organizations that are implementing AI now, whereas before the energy consumption, before would have been, to host the platform, host the cloud, provide the services on top of that overlay to engage with customers, what you're now finding is DPI requires a huge amount of energy consumption.

So, indirectly, technology companies might be solving one issue, which is creating efficiencies within the supply chain, creating better customer services and products, because there's more data and analytics, but you're also finding that deep level of data that you're getting, is also creating huge amounts of energy consumption, which then needs to be offset in its own approach. So, technology has this kind of very precarious position where yes, they can help in the ESG landscape, but they can also become part of the problem if they don't start to optimize in their own way.

Racheal Kinsella: Yeah, absolutely. There are so many layers to it, and it's transformational, both on a positive side and as a challenge, because, you know, one capability that, as you say, leads to greater efficiency, or, you know, various positives across the business or commercial positives, can actually lead to more energy usage and further sustainability issues. So, it's a case of mapping it all out and being aware of the implications, which I think a lot of companies aren't aware of the various different implications at different levels within a tech organization.

It has been flagged in a recent survey that we did for Pegasystems, where 68% of respondents said that they believe sustainability would be transformational for their business and their operations. So, where do you see this, sort of, this balance of the challenges and the opportunities here, in terms of sustainable initiatives, in terms of ESG being able to kind of match the drive for efficiency and stakeholder value, with purpose, with community, with giving back socially, but also the environmental issues?

Gurpreet Purewal: So, I think it's got a huge… it has huge potential, Rachael. I think there's a recent study or report that Accenture had completed and showed that organizations with a higher ESG ranking than the kind of mid-level groups show kind of two and a half times increase in shareholder deliverables and revenue, which just shows that if you get it right, there's a huge opportunity, obviously growing the business and what has been the force for good. But it’s one of those things in relation to it is that you can... technology companies have to, I suppose look at… They become one of the biggest parts of the ecosystem within the supply chain.

So, the opportunity for them is going to continue to grow as we become more of a digital-first ecosystem across the globe, where every business is being integrated into it. It creates great opportunities to position, I suppose solutions and services even closer to their customers, huge amounts of data and analytics for us to maximize, you know, opportunities and kind of product growth.

And I think you could use the example, let's say, kind of the oil and gas sector, which is basically predominantly, you know, in this transition, but the way that technology can help for good is to help other industries really transition into more of a sustainable model as well, but also maximize their efficiencies with low waste, going into the circular economy and technology is really important with that.

So, if we look at the kind of oil and gas sector, we can look at how petroleum now obviously uses a number of level of ethanol that come from biofuels particularly comes from kind of that sugar cane, sugar mills across the globe. Now, with technology efforts and being able to monitor you know, the best weather conditions, the best kind of soil integrity, what it allows them to do utilizing technologies is to really understand and harness how to maximize crop yields.

And also, the kind of weather conditions that are required with that, which allows us to then obviously increase the potential and opportunity for biofuels to increase from a 5% element to a 10% element; and then helping inadvertently reduce the kind of emission output from uses of petroleum. So, when we look at how technology can be so integral, it says that they can help organizations really improve their business models, improve that supply chain, but also have a really greater impact on the planet in that relationship.

Rachael Kinsella: Absolutely! So, there is a lot of opportunities, and there's a lot of innovation involved in all these initiatives that are coming out that are being driven by tech; but it can lead to greenwashing; and this is another big issue that's been flagged in multiple research pieces that we've done. In our most recent study with the tech industry, 9 out of 10 industry professionals felt that greenwashing was pervasive across the industry.

Now obviously, there's greenwashing of different kinds and different levels, that it could just be purely over-enthusiasm about new innovations in sustainable initiatives, or it could be a deliberate device to mislead or to kind of detract attention away from other less sustainable initiatives. So, how do Tech companies find that balance?

How do they create greater transparency around where they've got to with sustainability initiatives and what they're able to achieve with tech and innovation in the sustainability space, without over exaggerating or, you know, being seen as certainly by the wider public and critics as greenwashing, with it covering up other less salubrious areas.

Gurpreet Purewal: I think this first goes on to just the sheer honesty that the organization needs, this looks at basically technology companies with a level of integrity that they need to move forward with it, and there's a number of ways in which this needs to be done. So, a lot of organizations obviously have…a lot of tech companies actually have promised to get to Net Zero by 2030, and quite close to that.

