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Keeping you in-the-know on environmental, social and governance developments

This is our first installment of what will be a series of periodic blogs from guest contributors about their jobs in various ESG functions, day-to-day challenges they face in those roles, and how those challenges are met.


Marie-Josée Privyk, Chief ESG Innovation Officer at Novisto

What is your main ESG role? 

I am part of the executive team at Novisto, an ESG data management software platform helping companies collect, manage, and use their ESG data, producing better quality data for their reporting purposes and ultimately for their management of the actual issues. As Chief ESG Innovation Officer, I manage a multi-function team tasked with:

  • creating and maintaining the data schema or infrastructure we have designed to capture very diverse ESG data in accordance with multiple standards, frameworks, regulations, and third-party questionnaires;
  • supporting customers in onboarding our SaaS software platform, configuring it to meet their specific data management needs;
  • producing knowledge content on topics and trends pertinent to corporate sustainability reporting that inform product development, employee training, customers, and the market in general.

What are your top 3 biggest challenges in your ESG role today?

The three biggest challenges in my role today are:

1. The speed and pace of change. We are managing at the confluence of i) increasing pressure on companies to report on ESG and sustainability, ii) the rapid evolution towards regulations, standards and some level of alignment and clarity on what companies will be expected to “do” and “say”, and iii) a tidal wave of solutions providers flooding the market, some very large and well financed, others small startups, each one proposing to solve all problems “easily”. While company needs are growing and evolving quickly, their internal knowledge and allocation of resources (financial or human) often lag.

2. Very widely varying levels of knowledge and understanding of what ESG, sustainability, and impact are. 

  • Boards and executives by and large still have a poor understanding of the paradigm shift in business practices needed (and that stakeholders are increasingly calling for).
  • While the challenges corporates face with data collection and reporting are quite similar, every company seems to be different in its level of understanding, level of integration (for real) to its strategy and business model, understanding of data governance and data management (i.e., adopting a data mindset), understanding of reporting standards, and visibility on changes coming to corporate sustainability reporting. 
  • This often results in any combination of a reporting-only motivation, poor application of standards and frameworks, poor ownership of data, insufficient resources, and the persistent disconnect between commitment and action.

3. Opinions/views that technology is a magical solution.

  • Companies are indeed starting to turn to technology to help address reporting challenges, which is great. However given their limited resources and sometimes limited understanding, they seek a “magical solution” that will do things for them and take away the work. Technology cannot do this; it can make tasks easier, more efficient, and improve outcomes, but it cannot eliminate foundational work (first understanding what’s at stake), integrating sustainability to strategy and business model, identifying impacts and dependencies and risks and opportunities, putting management processes in place, and determining how to measure performance (i.e., know if they’re doing a good job).
  • Technology is not the starting point in this process; only once companies identify performance measures they want to use can they properly identify data needed and put processes in place to collect it.

How do you meet those?

We meet the challenge of speed and pace of change by:

  • keeping a close watch on (and understanding) what’s happening in the corporate sustainability reporting space – drivers, regulations and standards coming, systemic issues we are collectively needing to address and what role companies will be called upon to play; and
  • designing our product in a way that keeps it nimble and adaptive, offering customers stability over time in the midst of constant change.

We meet the challenge of widely varying levels of knowledge and understanding by:

  • implementing a flexible, personalized onboarding process to meet customers where they are today, while developing our product for where they will need to be tomorrow;
  • providing education and training to our staff and information sessions to customers on a continuous basis.

There’s not too much we can do to meet the challenge of thinking technology is a magical solution other than by talking about it and helping companies better understand the process of integrating ESG and sustainability to their management and reporting practices (usually in reverse order).

What is your most significant information/data need?

Our most significant needs are to know and understand upcoming reporting regulations and standards to be implemented. Newsfeeds help us track milestone announcements, but the direct download of actual regulations and standards documents is essential. 

What resources do you use to fill those?

Part of my job specifically is keeping track of emerging trends in corporate sustainability reporting and what companies are expected to do, now and in the future. I subscribe to several newsletters as well as some news aggregators to help keep track. I also subscribe to source feeds, such as notifications from IFRS Foundation (for example). LinkedIn is another useful source for tracking the release of noteworthy papers or articles. Interestingly, the quality of freely disseminated information has been high. Even so, I would also add that in this world of excessive amounts of information and click bait, nothing beats clicking down and getting to the source press release or document and actually reading it! Very few people actually read.

If applicable, how do you share ESG information with others in the company who also have an ESG role?

Applicable, but not in the same way as for a corporate reporting entity or investor. My department shares ESG information with other departments through:

  • Training sessions
  • Lunch & Learns
  • Direct information request ticketing system
  • Research Notes
  • Advisory Notes
  • Articles (for public consumption)
  • White Papers (for public consumption)

What is the one thing that helps make your job easier than it otherwise could be?

Great staff: I have the privilege of working with a group of smart, collaborative, committed, energetic, forward thinking, and hard-working people.

Having a clear corporate purpose that aligns with my own is another thing that greatly helps. Novisto’s purpose is to contribute to the sustainability of the economy, environment, and society by empowering companies to make better decisions and disclosures through our ESG data management software. My own purpose is to contribute to systems-level change towards a distributive and regenerative by design economic model that meets the needs of all people within the means of the planet. I’m also grateful to be able to influence the course of our company’s development by virtue of my management role.


If there is something about how you manage your ESG job challenges that others could benefit from, let us know. We might feature your story.

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The Editor

Lawrence Heim has been practicing in the field of ESG management for almost 40 years. He began his career as a legal assistant in the Environmental Practice of Vinson & Elkins working for a partner who is nationally recognized and an adjunct professor of environmental law at the University of Texas Law School. He moved into technical environmental consulting with ENSR Consulting & Engineering at the height of environmental regulatory development, working across a range of disciplines. He was one… View Profile