Robert Solow, economist at MIT and recipient of the Nobel Prize in 1987, once famously noted that one “can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.” Today, a similar paradox is emerging between the rise of sustainability investment and the dearth of timely and reliable data on environmental, social, and governance corporate performance.
Impact investing, once considered a fringe phenomenon pursued by those were more interested in philanthropy than in return on investment, has gone mainstream in the last years. By now, one out of every six dollars under professional management is invested in some form of sustainable investment, and globally $21.4 trillion – twice the amount of China’s GDP – is invested under consideration of environmental and social criteria. Between 2012 and 2014, sustainable investments grew by 61 percent, faster than the traditional investment market.
For companies, managing social and environmental performance with the same rigor as managing financial performance is rapidly becoming a priority. One reason is that the value of intangible assets – things like human and social capital, or stakeholder relations – continues to grow vis-à-vis book value, and now accounts for 85 percent of total market value in the S&P 500. At the same time, companies are increasingly finding out that traditional approaches like corporate social responsibility or community investments are insufficient to manage social and environmental performance, and fail to reliably create trust and shared value with stakeholders.
Something is missing, and the growing consensus is that it is adequate data that would allow measuring and managing corporate social, environmental and governance performance.
For Carnegie Council’s Policy Innovation magazine, I looked at how mobile technology can drive a data revolution and help make sustainable business a reality. At the heart of the problem is access to data that would allow managers to make better decisions to manage social and environmental performance, and engage communities in a more meaningful way. With 60 percent of the global population without access to the internet for at least the medium term, the global availability of mobile phones offers a compelling opportunity to for comprehensive reach almost everywhere in the world. To illustrate, I show how Ulula uses mobile to bridge the gap between companies and communities in one of the biggest open pit mines of the world in Peru.
To read the full article on the Policy Innovations website, please follow this link: Can Mobile Technology Help Make Sustainable Business a Reality?