Accenture: How Gen AI can Accelerate Sustainability

AI has the potential to drive sustainability at work
Accenture, Microsoft & Avanade are helping businesses move from ‘acronym soup’ to harnessing gen AI to reshape reports for a sustainable future

Accenture, Microsoft and Avanade are joining forces to help businesses harness generative AI to reshape their ESG reports and strategies for greater sustainability.

It comes as the EU’s Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) comes into effect, forcing companies to incorporate new standards and the double materiality assessment into their reporting practices.

Caroline Brown, MD, Accenture, explained: “As the CSRD mandates a new era of transparency, Accenture is at the forefront, harnessing generative AI to reshape how businesses report and strategize for a sustainable future.

“Our partnership with Microsoft and Avanade goes beyond compliance; together, we’re empowering companies to transform data into actionable insights and drive meaningful change.”

Caroline Brown, MD, Accenture

The pressure is on

Caroline posted a blog about the subject on LinkedIn, in which she said the “pressure is on” companies, as sustainability reporting is shifting from volunteering to mandatory.

She said: “Between investors, customers and legal requirements, businesses must show that they are serious about sustainability.

As the EU’s CSRD comes into effect, companies must incorporate new standards and the double materiality assessment into their corporate reporting practices to meet the new regulations.”

Caroline added: “Companies will need to align their reporting with new standards and independent auditing of these reports will be mandatory.

“Companies must capture Scope 1, 2 and 3 data across the organisation, subsidiaries and supply chains.

“CSRD expands reporting beyond financial data to include environmental, social, and governance (ESG) impacts.”

In terms of the double materiality assessment, companies must “identify which sustainability impacts, risks and opportunities are most material to their organisation”.

The onus will be on businesses to determine whether an IRO is material or not and it must substantiate its choices.

How will AI transform sustainability?

From acronym soup to sustainability reporting

Caroline said the number of acronyms is “confusing”, but the CSRD standards have, for the first time, given companies a “common language”.

She said: “For companies like Accenture, which has a massive number of suppliers (Scope 3 reporting), we now share the same taxonomy with them.

“We are confident that calculations have been made in the same way. We know the data is real and verifiable.”

She said Accenture’s partnership with Microsoft has allowed it to develop co-pilots – digital assistants powered by generative AI – that facilitate data collection from diverse sources and generate qualitative data that meets required reporting standards.

The data, which is built on the Microsoft Sustainability Manager platform, is “the starting point for building a truly sustainable enterprise”.

 

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AI the enabler, not the magic bullet

According to Caroline, digital transformation must have a strong core that integrates cloud, data, AI and other advanced technologies.

She said: “Interoperability brings data streams across the enterprise into a single ecosystem layered with machine learning systems, text-to-speech, neural networks, advanced analytics, and generative AI.

“Generative AI can take over the low-value, typically high-volume, mundane tasks, enabling reporting teams – which are usually quite small – to focus on the higher-value tasks.

“Instead of cutting and pasting data from one Excel spreadsheet into another spreadsheet, reporting teams can focus on supporting data-driven solutions that help us make changes in business strategy to be a more sustainable enterprise.”

But she warned that gen AI will not solve all of our reporting problems, adding: “What it can do is bring the right data together and make recommendations to empower your teams to make decisions without chasing down information and figuring out where it goes in the complex world of sustainability KPIs.”

Sustainability must be embedded

Caroline said companies should continually assess their impact, set ambitious goals and evolve their reporting practices to contribute to a more sustainable future. And they must “embed sustainability in their business strategy”.

She added: “Integrating sustainability data with financial data and merging the two as part of your business operations makes this possible.

“The insights you gain translate into how you can manage your sustainability footprint moving forward.

“Microsoft Sustainability Manager helps organisations prepare for reporting with its ability to provide emission calculations for scopes 1, 2, and 3.”

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