A guide to achieving your ESG objectives

Navigating the sustainability jungle with ARIS

Josephe Blondaut Josephe Blondaut

Introduction: Sustainability and the world of business

In December 2019 the European Union’s 27 member states unveiled the European Green Deal—a big moment for the future of sustainable business. The goal of the pact is bold: achieve net zero carbon emissions across the bloc by 2050 by promoting cleaner air and water, promoting better health, and transforming the European economy into a circular, sustainable model.

Just as bold, though, are the fresh laws and regulations that achieving this vision require. The new taxes, levies, incentives, and compliance mechanisms will impact everything from enterprise carbon footprints, and their use of land, water, and plastics, to the nuances of their global supply chains.

This push for a more tightly regulated world isn’t only happening in Europe: carbon-reduction initiatives are already in place in locations as diverse as China, California, and Chile. Industry-specific regulations, designed to mitigate costs to environment and society, are increasingly impacting businesses everywhere: from mining firms operating in conflict zones of Africa, to multinational banks required to disclose Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) risks in their loan portfolios. Across the globe, governments, regulators, consumers, and even staff are increasingly demanding a focus on sustainability. Not long ago, this was a buzzword that had little to do with a company’s bottom line. No longer.

Today, sustainability is at the heart of everything from brand reputation to innovation, to investor returns, to growing revenues and maintaining a thriving business. Sustainability is the new normal. And it is disrupting the economy just like digital before it.

Sustainability is the new digital.

World Economic Forum

How will it impact my company?

As a business leader, this new normal can feel daunting. No matter your industry, location, or jurisdictions where your company does business, the coming years will bring a growing number of policies, standards, laws, and regulatory frameworks. Some of these will be mandatory, others voluntary, and all with unique, time-consuming, and sometimes confusing requirements. Your business might be eager to play its part in helping build a greener, more equitable, and climate resilient world. Even so, navigating all of this can feel like wading through a jungle: dangers lurk around every corner, and the path forward isn’t immediately clear. Where should you even begin? How can you traverse this compliance labyrinth, while mitigating climate risks, proving ESG adherence, and securing your brand’s reputation, ahead of the competition?

How can we help?

We believe it all comes down to one word: processes. Simply put, to meet your company’s sustainability goals, they must be integrated into your business process management. Just as business process management, or BPM, enables companies to streamline supply chains, eliminate internal bottlenecks, and deliver analytics to make operations more efficient, it can help them become greener. By embracing ARIS—a set of BPM tools to understand, document, execute and constantly improve processes with a focus on sustainability—your company can put processes at the heart of your ESG strategy, while significantly easing the burden of compliance all of this entails.

So how can your company get started? How exactly does ARIS for Sustainability work? And why do we believe our solution, ARIS, is your best bet for driving a sustainable future? In the following guide, we’ll introduce you to the many ways that ARIS can help you navigate the sustainability jungle. To start, though, we’ll dive a little deeper into why a focus on sustainability is so vital to your future.

Sustainability: the new normal

The Green Deal is just the beginning

The European quest to become the world’s first climate neutral continent is among the boldest actions yet to build a more sustainable world. Still, it’s far from alone. Indeed, a broader global shift is taking place toward an entirely new mode of doing business—one hastened the urgency of the climate crisis but driven by far more than the goal of a low carbon future. Other far-reaching initiatives include:

  • The United Nations’ Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted in 2015. It consists of 17 separate goals as part of a “blueprint for peace and prosperity,” covering everything from ending poverty, to conserving wildlife, to ensuring responsible patterns of consumption and production.
  • The UN’s Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which calls on all enterprises, regardless of their size, to develop processes that will prevent, address, and rectify human rights abuses stemming from their corporate actions.
  • The 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, and related pacts negotiated at the UN Climate Change Conference each November. Together, they’re nudging the rest of the world to follow Europe’s lead in embracing the green energy transition.

