Sustainability in Technology
- Well, hello there. Hope this has been a great session for everybody. My name is Chris Jones, I'm the chief revenue officer for Appian and I want to thank you all again for attending this event with us and taking time outta your day. You might be wondering why is this guy kicking off the Appian Women's Forum? I will tell you a little story here, I was asked by Monica who leads our Appian Women's Forum.
A few weeks ago she called me up and she said, "Chris, we need an executive sponsor "for the Appian Women's Forum "and we would like you to be the sponsor," and I was very touched and humbled by that, and why? You think, "Okay, well he's an executive of the company, "he needs to say yes and take interest "in other things within the company." But for me, the story's a little bit more personal. I'm the father of three daughters and when I'm usually asked, "What's the most proud thing "that you've done in your career?" my answer is, I've had an opportunity to raise three very strong independent women in my life and I think back to years ago when my oldest daughter was young and she was at a point where she actually took a little bit of interest in what I was doing, I was traveling a lot, she's like, "Where's dad go," and so I actually brought up the website of the company that I was with at the time and we were going through the website and you reach the executive page and we pulled up the executive page and on there, and I've been in technology, as you guys have heard all of my career over 30 years, and you pull up the executive page and it was all men on the executive page and she said, "Dad, how come there's no girls in your company?" And that hit me and I just didn't have a good answer. and so the opportunity to, as I've reached, I always said to myself, if I ever get to a point where I have an executive position, where I can make some substantial changes in a company this is one of the things that I wanted to take on and always felt that if I could do something that could make an impactful difference and have an impact in some other way other than what my actual job was, that would be pretty cool and hopefully leave a good legacy for my girls.
So Monica called me up, asked me to be the executive sponsor, I was like, "Of course, I would love to do this," I went home that night, I was feeling good about myself, I was thinking, wow, I'm gonna tell my girls about, hey, guess what dad just got asked to do, I told 'em I was asked to be the executive sponsor of the Appian Women's Forum. My oldest daughter says, "Well, why'd they do that?" I'm like, "Okay, thanks." (audience laughing) My youngest daughter, who's 17 now, she says, and she's a complete wise ass, she says to me, she goes, "Oh, I'm sure they're thrilled "with having some old white guy telling them what to do." (audience laughing) I'm like, "All right, now we've crossed the line, "I can take the white guy thing but the old thing, "way over the line here," so, any of you interested in a very cute 17 year old girl, she's up for adoption now. (audience laughing) So, absolutely thrilled to be here. Thank you very much again.
It is with my great pleasure to introduce Monica Andonova, who's gonna introduce our panel today where we're gonna have a very, very lively discussion about something that's very important, not only to us in the world, but to us at Appian because it really, I think, embodies what we do and what our DNA is, which is sustainability and technology. So enough of me, love to turn it over to you, Monica. - Thank you. (audience applauding)
Ladies, will you join me? Morning everyone, and wow, how many tech companies have the chief revenue officer as the sponsor of the Women's Affinity Group? Thank you Chris. Love the dad jokes. What we're gonna do today is go over a little bit about the incredible professional background of our speakers today, Dinah and Katee, and then we're gonna say a few words about the topic, sustainability and technology, I'm then gonna make the connection between how is their experience relevant to the topic and we're gonna kick off the discussion. If we're lucky, at the end, you get to ask them a few questions too, so it's not just me.
With Dinah Cobbinah, a partner in KPMG, she is responsible for financial services intelligent process transformation and she brings over 25 years of experience in successfully implementing complex global large transformational programs. I wanna pick on a word in her title, which is transformation. To me what this means is that Dinah is a challenger of the status quo. She doesn't just accept the reality for what it is when that's suboptimal and continuously looks to improve that with innovative solutions. With Katee, she is the CEO of INVEZTOR and a fun fact about Katee is that she worked at a eco-tourism startup and then spent a few years in (indistinct) at PwC, she then had the idea of her own business and successfully launched the INVEZTOR fintech startup that's in our ecosystem and got oversubscribed on the pre-seed round.
So thank you both for joining us today, and in terms of what we are gonna cover, the sustainability and technology topic is something that has exploded in the last few years. When we look at ESG, environmental social governance report, it's an industry that's now a trillion dollar industry and actually some reports say that it's on track to become a $50 trillion industry by 2025. So what does it actually mean for Katee and her business as a CEO? It means that she has the freedom to set and build that business from the ground up with sustainable planning in mind. And for Dinah at KPMG, I mean, she's actively shifting the image of what it means to be a partner for future generations of females and folks from Black heritage, but also, leading people through her transformational programs, she has that ability to set up sustainable planning in place. So Dinah, what does ESG mean for you? - So, one of the things for me is that finally people are paying attention and actually starting to get behind the key issues that we need to address in order to have a sustainable future in terms of what we do, but also the planet that we actually live on.
