Sustainability and the Scientific Method? What We Were Shocked to Learn

After spending the past year researching corporate sustainability and the “ESG” market in general, I need to caution myself on making sweeping statements of fact which come from a moderately-informed place inside my head.  Statements like “all this focus on ESG now is amazing” does a disservice to those who have been pushing corporate sustainability and diversity forward for the past 15+ years (See also: Christy Cook).  It reminds me of the startup parable of the “5 year overnight success story”.  It’s only recently where the masses, including myself, have taken notice of the importance of sustainability, diversity and governance issues and how much of the groundwork has already been laid.  However we are still far from what anyone would call a success.

My background is predominantly shaped by Finance, having worked at an inter-dealer broker for years before developing trading platforms for Foreign Exchange options and Insurance Linked Securities.  Both products are very complex, multi-dimensional asset classes which can be tricky to transact electronically, especially years back.  These experiences have formed a way of viewing data, for better or worse, which still dominates how I process the world around me. 

One aspect of the financial services industry in which I was spoiled is the uniformity, standardization and normalization of data that leads to a “common language” we can all speak.  Accepted protocols have been around for decades and are the lingua franca of the global financial markets.  This is the essential ingredient in minimizing costs, maximizing efficiencies and increasing transparency.

When we started down the path of vranda, we followed a plan which would make any 6th grade science teacher proud:

  • We posed many internal questions on the current state of the ESG market at large corporates
  • Christy and Brian mined their Rolodex to set up calls so we could learn from the source
  • Assumptions were made and a hypothesis was formed
  • After weeks of internal analysis, predictions were made and then tested against the same audience in a second round of calls
  • We iterated on some of our conclusions and this was the dawn of the vranda platform

We identified core deficiencies in the current solutions marketplace, especially when we narrowed our focus on small to mid-sized enterprises (annual revenue between $50m-$350m) which are part of a larger supply chain. At best ESG data was being tracked on desperate spreadsheets or non-collaborative siloed software, at worst we were just shown some utility bills and told that’s the extent of their “tracking”.  In every aspect, data integrity was questioned, buy-in from stakeholders non-existent and reporting lag-time long enough to make the actual reports expired upon publishing.

The details of our solution will be the subject of another blog post, however we are emboldened and excited by the progress of our engineering team in a few short months.  Our beta launch is on track for the end of Q1 with expectations of a global rollout shortly after client onboarding is completed.