An Interview with… Greenstone
To kick off our new interview series, SustainIt sat down with Greenstone’s Head of Client Services, Jake Yeoell to learn more about Greenstone and their plans for the future.
What’s new at Greenstone?
One major change is in our product offering with the launch of our third Software-as-a-Service platform, InvestorPortal late last year. That’s been a big change for us in terms of adding to our suite of sustainability solutions and the interest from the market has been exceptional which has kept us busy.
This has also resulted in a shift on the content and customer services side of the business. InvestorPortal is focussed on enabling ESG data for private equity firms so our Client Services Team are now working with clients on the investment side of ESG data. So it’s not only expanded our software offering but also the team’s knowledge and skill-sets. It’s been an interesting year, as we move into the responsible investing space.
What was the key impetus for this product development?
We have seen investor requests for ESG data as a driver in our other product areas for a number of years. Whilst this has always been a driver for corporate sustainability reporting, the number of investor requests organisations are having to respond to has definitely ramped up in recent years.
We are also getting a lot more questions from our existing clients about how they can better manage those requests and ensure that they are always in a position to efficiently and effectively respond.
The other side to that is just knowing from the investor community what hasn’t worked. From extensive research and a project with a working group of PE firms, we identified a key market requirement for a purpose-built software solution to solve a specific challenge.
Inside your current systems, what are the types of functionality you get asked for most often by clients that perhaps you weren’t a few years ago?
One of the main areas clients are asking about currently is around Scope 3 emissions, with more and more organisations looking to report across all of the GHG Protocol Scope 3 categories.
This is what’s also driving our strategy at present and we see that as a development opportunity. We’ve had the Sustainability Reporting Platform for carbon emissions calculations for a long time which does already cover all emissions scopes (Scopes 1, 2 and 3). But now, particularly with Science-Based and Net Zero Targets, companies are becoming more and more committed to long-term planning and the need to place a greater emphasis on the Scope 3 elements of their reporting.
Based on this we are looking to enhance our current functionality in each product area to help clients with detailed Scope 3 reporting. So for example, expanding the capabilities within each Scope 3 category and utilising both SupplierPortal and InvestorPortal for the supply chain and investment related categories respectively.
Are there any other trends you are seeing across your client base?
Another general trend across the board has been the need for more forward-looking data. It relates to what I just talked about on Scope 3 emissions, because it is being driven by long term target setting and things of that nature. For companies, really being able to say, “Okay, I don’t just want to see my historic data… I want to know what is going to happen in the next 5, 10, 15 years?”. And “what will our impact potentially look like if we consider different internal and external scenarios?”.
Are there any other operational changes or strategic changes that are happening across your client base in 2020, that perhaps weren’t happening a few years ago?
Well the big one, as you would expect is obviously COVID-19’s impact on people’s resources and operations.
The impact this has had as a larger trend is that we’ve seen emissions going down or rather being displaced due to employees working from home. From this, a lot of conversations we have with clients at the moment are about how they can best achieve data coverage by relying on some of the system functions to extrapolate automatically where they need to. But also the home aspect is part of a bigger conversation… Should we report on our home working environmental impacts in terms of carbon emissions? And if yes, which most people are trying to do, then how best to do that is a very challenging thing to think about.
Another, perhaps bigger challenge is how companies have been able to collect that data. Some clients are struggling to get accurate information when offices are closed because you generally have less resource available to provide reliable data sets i.e. meter data.
I know that Greenstone is strong on your reporting frameworks through your partnerships with companies such as CDP, GRI, SASB and others. Have you seen any longer-term trends in the corporate reporting sphere that you’d like to mention?
I think it’s pretty fair to say as of now there’s still a lot of separate reporting frameworks. Companies aren’t yet seeing the benefit in terms of being able to fully consolidate their outputs into a single framework. That’s certainly something that we’re trying to help with through our Frameworks Module of the Enterprise solution and our framework mapping function and process. We’re looking for the overlaps between frameworks, the consistencies, and trying to help with automatically pulling data through from one to another. This is very challenging because a lot of these frameworks ask for similar data points in slightly different ways, which makes it quite tricky to fully achieve.
If you had to pick one USP for Greenstone in the market, what would it be?
I’d say if I brought it down to one key thing that we see as our main differentiator, it would be our client services team and the way we support clients on their sustainability reporting journey. The “Data that talks to you” brand promise and commitment is a key part of that.
When we did a big market research survey exercise a few years ago, one of the key frustrations that software-users were faced with was struggling to get meaningful data that they can use to report to both internal and external stakeholders. That is what our ‘Data that talks to you’ promise is all about – we provide support at no extra cost to ensure our clients can access meaningful data relevant to their business in order to make informed business decisions.
Greenstone provides award-winning software solutions and services enabling organisations to advance their sustainability strategies and become responsible businesses.
Through its three enterprise level Software-as-a-Service solutions, Greenstone enables its clients to collect, manage, analyse and report the data required to fulfil their non-financial, EHS, CSR, ESG, health and safety, risk and compliance and supply chain reporting requirements.
Greenstone has been supporting organisations on their sustainability, ESG and supply chain programmes for well over a decade and now works with clients in over 100 countries worldwide, across 12 sectors.
Greenstone’s commitment to its clients is ‘data that talks to you’ and it makes this central to everything it does – both in the way it develops software and the way it supports its clients.