And some organizations, I think Microsoft being one of them, have committed to going past that and becoming carbon neutral, but there needs to be consistency across the technology industry and what ‘Net Zero’ stands for. So, because obviously, what a lot of organizations are trying to do, like we're saying, is to be seen as a force for good. So, they want to attract the right kind of employees. They want to be seen as this positive entity within helping obviously in that sustainable… sustainability area.

But one of the things, obviously they need to be when we talk about honesty, is that integrity to show exactly how far they've gone. And we know that with technology, they have huge amounts of energy that's required, energy consumption to be able to live on that. And a lot of organizations are doing the right things like Vodafone, for example, I think this year, created a partnership and a collaboration with an energy organization where most of the energy they're getting is through renewable sources, which is great.

But there comes a point where a lot of organizations, a lot of technology companies have kind of reached their limit where they've looked at their supply chains to a degree, they've looked at, kind of creating these renewable energy resources, but they still have a gap to hit that Net Zero.

And it's that kind of honesty and integrity that they need to look at where they don't try and offset by saying, you know, we're planting more trees or we're going to buy carbon credits because the fundamentals of that is that if every organization bought carbon credits, because they couldn't quite reach or, you know, obtain that actual Net Zero principle, then what you're going to have is the same issue that we have right now which is fundamentally wire speed.

I think a lot of technology organizations have been called out for greenwashing, and it's also the set principles. So, the Paris Agreement that was initially put out I suppose a lower limit to hit to basically achieve kind of that Net Zero target, and that becomes the headline for an organization; but that kind of distortion that you have, that lack of consistency or transparency, is one of the fundamentals.

And these technology companies, obviously, it's a huge investment that you need to make within these. But by muddying the waters within these spaces, what you do is, it doesn't cause impact within other set groups. So, when you're looking for investment, if your ESG rating a lot of shareholders, now obviously, like we say, asset management groups are looking at organizations with very good ESG ratings to do to investments in, by muddying the water, not particularly showing that what you're doing is you're distorting the investment areas as well, where technology companies are really trying to push it and are, I suppose hitting or achieving their kind of ESG objectives.

They could muddy the waters with these other tech companies that basically, are kind of just hitting the headline for positivity to try and get that brand profile up to secure further investments.

Rachael Kinsella: Yeah, so it's really about that transparency and trust, and that greater consistency of reporting, so that externally, investors can see where companies have got to, in terms of their sustainability, credibility in terms of the various initiatives that they've got going on because it's about more than carbon as well, of course, and there's all the social aspects to it.

There are also other environmental aspects. So, by being able to report this and being very transparent about progress, it seems to be the way that it's working well, in terms of brand profile and credibility without greenwashing, and being more appealing to investors and indeed, to shareholders. And you mentioned, obviously, there's, you know, commercial success that comes with being a more sustainable business, which has been flagged in a number of research studies recently, and it's kind of bringing that together and being able to demonstrate that to the wider public, to stakeholders, internally and externally.

So, we've talked about the commercial aspects, we've talked about being more appealing and more engaging for talent, particularly in a time when the tech industry is really in a war for the right talent and getting the right people in the right roles. How do you feel sustainability can be used as a sales tool without greenwashing? Because I think that's quite an interesting conversation.

So, you know, we've talked about multiple commercial benefits and operational benefits from sustainability, and running a more ethical organization; but how do you feel that it works from a sales and business development perspective?

Gurpreet Purewal: I think it's the same case for…The only way to kind of achieve Net Zero across all industries especially with technology as well is that it becomes that leading differentiator. So obviously, the impact your supply chain has onto your ESG ranking whether, whichever industry you're in, will be defined on lowering that kind of carbon emission output. So, I think it's how they look at themselves through that kind of supply chain element.

So, where we have… if we're looking at from business development standpoint, it's when your customers are looking for partnerships, and they're looking to lean out that supply chain, it's knowing that for, well, that by working with you, not only are they getting you, as someone with a high ESG standard, who basically has its own, say for example, for technology, renewable energy are using kind of, you know, are reducing down your direct 1, 2 or 3 emissions, it also means that the ecosystem that you have as a supply chain and your affiliated partners will also be towards that standard.

