Prioritizing Environment, Social, and Governance (ESG) to Make a Difference

Sponsored by Seagate Technology

Photo courtesy of Seagate.

Photo courtesy of Seagate.

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May 19, 2024 at 4:10AM UTC

Amy Zuckerman is aware of the resistance that organizations may have to prioritizing environmental, social, and governmental (ESG) goals. Despite this, committing to ESG goals is imperative to the future of not just individual companies, but everyone. 

“Businesses have enormous power and opportunity to make a measurable difference in our world, and ESG is a vehicle for that mission,” says Zuckerman, who serves as the Director of ESG and Engagement at Seagate Technology. “ESG evaluates organizations on two things: first, their ability to have positive environmental and social impacts, and, second, to be well governed and sustainable for the long term.”

Adding on to this is the fact that companies that demonstrate their environmental stewardship, social impact, and governance structures attract both investors and customers, Zuckerman explains. A wealth of research supports that companies with a dedication to making ESG progress reap financial benefits.

“So, it makes sense to ‘do good while doing well,’” Zuckerman tells Fairygodboss. Looking ahead, “my hope is that global businesses fully support ESG to remedy social inequalities that can be addressed by businesses, to squarely address our climate crisis, and to closely examine governance that will keep a company strong,” Zuckerman explains. 

At Seagate, Zuckerman uses her deep background in DEI to work collaboratively with customers, employees, and other organizations to make a global impact. But how exactly does she and her team at Seagate make a difference on a global scale? In this article, we caught up with Zuckerman to learn more about why ESG is important and how to prioritize it. Here’s what she had to say.

Let’s start at the beginning. Why is ESG important? And why should companies make ESG goals a priority?

Transparency around many metrics used to be optional at the discretion of the company; however, that era is over. Organizations around the world like the Securities & Exchange Commission, European Union, Global Reporting Initiative, Responsible Business Alliance, Climate Disclosure Project, and the Human Rights Campaign are considering or have implemented standards for disclosing key ESG metrics.

It’s not just about reporting and grades. Consider all the global challenges we face today: our climate crisis, very serious inequity that people experience, the depletion of finite natural resources. Those issues are demanding attention, and organizations need to be sustainable in order to remedy them.

Let’s be realistic. Seagate alone cannot solve climate change. Organizations need to work collectively to set standards, to strengthen compliance, to share our workforce data (such as women in leadership), address carbon emissions, and to hold each other accountable. That’s why my leader Joan Motsinger, a strong woman executive, was at the table at COP26 to meet with non-governmental organizations like the UN as well as like-minded companies and others in the tech industry. We will only get there together

From your own experience, what are best-in-class approaches for reaching ESG goals?

You can find ESG commitments and lofty statements on many, if not most, company websites. However, gone are the days where companies can provide only lip service to environmental, social, or governance progress. Companies have to provide the facts and data to earn the positive statements, “green” logos, or branding.

That leads to the data. Collecting and providing meaningful and accurate data is key. Several companies now provide unified data collection software, which will make sure data is consistent across an organization. In general though, cross-functional relationships are crucial for setting goals and collecting and reporting on progress. At Seagate, we have been sharing our commitments, accountability, and transparency since the late 90s, with reporting ranging from Conflict Minerals usage to our DEI report.

Another key is to empower and educate employees. At Seagate, we have our employee-led Seagate Environmental Alliance. These colleagues are applying their passion to addressing environmental impacts. One example is monitoring electricity usage in the tools and machinery engineers use every day. We also have 29 other employee resource groups, spanning from our Neurodiversity group Minds of All Kinds, to our global Seagate Pride! group. These build community and engagement and extend to the communities in which we have facilities.

Finally, and perhaps firstly, companies need to articulate why they are doing the work. I would encourage companies to be clear on their values, and once those are established, align their decisions to those. At Seagate, we see our values as the foundation of our ESG work. Our values of Integrity, Innovation, and Inclusion will endure no matter the future of ESG.

Can you share some examples of your current ESG projects and goals at Seagate?

At Seagate, we are dedicated to crafting the Sustainable Datasphere. This is a highly cross-functional effort to address the environmental impact of our company operations, the products we design, and how we handle product use and end-of-life. 

Circularity is a cornerstone of how Seagate is crafting the Sustainable Datasphere. With team mates, I provide the structure across business functions to achieve environmental goals in three areas:

  1. Determining what it means to have sustainable operations for us, our suppliers, and our customers.

  2. Determining how we build sustainable products through eco-design standards.

  3. Determining how we keep our drives out of landfills through sustainable product use and product end of life. 

An example of the Circular Production model. Image courtesy of Seagate and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

We are actively applying circularity principles and processes to reduce greenhouse gasses and our use of finite natural resources, electricity, water, and waste. Extending the life of our hard drives and enabling repairs keeps them in use longer. We also have a Product Take Back program that allows us to extract materials and parts for reuse and recycling.

I’m thrilled that we announced two Environmental Moonshot Goals last Earth Day: that our manufacturing sites will be 100% powered by renewable energy by 2030, and that Seagate will be carbon neutral by 2040.

On the Social and people side, we have a strong commitment to women in leadership, and promoting from within. We have a partnership with the U.S. Military to employ those with six months left in their service in order to prepare them for the working world. We are establishing a strong supplier diversity program. Leadership and management development programs strengthen our teams and prepare women, less-represented groups, and all employees for more senior positions.

I encourage all women, regardless of background, to learn more about ESG-related positions. For me, it has been a great way to align my values with my company, and our impact in the world — to “do good while doing well.” Thank you.

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