Finally, we have governments and organizations actually having benchmarks to work through, data points to report, so that actually means that things will start to change, but certainly it's not easy and it's now an opportunity to come together, work together to drive lasting and impactful change. - What a time to be alive, no? Katee, for you in INVEZTOR, what does it mean for your role as a CEO and for your business? - Well, I mean, first of all, I think you're absolutely right, Monica, that this is an enormous market and an enormous opportunity for us and sustainability has been something, particularly, that I've been passionate about. As you mentioned, I started my career working in an eco-tourism company, we were very focused on the e in the environmental aspect of that, but laterally and now more with the financial side, being able to focus holistically on the ESG component.
And for our business, it's actually, it's really exciting. There's so much change, there's so much that's happening in this space, and Dinah, as you've said, there's so much focus on this at the moment so we see that there's a real opportunity to be able to start to make some meaningful change, both within our organization and within the wider sphere. - Thank you. Dinah, can you speak of any solutions that you've implemented within KPMG, whether to influence policies, culture, or other? - So at KPMG we actually have, well we've gone public with lots of targets and we have a strategy called our impact, so that focuses on the firm, it focuses on the people, it focuses on communities at large, and also the planet as well. So within that, we have, and are starting to implement change so that by 2030 we will have 40% of our workforce being female, so that's great for me and others that are coming up through the ranks, but it's not just about making sure they come through the door, it's making sure that the progression is actually there as well, so that will actually start to taper through the entire organization.
So hopefully that's great news for some of the junior staff that have sat at the KPMG table at the back, knowing that they can make it to the top, but also in terms of our socio and economic background. We're trying to make sure that we get people from all walks of life, and again, we've set targets for 2030 looking to get to between 25 and 30%. So not everybody's gonna come from Oxbridge (laughs) working for KPMG, so that's something we're also keen to do.
- Right, so a solid, well-rounded planning but lots of work to do. - Yeah. - And Katee, in your experience, in terms of planning your business, what are some of the challenges you've encountered? - Well, I mean, initially what we're trying to do in setting this up, I think, is we sort of see it in two key ways. Is that we have the sustainability around the product itself. I mean, fundamentally what we're trying to create is a sustainable product, we're reducing manual labor and physical processes and automating a lot of paper-based processes currently that are operating and expediating those processes and bringing them together so that we've got greater interoperability. So the product itself, we are really trying to focus on how we can continue to make sure that what we're building is a sustainable product, but then also, as Diana was saying, it's similar in terms of what we're trying to plan to achieve in terms of the wider strategic goals for our organization. So, how do we make sure that we're working towards net zero or being carbon positive? What are the kind of activities that we can be doing within our organization, whether it's charitable activities, but also the S component, which is something that I'm particularly passionate about.
How do we make sure that we're building out the right balance within our team? And to answer your question specifically about the challenges, it's really hard. You actually have to work really, really hard at it and set these goals for your company and really hold yourself accountable for those. Otherwise, it's very easy for it to slip by and just sort of allow the status quo. So we have to just keep pushing that and keep working towards achieving those goals. - Wow, none of you two are afraid of hard work.
So Katee, just to double click on that a little bit more, can you speak of any specific successes you had along the way? - Sure, so as you mentioned earlier on, we did our first funding round earlier this year and I'm not sure if anybody in this audience has done a funding round before, but it is an incredibly difficult process in itself. But particularly, I found that that process was quite difficult as a woman in this space. I think I read a statistic a while ago, it was about 2% of funding goes towards female founders and I felt that that really was reflected in my experience, that it was incredibly difficult to go through that process and as I was going through it I really made the conscious decision that I wanted to be able to help make change in that sphere. So we decided that we wanted to make sure that we had an equal balance in diversity in our leadership team, our executive team within our investors, but also within our team. So we've basically set that goal for our company and I'm really excited about the fact that we've been able to achieve that, so far we've got some fantastic diversity in our leadership and in our group.
- It's interesting how the caliber of the businesses is quite different but the challenges are very similar and that sustainable strategic planning throughout from the beginning and keeping that up throughout, it seems really key. - Absolutely. - Dinah, at the kind of size of KPMG, what partnerships are you leveraging to kind of assist you with that journey? - So in terms of partnerships we are actually focusing on, in some cases academia. So we have partnerships with Cambridge University.
So we're actually using them to help us to actually put our staff through ESG learning. We're also taking a hard look at the suppliers that we work with and ensuring that where we have our own standards, they're also making sure that they are more mindful of some of the ESG aspects. But we have to hold ourselves to account, our suppliers to account, but also our clients are doing the same thing. So every RFP there's a section in there that we've actually got to make sure that we're complying.
But just to pick up on one of Katee's points, even in the way that we bring our talent into the firm, we haven't accepted the status quo, so we won't accept the short list that's just got men on it. We will push back and make sure that there is a diversity in that list. And even as we are starting to go through the recruitment process, we want to make sure that we've got people from a broad range of ethnic backgrounds, but also socioeconomic backgrounds as well.
