The ESG reporting landscape in North America – insights from the UK
Earlier this year, Greenstone opened its first North America office in New York as a result of the significant growth and ongoing momentum it is experiencing in the region. In this blog, we interview David Wynn Greenstone’s Managing Director North America about his journey from the UK to North America and what he is seeing in the ever-evolving ESG reporting landscape.
Tell us about your journey with Greenstone
I joined Greenstone in 2012 having previously worked in environmental consultancy across the UK public and private sectors. Even then, the future role of technology in managing global environmental challenges and notably the role of data was clear. I joined the Client Services Team at Greenstone, who are the content experts that guide, support and nurture our client relationships, ensuring that we deliver on our commitment to provide our clients with data that talks to you. This output-focused deliverable is a core client commitment and central to our company’s purpose – to enable our client’s sustainability journeys. After 5 years as Head of Client Services, I recently took on the role of Managing Director North America to spearhead and drive our growth in the region.
What drove Greenstone to open an office in New York?
Over the past 15 years, we have seen growth in the use of our solutions globally. Our roots in the UK market gave us early experience and know-how in deploying our software solutions globally and today we have users in over 100 countries globally. Somewhat counterintuitively, we saw the prior US administration’s radical scaling back of the climate change agenda galvanize US businesses and we began to see the most sustainably-minded corporations double down on their ESG agendas. In the past two years, it has been impossible to ignore the systemic shift in US corporations towards understanding the importance of reliable, accessible and auditable ESG data. Private markets have been driving much of this, but the unprecedented action from all market players is why this is such an exciting time. As Greenstone’s North America client base grew it became clear that we would need a local presence and the timing was right in early 2020 to open a physical US office to service our clients locally. However, we hadn’t factored in a visa halt due to an 18-month global pandemic and we finally opened the doors in September 2021.
How has the software landscape changed in the past few years?
The exponential growth in the demand for reliable ESG data in the past two years has brought a wave of new software players into the market in two notable groups: bolt-on “ESG” products to mainstream corporate enterprise solutions and start-up SaaS companies. These are market trends we have seen before in the late 2000s in the European carbon measurement market. Our 15 years’ experience has shown that bolt-on solutions can provide some coverage on ESG data (e.g. Scope 2 electricity) but the promises of “AI” and full ESG overnight integration struggle to deliver In reality, much like the past decades of sustainability reporting itself, the innovation that is needed to meet the current, and more importantly, the future needs of companies is iterative, comprehensive and ever-evolving, needing a journey partner with deep experience and committed to constant innovation.
What value are North America companies seeing from working with Greenstone?
I often say that we have the benefit of being able to provide a crystal ball for companies that are early in their ESG journey. Mandatory carbon reporting has been in place in the UK since 2006 and our origins in this market have given us over a decade of client experience on not just the technology needs but also the governance, process and resource needs of clients. Our earliest clients Fujitsu and Sopra Steria are still clients today and their ESG journeys have been underpinned by our commitment to delivering data that talks to you. We see this industry understanding and commitment to long-term collaboration resonating with North America companies that are just starting out and looking for a compass to provide the tools and services that enable them to become a more responsible business.
As we continue to grow the team in New York City, we are thrilled to be kicking off and engaging with more companies as they implement our solutions and collaborating with them on their ESG journeys. Global efforts to change the course of climate change; better address social issues; address ongoing supply chain challenges and ensure investments are sustainable, are all driving the market need for Greenstone’s cross-product expertise in corporate, supply chain and investor ESG data management. It’s an exciting time to be working at the crossroads of technology and consultancy when the importance of data to enable real action and validate change is finally at the forefront of the conversation.