Double-clicking on net-zero transition with Kyndryl's global sustainability officer

Nurdianah Md Nur
Nurdianah Md Nur11/29/2022 05:00 PM GMT+08  • 6 min read
Double-clicking on net-zero transition with Kyndryl's global sustainability officer
Sustainability must be a core component of any company's organising principles. Here's how Kyndryl is making that a reality for itself and its customers. Photo: Shutterstock
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Sustainability has been the talk of the town this year. Organisations across industries have pledged to decarbonise their operations to answer the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s call to halve emissions by 2030.

One such company is Kyndryl, the spin-off of IBM’s managed infrastructure services business. Kyndryl’s greening strategies and efforts are led by its global sustainability officer Faith Taylor. According to her, the idea of making environmental sustainability a focus for her career — and businesses everywhere — arose when her son asked if she had seen An Inconvenient Truth, a 2006 documentary by Al Gore about climate change impact.

“After researching the sustainability market and with the support of the chairman of the company I was working in then, I created my job and took on responsibilities for the organisation’s sustainability initiatives before eventually forging a full-time role for myself. Later on, I held leadership roles as an Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) professor and at electric vehicle titan Tesla, which eventually led to my current position,” she says.

At Kyndryl, Taylor is responsible for building the foundation of the company’s global footprint and educating, training and establishing its processes and vision for the future by leveraging existing offerings and creating new sustainable solutions with over 4,000 customers and partners to make a global impact.

In an interview with DigitalEdge, she shares more about Kyndryl’s ongoing sustainability journey and offers tips to help other organisations effectively transit to net zero.

Why do organisations need to ‘decouple carbon from growth’ by adopting new systems and processes?

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To be considered a sustainable organisation in today’s climate, organisations must empower a purposeful transition to net zero, ensuring that their carbon emissions are aligned with IPCC’s target goals of lowering the global temperature by 1.5°C.

To decouple carbon from business growth, organisations must develop proven strategies to reduce their environmental footprint, marry innovation with sustainability, and adopt new systems and processes.

These days, non-financial factors such as ESG have been researched to drive economic value. Therefore, businesses must not under-deliver on carbon emission reductions and integrate the strategy into their company’s operating business to also deliver profitability.

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What are Kyndryl’s goals and long-term strategy for sustainability?

Kyndryl is committed to making an impact and leveraging the technology industry to address environmental challenges to achieve our goals and long-term strategies for sustainability. As a newly independent company, Kyndryl is establishing our operational baseline on climate and sustainability issues. That baseline will establish our Environmental Management Systems and Energy Program addressing sustainable practices.

Through initiatives focused on energy reduction, climate education, and conservation, we integrate purpose-driven profits alongside a responsibility to strengthen the technological resilience of communities most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

We are establishing our global environmental baselines for charting a path toward net zero, guided by science from IPCC and plans to re-certify against the ISO certifications most relevant to Kyndryl. We will also leverage industry best practices to govern our quality management system, processes and tools to ensure our operations meet the high standards of sustainability compliance and responsible business practices that clients and partners expect.

With a clean slate, we can position ourselves as a leader in developing a global economy that better serves more people – and the planet – within our first year of the company’s inception. Kyndryl will also report the results in our first ESG report in 2023.

What was your top challenge when developing and executing Kyndryl’s sustainability strategy?

Similar to the findings of the Kyndryl ASEAN Digital Transformation Study 2022 done in collaboration with technology research and advisory firm Ecosystm, one of the biggest challenges I faced was identifying the right skills and data required to support our sustainability initiatives.

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To successfully move the needle on ESG goals, organisations need a holistic strategy focused on leveraging external resources and responding to evolving challenges, such as reporting to various frameworks.

How do you ensure Kyndryl’s operations globally are progressing at the same pace in terms of sustainability?

In the same study, we found that despite the greater focus on sustainability, many regional organisations pursue sustainability goals using different strategies, which may hinder their progress toward sustainability.

In Singapore, 31% of businesses are in the early planning stage of identifying and defining their sustainability goals, followed by 28% who said they were starting to implement their strategy. This percentage is leading compared to other countries in the region, such as the Philippines.

In a fragmented and diverse region like Southeast Asia, what needs to happen next is for organisations to create a more defined roadmap of their ESG transformation, specific to the nature of the country they are in, as well as taking into consideration government policies in the country.

This can start with having clearly defined goals — what the organisations want to achieve through their sustainability measures — and then developing a holistic strategy that includes all aspects, from budget allocation to measurements and addressing all the barriers to establishing their sustainability efforts.

We need a roadmap for companies on different paths. Those at the beginning, in the middle and advanced. This multi-tiered approach is necessary to help companies where they are and provide the right resources to successfully meet net-zero and environmental goals.

What’s next in Kyndryl’s sustainability journey?

As we move into our second year, launching our foundation has formalised our efforts to advance our inclusive economies within Kyndryls’ communities globally. Our rich culture of service and volunteerism will integrate into a holistic approach to create long-term, sustainable investment and drive change.

Looking ahead to 2023, we will call for technological applications and implement our sustainability 101 training to ensure we meet our net-zero goals.

In the future, the launch of our first ESG report, the release of our Human Rights policy, and other exciting initiatives will further our engagement beyond today. Going beyond successful initiatives and fully integrating our ESG and CSR efforts across the business, employees, and community needs truly put Kyndryl at the heart of progress.

What’s your advice to other sustainability officers and teams on how to be successful?

Start where you are at today. Take the time to assess your business and market before developing a roadmap.

Then, create your programme with the end in mind. This means outlining your business strategies aligned with your profits because this is a part of meeting your employee, investor, customer and regulatory requirements.

What key ingredients will ensure sustainability is adopted internally and throughout their supply chains?

Firstly, train, educate and communicate to your key stakeholders once and over again. They say you must share information at least seven times before it is integrated.

Then, develop a cross-functional team of ambassadors at all levels accountable and with goals. Also, ensure you have the resources to reach your goals, which means people, budgets and resources to make them achievable.

Lastly, have a positive “can do” attitude because it will take perseverance and always ‘fall forward’. This follows the Japanese ‘kaizen’ business philosophy of continuous improvement.

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