The C-Suite is paying attention, too

This new demand for sustainability is not only a result of lofty global frameworks: it’s also coming from consumers, employees, and some of the most influential leaders in business. A 2021 survey by Deloitte of more than 2,000 C-suite level executives across 21 countries found that 77% reported pressure to act on climate change from governments and regulators, 75% from their customers or clients, and 65% from staff: young consumers and workers, in particular, are increasingly demanding that social responsibility comes first.

The implication is clear: sustainability isn’t just a disruptive force to fear. But an opportunity to take actions that benefit the environment and society while also creating long lasting value.

Is your company ready?

Even so, this new normal can feel overwhelming. With each new set of laws and regulations, the sustainability jungle presents new obstacles, which can often feel impassible. Some, like new Green Deal taxes on carbon-intensive imports and levies on plastic waste, must be tackled head on no matter what. Others, like certification schemes to show that mining firms aren’t using child labor, or coffee growers aren’t harming the rainforest, may be voluntary, but important to one’s reputation—and complying with them may be just as difficult. If your company is feeling lost, you’re not alone: another poll, conducted by PwC of more than 300 businesses in Europe, found only 49% felt prepared to meet Green Deal requirements. Fewer than half of the global executives surveyed by Deloitte have begun developing new climate-friendly products or services or requiring suppliers and business partners to meet specific sustainability criteria.

Indeed, for most companies, the task of mapping out a path through the sustainability jungle is only getting started. That’s why there’s never been a better time than now to focus on you processes.

Can your processes save the world?

How exactly, you might ask, do processes hold the key to this quest? And can they really make the world a better place? The answer lies in the nuts and bolts of building more sustainable business operations, and the role of BPM in making that possible.

Why BPM?

Before we turn to BPM’s role in sustainability, it’s worth examining BPM’s history of transforming operations across the business world, at large. Since its arrival on the scene in the 1990s, the discipline has enabled entire industries to improve efficiency, accelerate the development of new products, reduce operational bottlenecks, avoid fines for regulatory non-compliance, and ultimately boost the bottom line—all though the documenting, modeling, analyzing, and optimizing processes.

The BPM-enabled visibility that helps companies make better decisions can also make them greener. According to the information systems guru Stefan Siedel, it is only through process change, and the application of process centered techniques, that companies can “fully leverage” the power of information to “create environmentally sustainable organizations, and in turn, and environmentally sustainable society.”

This “Green BPM” concept is the core idea behind ARIS for sustainability: that processes anchor sustainability to the very heart of your operations.

This bases your goals on actual data. It makes them more transparent. And it makes them verifiable: essential for organizations needing to comply with new rules and regulations.

ARIS for Sustainability

At Software AG, we view the central benefits of Green BPM as threefold: Transparency, control, and accountability.

  • Transparency: Need a better way to structure sustainability initiatives, detail actions, and disclose ESG goals, from strategy to operations? The transparency ARIS for Sustainability offers is the best way to get started on your jungle roadmap.
  • Control: Looking to more effectively govern process execution, employee engagement, and compliance with rules and regulations? Green BPM will give you levers of control you didn’t know were possible.
  • Accountability: Once you’ve done all this hard work, how do you prove it? When it comes time to report on initiatives and progress—and gain stakeholder trust—Green BPM also gives you access to data-driven insights that will make your company fully accountable.

In sum, Green BPM will not only help your company identify the best ways to become more sustainable. It will also evaluate their impact towards creating shared value: for the benefit of people, the planet, and ultimately your firm’s profits as well. Whether your goal is to optimize logistics, reduce waste in your supply chain, introduce more sustainable modes of working, or minimize the carbon used in manufacturing, a Green BPM approach can put you on the path toward a sustainable transformation.

How, though, can you bring this sustainability strategy to life? And how can you make sure it best suits the needs of stakeholders across your organization? Let us introduce you to ARIS for sustainability—a “Green BPM” solution based on our #1 market-leading business process analysis and management solution for organizations seeking to embrace digital transformation.  