So, what it does, it gives, I suppose, trust, and also assurances that by working with you, not only is it you as a supplier, a part of that supply chain, all your affiliated partners should be at that similar standard. And when you bring that into it, it kind of has a much… I suppose much more powerful impact when you're having conversations with potential prospects and customers.

Rachael Kinsella: I was going to say it brings in the partnerships point as well. Quite a lot of research that we've done has shown that organizations in the Tech industry are partnering with other organizations within the Tech industry on sustainability initiatives for credibility for working across the supply chain, and also potentially to reduce costs, where we see that there are significant costs involved in implementing sustainability initiatives, according to the various SDGs and the objectives.

And in our most recent Sustainability in Tech report, 68% of professionals believe that partnership is vital to make progress with sustainability. Most firms are looking within the tech industry itself to help them with those partnerships. And indeed, the majority of the partnerships that were mentioned in our research were within the tech sector. How important do you think partnerships are in supporting all of these initiatives and processes? And are there any that have stood out to you as particular areas of success?

Gurpreet Purewal: Yeah, I think partnerships are really crucial in the technology industry, and the main reason is that obviously, many technology companies are offering different services and different solutions to the problem of their customers, with whatever respective industry. So, to be able to create an ecosystem or partnership with different tech organizations that almost complement your brand or complement your solution and service to offer this kind of wide, all-encompassing solution for a client is really powerful in its own essence.

So, even outside sustainability, while having this kind of full solution or suite of partners that can go in and help and implement it to a customer is really powerful in its own right. But to take that to be able to work with these affiliated partners and to look at how they can create new innovations or new ways and methods of working to tackle the ESG challenge is probably the most powerful way in which organizations can kind of leverage themselves into helping their customers and also kind of reducing on this global remit.

When we look at this, it’s kind of… it’s not just kind of those technology partners, but it's very much… technologies always sat as part of a transformation, maybe a bit later within the process of when a business is looking at how they kind of changed their strategy and optimize. So, where you might have it, for example, is that you're seeing a lot of the consultancy practices.

For example, s whether it was the technology consultancies, like Accenture, or the ones that are a little bit non-traditional, like Deloitte and KPMG, which are now playing into consultancies to help business transform into being more sustainable, creating better circular economies. By technologyand these groups working with the management consultancies at the beginning, they can start tackling the conversation with their affiliated partners to really have an impact on these… on their customers’ organizations, because what happens sometimes is that a business strategy is created to optimize for ESG, and there's some suggestions or recommendations around that.

But what happens is, without the technology partners in that conversation at the forefront and the beginning of that, they can't really work with the rest of the ecosystem to understand how they can accomplish that, and how do they best approach it.

So, both of these kinds of organizations come together from the consultancies to, let's say, for example, a cloud solution service like Google, Azure, or AWS, and their affiliated partners to be able to build an architecture for an organization. Those conversations, where they understand the customers’ challenges and the requirements and at which stage that implementing these kinds of ESG standards will allow these technology organizations to really have, understand the pain points, work with their own ecosystem to then have a greater impact and a greater impetus on that ESG strategy.

Rachael Kinsella: There’s a real opportunity there to not be over-reliant on other industry partnerships, but to actually get involved in partnerships with consultancy firms, with business advisors, with other sectors at the outset, to start to implement change and start to transform processes and supply chains at a much earlier stage; something that was not really talked about before and I think that's a very important point. And also, the role of membership organizations and trade bodies in being able to represent the industry but also to connect with other sectors and to engage with policymakers and government on what's going to be most beneficial from a regulatory perspective.

What about costs? Because obviously, we've talked about, there's so much work that needs to be done to implement these initiatives, to create a more sustainable business, particularly in the tech sector. And we've talked about, you know, who needs to be involved and looking right across the supply chain. So, costs are a huge factor in that and when looking at investment in sustainability initiatives within our recent research, we found that not huge amounts were being spent specifically on sustainability initiatives.

Do you feel that that's because of recent geopolitical events and the pandemic and there have been other priorities, where certainly what we've found from our research that the bulk of investment has gone into IT infrastructure and tech innovation because that’s been needed in response to recent events, and it's looking like the bulk of the investment is still going to go into those areas. Do you think this is an area that needs to be addressed and what do you think we could do to start to change that?

