When I first joined Accenture as a graduate in 1999, I was obsessively excited by the type of work we were doing for our clients. The greatest opportunity and challenge facing the commercial world was digital transformation. It appealed to my love of efficiency and creating business value to help our clients be more successful. The transformational possibilities of digital seemed endless. My personal purpose to create impact through change energised my work.

Over time, I was inspired by the rising focus on corporate social responsibility to equip and empower people with the skills they need to succeed. I spent an incredible year seconded to Accenture Development Partnerships, working in Vietnam and Guyana with NGOs, where I helped develop programs supporting people with disabilities and teaching skills such as English. This type of hands on support is where I also started to focus my own attention, training to mentor young offenders and teaching underprivileged kids sports.

The work helped to develop my understanding of the need to be a global citizen as well as a local one. Living and working overseas in five continents in as many years, I could see similar themes but very different applications and impacts.

This was apparent when I visited Sri Lanka in 2013, where I witnessed first-hand the still visible devastation of the 2004 tsunami nearly 10 years earlier. Even then, it was already being discussed that Sri Lanka is among the top five countries that will be impacted by climate risk. It was a wakeup call that purpose needs to look beyond national boundaries.

And then, the wakeup call got closer to home. Seeing the unprecedented Australian bush fires that followed years of drought, I wondered: What could I do? As a parent, as a global and local citizen, as a Managing Director at Accenture, what was my role, our role, in creating impact? How could we heed the scientific community’s warnings that we have less than a decade to stop irreversible climate damage? How could we work together to create sustainability of this planet as a core commercial value?

Some of my best climate teachers were my children – now aged 13, 11 and 6 – who care deeply about equality and the planet and took me to a Melbourne climate change rally. Looking through their eyes, I see the critical necessity for everyone to get on board with transitioning to a low carbon economy.

And I realise that, from a corporate perspective, protecting and restoring our planet is the broadest sense of purpose we could possibly commit to.

That’s why I’m proud and excited to see Accenture focusing so prominently on sustainability in our 2025 strategy. Not as a “nice to have” or even just the right thing to do but as a central component of business strategy – for us and our clients. As so many boards, executives and consumers have realised this year, sustainability is key to our future success.

This has been a year of action with many countries, including the UK, China and Japan, announcing net zero emissions commitments. Many of the world’s largest asset owners are rebalancing their portfolios to help limit global temperature rises to 1.5C. There has been broad recognition that now is the time, as we rebuild from 2020, to do so in a sustainable way. 99% of CEOs from companies with more than $1 billion in annual revenues believe sustainability is important to the future success of their business and 76% say that trust will be critical to competitiveness over the next five years.1

With so much at stake and in a time of economic rebuild we are at an inflection point for purposeful action. As Accenture CEO, Julie Sweet, recently put it, “This is the moment for business, government and society to come together to reimagine, rebuild and transform our global economy into one that works for the benefit of all.”

To this end, as well as putting in place strategies to achieve net-zero emissions as a company by 2025, Accenture is also partnering with our clients to scale their sustainability strategies and deliver 360-degree value. That means, in addition to traditional financial success metrics, we are taking a multidimensional approach, where sustainability is one of six core areas.

Sustainability in this sense refers to multiple performance and impact dimensions, including the environment, people, society and communities, corporate governance and stakeholder trust. In addition to measuring our delivered value in this way, we will also be measuring our own progress against these dimensions.

I believe it is only through this type of focus and transparency that we will see the level of transformation and impact needed to pave the way for a more sustainable and successful future.

As I’ve been increasingly involved in sustainability discussions at work, I have been energised by the interest and passion of our clients and our local team. In Australia and New Zealand, we already have more than 350 people in our sustainability squad from every area of our local business who are passionate about working on projects to further sustainability goals.

From a hands-on perspective, more than 3,000 hours of work was completed across our ANZ workforce in environmental volunteering in the last year – work that is hugely fulfilling from a personal development perspective.

At the global level, we are also collaborating in an Eco Innovation Challenge, which will harness the skills, imagination and creativity of our people to co-create solutions to some of the world’s greatest environmental challenges. As with all of our global work in this area, we will be collaborating and learning from global and local partners to co-create. More diversity and more expertise will ultimately lead to greater positive impact. Winning teams will be funded to take their concepts to greater scale.

Just as technology transformation captured my imagination in the late 90s by transforming how businesses grew and flourished, I am excited by the possibilities of the intersection of digital and sustainability we now find ourselves at. With a broader sense of purpose as a global citizen, I’m proud to work for a company with Accenture’s vision and values and excited to be part of this next essential wave of transformation for our clients.

 

[1] Accenture UNGC CEO Report 2019

Lynne Storey

Commercial Director - ANZ

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