ARIS for Sustainability: Your guide to the jungle

What is it about ARIS that makes it so well equipped to guide you through the sustainability jungle?

A Passion for Processes

To start, ARIS is the only BPM software on the market that supports your transformation from strategy down to operations—throughout the whole lifecycle from understand, process design, implement & automate, rollout, execute & run, to measure and control. Long before sustainability and ESG became front and center, ARIS was helping organizations achieve greater end-to-end visibility and the transparency needed to make better business decisions.

It’s also long been a go-to-tool for enabling internal control systems to adapt to new regulations, and demonstrate compliance with new laws and directives—like those that focus on sustainability will require. No matter what your business does and what size it is, ARIS levels up your enterprise reality and paves your way to operational excellence. Now, with the launch of the ARIS for Sustainability Accelerator Package, we’re confident it will pave your way to excellence in sustainability as well.

How, though, can ARIS help turn your ESG theory into action? We propose a four-step process:

  • Assess: To start, ARIS will help you assess your company’s baseline ESG maturity. By analyzing your existing process landscape, gathering current data, questioning internal stakeholders on sustainability matters, and proceeding to your materiality assessment, ARIS will give you a deeper, more holistic view of how your company really operates, evaluate relevant rules and regulations, and identify root causes of non-compliance. In short, it will measure where you are today—and give you the ability and agility to navigate the frameworks needed for your sustainability objectives moving forward.
  • Build your strategy: From there, ARIS enables you to build a sustainability strategy: to analyze which activities need to be optimized, which standards must be complied with, and which value chain areas are most relevant to the specific law or regulation at hand. With ARIS, you can map your sustainability vision and mission to ensure it aligns with your company values—while setting the right goals and KPIs to help you move in the right direction at a pace that’s most appropriate.
  • Operationalize: Next, ARIS helps you put your strategy into operation: to rollout new processes based on efficiency, costs, and ESG-critical KPIs, to thoroughly map risks and regulations, and automate the rollout and approval of processes to all relevant stakeholders. ARIS ensures your sustainability goals align with the goals of your business—and gives you the organizational foundation to integrate and manage your sustainability initiatives well into the future.
  • Track and Report: Finally, ARIS gives you the power to track and monitor your goals—through reports that collect all risk-related information in one place, dashboards with near real-time information on KPIs and transparency initiatives, and the ability to share information with regulators at the push of a button. ARIS provides the robust analytics to monitor process performance, guarantee compliance, and turn your data into insights and action.

In sum, not only does ARIS set your sustainability goals into motion. It gives you proof of action to achieve maximum transparency and demonstrate value. ARIS acts a single source of truth both externally—for shareholders, investors, policy makers, regulators, and ultimately customers. And internally, connecting stakeholders across all business units. These include:

  • Sustainability units overseeing the entire process, from initial assessment to defining strategy and organization, to rollout and tracking ESG performance.
  • Risk & Compliance teams tasked with evaluating rules and regulations, assessing risks, and assigning policies.
  • Process experts in charges of analyzing as-is processes, designing new operations, and overseeing rollout and compliance.
  • The broader workforce, tasked with implementing process execution.

So where does your company stand?

Perhaps you’re in an industry where the sustainability new normal is at the very heart of your operations—an automaker, for example, responding to the shift from gas-powered cars to electric. Maybe the implications of ESG for your company are less obvious: an importer in Europe unsure what the Green Deal means for your supply chain; a manufacturer seeking alignment with the UN Guiding Principles; an investment firm increasingly attuned to the ESG credentials of your portfolio.

Whatever the case, whether you’re just now approaching the edge of the sustainability jungle, or already beginning to forge your path through it, ARIS for Sustainability can help you achieve your ESG goals—faster.

We invite you to come learn more about how processes are making the world a better place. And how ARIS can help your company play its part.