Gurpreet Purewal: I think it’s… I don’t think it's quite as simple as maybe that kind of how much investment are we putting into sustainability for tech companies. I believe that it's probably a little bit distorted in the current revenue factors. So, we know that a lot of tech organizations as well other organizations have implemented a sustainability group, who are leading kind of the initiatives to deploy better procedures and processes across the company. But when we obviously, when we look at that, that could be looking at investing into that one group to help drive sustainability, but we might be seeing a bit of distortion where, in different functions some of their investments are being… obviously, their priorities have been shifted to maybe be more ESG-focused.

So, if we look at the Operations Group, for example, part of their investment may be going into lead up their supply chain, but it might not be directly linked to the ESG. So, what we might be seeing is that it's kind of indirect approach to ESG where budgets for each of the groups are being utilized as part of that approach. But like we say, in that respect, it's not a simple way to really focus sustainability in. Having a focal point, like a sustainability group is great, but it's really going to take on the budget and the investments and directives of each of those major C suite groups.

So, when we look at… so, and for them, obviously, some of their priorities are… almost contradictory in what they're trying to achieve. If we look at the TLO Group, they are requested to reduce costs, improve efficiencies, maybe on the same budget that they were working to before, but we very much know that creating an ESG model, it’s a sizable investment to change the way in the process in the approach you're doing.

You might find that your supply chain at the beginning of the front end of that would become more costly at the beginning because the organizations that you're then partnering with are scaling up in the same approach and that investments are slightly higher, but the long-term benefits are going to be showing reduced costs.

But that's the challenge that lies with these businesses in the fact that, the short-term challenge of trying to still achieve those objectives without the investment is going to hinder the long-term aspirations of obviously getting to that ESG mark, they're looking out for, that sustainability mark that they’re doing. So, I think it's looking at it from an investment standpoint, I think it's probably a little bit more disconnected from a certain amount that's given to sustainability group and then how it's been built within the organization.

But I also think, that the second point is that we've noticed a huge amount of investment, and for Tech companies, you know, there's more and more technology companies coming up with new innovations and solutions to help industries and organizations and their customers. But what we'll start to probably see is a huge gap emerge because where we're seeing the best, you know, the best wins in regard to technology companies moving and transitioning to a very sustainable model are the larger organizations; they are the Microsofts, the Googles...

They're basically the organizations with the biggest pockets where they can really put investment in and what we're going to see is that's okay, so there's real big Tier 1, big tech organizations, who have deep pockets to be able to do that. But where I suppose governments and industries need to work in partnership more is that huge pool of technology companies sitting below that who, where these investments are huge and could really impact how their business scales.

And that is where governments and NGOs and industry bodies need to sit to see how can we get the right investments; and the right partnerships and make sure that you know, where governments are investing huge amounts of money to create, kind of, Net Zero ambitions, those are deployed to the right technology companies who need the right help.

So, it's not just left in this big top circle group who are getting the investment, and they're transitioning quickly. It's the lower technology companies who are scaling, who are still coming into billion-dollar companies, but these investments used are required to basically make that fundamental change.

Rachael Kinsella: Absolutely. So, it's looking at it from a company size perspective, investment relative to company size, but also looking at it from a departmental level, because there will be various different initiatives going on, as you say with different priorities and objectives, where significant investment is going in, and a portion of that will be towards sustainability initiatives, but some of it will be to other [areas of] productivity or across the supply chain.

So, it's… again, it kind of comes back to that transparency and the reporting across different areas of the business in terms of priorities and priorities for investment, but also that collaboration and dialogue with policymakers, government, and the power of partnerships to be able to help implement these changes to look at it on a company level.

But also look at it in terms of the overall landscape of the industry, the size, and the type of company and what contribution they can make, and what's going to work for them. So, there's a lot of opportunity there but also significant challenges that hopefully can be tackled through better partnerships, through better collaboration and communication across the industry and with other industries.

You mentioned earlier about using different technologies in different sectors to improve sustainability. Have you got some good examples of technology that is what really kind of, working towards supporting sustainability and in some example sectors, you talked about oil and gas industry for example, what about financial services or some of the other B2B sectors that are benefiting from technology, that's helping to improve sustainability?

