Please tell us more about yourself and your role at Celonis.
I have been involved in sustainability long before it became mainstream. I did a Master’s in Business Administration with a focus on sustainability, and also worked at the U.N. analysing and researching the implementation of its Sustainable Development Goals. I bring that passion for exploring the big ideas around technology and sustainability to my role at Celonis, where I am Global Head of Sustainability. I took over Celonis’ sustainability programme in 2020, overseeing both our progress internally, and our external work where we help our customers using the Celonis Platform, enabling them to operationalise sustainability in all of their business processes.
Why is it essential businesses embed sustainability into business objectives, strategy and decision-making?
Going forward, there is no longer a separation between a business’ bottom line and their sustainability ‘green line’. To be a high-performing organisation in today’s business world, and tomorrow’s, companies need to be both profitable and sustainable. Future-proofed organisations are on top of both aspects, and ensure that sustainability and profitability are embedded into every single decision. There’s no contradiction between being a profitable business and not harming the environment you operate in. In fact, actions that boost sustainability also boost profitability by cutting waste. A key thing to remember is that everyone has a part to play in an organisation’s sustainability journey. It’s not something simply for people with ‘sustainability’ in their job title, but for leaders and workers in every part of the business.
Why are organisations struggling to implement their sustainability goals?
There are several barriers holding businesses back, including the inaccurate perception that sustainability is simply a cost, whereas it often goes hand in hand with profitability. Organisations which are struggling to implement their sustainability goals are often dealing with a people problem. If sustainability is seen as being the business of sustainability specialists only, rather than being integral to an organisation’s DNA, it can be hard to secure alignment and buy-in across the whole business.
Education, in the form of courses and clear communication within an organisation, can help to address fears and reluctance around sustainability, and the perceived cost of embracing change. The other key issue is siloed, unconnected systems which make it harder for business leaders to truly understand their carbon footprint. Many organisations have more than 300 IT systems, and the average business process runs across 10 different systems, with data buried in separate systems from transactional data in ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software to Excel Spreadsheets. Process mining can help business leaders unravel this and identify where efficiencies can be made. This in turn helps to support sustainability objectives and reduce costs and waste.
When it comes to sustainability objectives, do you think companies should place a greater emphasis on reducing Scope 3 emissions?
For most organisations, Scope 3 emissions, which includes those from all of their downstream and upstream activities, are the Holy Grail when it comes to having an impact on emissions. That’s where the biggest carbon footprint lies and that’s where the most exciting opportunities for rapid progress are.
The data required for a real-time view of Scope 3 emissions is already at businesses’ fingertips – it’s just that it’s buried inside siloed carbon-accounting tools and other software. The first step is to extract this data using process intelligence technologies, and then organisations can make real progress.
How important is technology in helping companies make sustainability gains?
The first step towards having genuine impact in sustainability is to measure the environmental impact of the organisation’s current operations. This is where technology plays a crucial role. Technologies such as process intelligence enable business leaders to make informed decisions around sustainability, working like an ‘X-Ray’ on existing data and highlighting value opportunities, as well as allowing business leaders to understand the full journey of the goods they sell, and all the emissions associated with this. This data allows IT leaders to measure and drive sustainability, comparing performance against best-practice models and collaborating with partners and suppliers to reduce emissions.
What actions do you hope to see from COP28 that will result in tangible outcomes for the corporate world in 2024?
COP28 has offered a unique opportunity to embrace real and meaningful action to combat climate change, as well as a crucial dialogue between politicians, business leaders and decision makers. What I hope to see is more organisations embracing technology and innovation to make strides towards real sustainable change, with a particular focus on decarbonising supply chains and different industry sectors. Many pledges have been made at COP28 with good intentions, but now it falls on leaders to back up those pledges with real, measurable outcomes, using technology to turn their words into actions. Of course, process mining is not a ‘silver bullet’ which can tackle climate change on its own, but it does offer a crucial way for business leaders to find hidden value opportunities and make real advancements in sustainability.