So if I reflect on what I've done with my team, I've managed to find an extremely diverse and talented team and then go back to the partnership and say, "Well yes it's hard, but if I can do it, so can you," so that does actually enable me, at a partnership level, to start, let's say, agitating slightly for some of the change that I'd like to see. - Yeah, so it might take a little longer, it might be a little harder, but the benefit of having that diversity of thought on the table, in terms of different cultures, different backgrounds, and how do they approach problem solving, it's invaluable, right? - And certainly I think that some of the feedback from my clients is the fact that when we turn up as a team they're hearing different voices, seeing different faces, and that's quite different from some of our competition as well. So again, that, for us, is a great tick in the box but also I'm making sure that the team has a progression path so it's not just about having lots of different faces on a PowerPoint slide, it's about the work that they're actually doing as well. - I actually completely agree with that.
I think that's such a fantastic point and I remember when I started my career at PwC, and walking into the room and having very similar thought processes where you walk into a room that's full of men and if you see women in leadership positions that are doing really well I don't think you can underestimate how much that actually impacts people and they can see that path forward, and that goes for, as you were saying, all of the different forms of diversity and making sure that we're being very visible about those changes that are happening. - Yeah, this makes me think of the former CMO of Uber, Bozoma Saint John, she says, has this notion about glass ceilings and that there's more than one and actually breaking them leaves scars and walking on glass is painful. So, it's harder than you think.
- It's how thick that glass is. So people who say that to me, that I broke the glass ceiling, but it's extremely thick so I'm trying to find places to form the cracks to actually build up enough momentum to get more people through. - Yeah, you need to network and planning and be smart about it.
- Yes, exactly. - Yeah. So Dinah, what resources have been helpful on that topic? - So, I don't think that anyone is going to disagree that there is a wealth of information out there. If you just Google ESG, you'll be online for about four weeks trying to disseminate all of the information that's out there. Of course there are government policies, of course there are think tanks, but there are also key individuals and activists that really have a strong point of view, so we actually take soundings from all of those but we empower our teams to do some of their own research as well. But one of the things that I find really quite inspiring is where we've got our younger team members actually coming to us and saying, "Have you seen this? "Have you heard about this?" Because, well I'm too old. I'm not on TikTok or anything like that.
So someone needs to actually come and tell me, someone needs to come and tell me where we should be looking. But I think that it's great that everybody feels invested in that because that's the only way that we're going to make the changes is if we have enough information to therefore determine what does that mean for our organization. - Yeah, I totally agree. I mean, I think that there is such a wealth of information out there, as you say, you could just jump online and spend hours and weeks and months reading through all the information that's there, but what we found as particularly useful resources, there's so many great podcasts and audiobooks that are out there, the reports that the likes of KPMG and the big four put out and some of the other accounting practices, sorry, consulting practices are really excellent. But one of the other resources I think that we found particularly useful to keep on referring to is in fact around the regulation and looking at what some of these regulatory bodies are doing to encourage sustainability.
What policies and guidelines and procedures are they putting in place so that we can make sure that we're not just keeping up with it but we're ahead of it and really sort of knitting it into the fabric of our organization. - Amazing, so leverage that and also, leverage that to learn, but leverage that to share back to the community as well. - Absolutely. - Yeah, amazing. Any final thoughts, ladies? Dinah? - I think, for me it's after, I'll say 25 years, but it's been more than that, so I'll say 25 years plus of working in this industry, it's great to see the step change occurring but the work that needs to be done is extremely hard and sometimes it's very easy for organizations to focus on key elements that are easy to address.
So we do measure our own carbon footprint. We are more conscious of how much traveling we are doing. We are capturing that data. But for me, around ESG, the biggest thing is the S in ESG because that focuses on, for me, the IDSE lens.
So it's about gender, it's about ethnicity, and it's about making sure that we don't fall behind. But it's going to take a lot of hard work, it's going to take more diversity at the top of organizations to, let's say, not be afraid to actually step up and indicate where things need to change, but recognize that an organization is just like a big cruise liner, so it does take a long time to steer it in a different direction. - Great, I mean, I completely agree that there's so much work to be done and I guess, from our perspective, at the very beginning of our journey, we see it as exciting and the opportunity out there to be really quite, I guess, it's an endless opportunity and when we look at the business that we're trying to create and trying to be able to, excuse me, make an impact in terms of the product itself and putting technological stage gates in there so that we can try to encourage environmental sustainability. Looking at green bonds, looking at collaboration with other green tech companies, and then leveraging some of the fantastic resources from the big powerhouses out there.
I just think that there's just so much opportunity, it's exciting, but we do have a lot of hard work in front of us to be making, as you said, meaningful change. - Well, thank you both and thank you for being so focused on really making a differentiating impact instead of just ticking the box. I'm gonna do a time check and we do have a few minutes for questions to the speakers.