Gurpreet Purewal: Yeah, I think probably one of the majors is probably AI and machine learning. I think that's one of the… probably one of the biggest players within most spaces, particularly the financial services. In financial services for two reasons is that, obviously, we know the potential of AI is huge, but to be able to really look at deep-rooted analytics; so if we look at financial institutions, and the way in which they invest funds and look at kind of, you know, the way in which they can create green bonds and the kind of organizations they want to go to; AI allows, I suppose to make better-informed decisions looking at data.

The more and more, obviously, ESG data that we start to get, the more transparency there will be to make sure that the investments that are made are going to the right organizations and challenging the organizations who are almost the kind of ones putting their heels… digging their heels into the ground and slowly transforming but kind of pushing the right investments into the right places where you're going to see financial services; obviously growing portfolios for their shareholders in relation to those investments because, like we said with the Accenture point, ESG rankings are showing huge increase in revenue potentials and outputs for shareholders. So, AI is working well within that respect; but also, from a kind of societal basis as wellt, financial services has always traditionally been very poor at creating products that are fit for purpose for customers.

If we look at the retail banking space, it's always been the case where banks have imposed products and services based on what might be the best profitable or what they think might be the best solution for customers. But AI and machine learning will allow us to really understand on which products or services are really required in those groups. We’ll see more data coming through, more transparency about any kind of gaps within inclusivity on loans or mortgage applications and see either lead biases towards certain cultural differences or regional specifics which will allow basically, banks to fundamentally change the type of products or services, they’re bringing out based on those regional, cultural stances.

The only concern around that is obviously AI and machine learning from the level of coding needs to make sure that it doesn’t have that institutional bias built into it. So, again, it’s that where we look at AI as being a force for good, it can also be a force for problems as well. So, it’s making sure that when AI machine learning is utilized, it removes some of the biases that are in play so that it can have a really uniform look at when it’s providing these kinds of credit or loan opportunities or mortgages like we say from the retail banking side. But AI, yeah, as we say, AI and machine learning is probably the thing that’s… one of the biggest driving of innovators giving us more data for us to make more change.

Rachael Kinsella: Yeah, Absolutely! And that’s what comes out in multiple surveys that we've done as well, where AI is seen as the most significant potential change maker in terms of sustainability across different sectors and there’s very much recognition across the tech sector, that's the case. So now it's a matter of looking at how it can best be implemented and also looking at if there are any additional challenges in bringing that about; as you said, in terms of accessing institutional bias within AI, particularly when we're looking at particular financial sectors and another application.

So, it's positive that, that's been flagged by a number of sectors as a key differentiator in terms of sustainability; and I think as various industries are refining their use of AI and machine learning, you're going to start to seemore interesting and innovative use cases across sectors. So, there's a lot of challenges. There's a lot of opportunities. You flagged a number that we haven't considered or that hadn’t actually come up in our research, so, on balance, all things considered, how optimistic are you about the future of tech?

Gurpreet Purewal: I’m really optimistic about technology. I think if you look at where we were 10 years ago, and where we are today, it's just astronomical improvement, and the acceleration of innovation is huge. How technology companies are moving forward is great to see that they understand their place within…in the world and their potential for change. So, I think for the technology industry I think it’s very much continuing the journey that they're setting out and, yeah, just kind of imposing that transparency, consistency, and honesty in the way that they work. But when you look across the different industries, technology has been very good at creating those partnerships, creating those alliances, and they have almost the most information or knowledge base because they're working across industry.

They understand, each of their challenges in a way that no other organizations can fathom or can work, so it allows them to always be the pivot for change. So, the more the Tech industry has had influence across that kind of almost at the political agenda policymaking working with each of the industry groups and bodies, they’re going to be fundamental to transform and make sure that we begin to reduce our emissions, improve societal benefits. Yeah. So, hugely optimistic with what they can do.

Rachael Kinsella: Excellent. Well, thank you. It's been really great talking to you today, Gurpreet. I think we've covered a lot of ground. And, yeah, I'd say I'm optimistic about technology's opportunity to really bring about sustainable change, and I'm really excited and interested to see how things will pan out. Thank you very much for joining us today and speak to you again soon.

Gurpreet Purewal: Thanks Rachael.

Rachael Kinsella: Bye.

Rachael Kinsella: Bye.

 

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