Information Management

Government must view ESG in 3D

Environmental, social and governance has three different meanings in government. Public sector CIOs must handle all of them.

Citizens today are becoming increasingly aware of how their actions and the actions of the organizations they work with affect the world around them—a trend that has accelerated since the pandemic. They also want to know that their governments are operating ethically and sustainably.  

In response to changing citizen demands, government leaders are increasingly making environmental, social and governance (ESG) a priority. In fact, 70% of public sector organizations are already advancing their sustainability journeys, and 61% indicate sustainability is the top priority over the next 5 years. 

From committing to human rights and environmental sustainability, to reducing operating costs through increased energy efficiency, to establishing data privacy and protection laws, governments worldwide are taking steps to meet their ESG goals. Here are three ways government must look at ESG to meet citizen expectations.  

1. Overseeing industries in their countries 

Many government agencies have mandates to provide regulatory oversight of industries within their country. One example is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or Environment and Climate Change Canada, both of which are mandated with enforcing environmental regulations.  

These government agencies are tasked with overseeing industries in their countries that have climate targets to meet. For example, under the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program (GHGRP), the Canadian government collects greenhouse gas emissions from all facilities that produce over 10K tons of emissions per year.  

Programs like the GHGRP have large reporting requirements and require governments to manage significant amounts of data. Digitization, automated collection tools, artificial intelligence and analytics can enable public sector agencies to manage, measure, track and monitor this data, simplifying the process of ESG oversight.  

2. Evaluating their suppliers 

The public sector is a massive industry and governments worldwide engage with vast numbers of contractors and suppliers to fulfill their mission. Governments need to ensure the suppliers they work with are operating ethically and are environmentally sustainable and socially responsible.  

Increasingly, public sector agencies are asking government contractors to prove they are a low-emissions vendor. For example, the UK government published a Procurement Policy Notice in 2021 that requires all UK central government contractors to commit to a net zero footprint by 2050. By evaluating their suppliers, governments can ensure the companies they work with help contribute to the government’s ESG goals, rather than contributing to additional emissions.   

Finding, screening and onboarding suppliers with ethical business practices is a time-consuming process. Technology can be pivotal to establishing and maintaining an ethical supply chain in the public sector. A sustainable supply chain solution digitally connects and manages all supply chain data in real-time with clear visibility into partner performance, practices and certifications. This allows organizations to ensure their suppliers meet ethical business practices.  

3. Leading by example 

In addition to overseeing industries and evaluating suppliers, governments want to lead by example by lowering their own GHG emissions and meeting agency ESG targets.  

Government agencies have a number of assets they must take into consideration when it comes to lowering emissions, including government-owned and leased facilities, vehicle fleets, and data centers. They also have a significant number of employees, many of which may be commuting into the office every day. In addition, many government organizations continue to rely on paper in their day-to-day business which contributes to environmental harm.  

To lower emissions, governments first need to be able to track and measure output, such as how much utilities their buildings use or how much energy their data centers use. Technology can not only track and measure output, but it can also help public sector agencies and departments identify a baseline to measure progress against, demonstrating progress toward overall ESG goals.  

Data centers consume significant amounts of energy. A 2022 survey shows that 60% of government respondents believe they will stop owning data centers in the next five years. By moving to the cloud, governments can reduce the number of data centers they own and reduce emissions.   

Another way governments can reduce environmental harm is through the digitization of paper-based process and forms, especially those that are citizen-facing. For example, customers of OpenText Trading Grid™ digitize more than 33 billion transactions per year. This paper reduction saves the equivalent of 6.5 million trees and greenhouse gas emissions of more than 922,000 tonnes of CO2e, according to calculations by the Paper Calculator from the Environmental Paper Network. 

A good example of how governments are leading by example is President Biden’s Federal Sustainability Plan. The plan requires federal agencies to transition to all electric by acquiring 100 percent light-duty ZEVs annually by 2027 and acquiring 100 percent medium- and heavy-duty ZEVs annually by 2035. Another Administration goal calls for net-zero emissions building portfolio by 2045. 

Meeting your ESG goals with OpenText 

OpenText™ has several solutions that support the Public Sector’s ESG goals. Our Content Services solutions help with paperless government, ensure the latest safety protocols are disseminated to remote workers, support ESG reporting and securely archive and meet government compliance standards. Cloud for Government can reduce data centers’ carbon footprint. Our Business Network solutions support ethical supply chain visibility and can help identify suppliers that meet certain ESG criteria. OpenText AI and Analytics platforms aid in data management and decision-making. 

Interested in learning more? Calculate how you can potentially reduce your environmental impact with digitization. 

Learn more about how OpenText can help the Public Sector meet their ESG goals.  

Keith Nelson

Keith Nelson is Senior Industry Strategist for Global Public Sector at OpenText. He has more than 20 years experience working in public sector high-tech and management consulting and as a government appointee. His roles in government include serving as Assistant Secretary for Administration, Chief Financial Officer, and Deputy Chief Information Officer at multiple U.S. Federal Cabinet Agencies.

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