By Christopher P. Skroupa, June 2nd 2015 - View original article here
Marjella Alma is founder and CEO of eRevalue Ltd., a women-led technology company with offices in London and NYC. eRevalue offers Datamaran™, an emerging issues management system that delivers real-time analytics on new forms of regulatory, reputational and competitive risk and opportunity. A former Director of Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) – providers of the world’s leading standard for non-financial reporting – Marjella has had a front row seat in the corporate strategy space for over eight years, working directly with Fortune 500 companies across the globe. She knows that technology will be a game changer in business innovation.
Christopher P. Skroupa: For over eight years, you’ve been collaborating closely with businesses worldwide to focus on long-term value creation and, in turn, effective management of risks and opportunities related to economic, environmental, social, and corporate governance (EESG) issues. What types of risks and opportunities do companies face?
Marjella Alma: Today’s business landscape is often unpredictable. From increasing regulatory demands to competing investor expectations, constant shifts in today’s economy are hard to spot and hard to manage. What’s more, companies face some of the most complex and interconnected issues of our time –financial issues like responsible investment, governance issues like diversity and inclusion and environmental issues like climate change.
A growing trend in business and financial markets is to increasingly look at ESG or environmental, social and corporate governance information. I believe these issues are undervalued still, and when addressed, are often not done so in an integrated way. For instance, eRevalue’s Datamaran includes more than 500 regulations that demand disclosure on this new generation of issues. Research shows that investing in these types of issues has expanded 76% in the past two years in the US alone, and over 94% between 2011 and 2013 in Europe.
These issues cut across multiple dimensions of a business – financial, compliance, legal, procurement, communications, innovation – but often get trapped in silos. This is the problem we need to solve in order to effectively manage risks and capitalize on opportunities. As a company, your radar needs to be on at all times, and it needs to be sharp, but many businesses don’t know where to start when making key decisions about these issues that are hard to quantify.
Skroupa: How do companies effectively get ahead of these risks and capitalize on opportunities?
Alma: It starts with breaking down those silos that dominate corporate culture. Specialists are necessary, but collaboration is key to ensure alignment and effectiveness across departments, global offices and with partner organizations. Achieving this isn’t easy, especially in our information-overloaded and fast-paced society, but it is possible.
Innovative technologies today help to accelerate communication, manage complexity and, in turn, save time and effort. That way, businesses can spend more time focusing on what matters most: their corporate strategy. For instance, advanced data analytic technologies can sift through larger amounts of sources at an accelerated rate to reveal patterns that may not be recognizable to the human eye, especially as they happen in real-time. They can provide that objective, multi-dimensional perspective that can be hard to achieve otherwise. The machine spends time capturing this information, so we as humans can spend more time translating it into action plans that have real world and business relevance.
Skroupa: You founded eRevalue one year ago to advance the role of technology within this space, and drive what you call "pragmatic innovation" in business. What is pragmatic innovation, and how does technology help facilitate this in business?
Alma: Corporate decision-makers struggle to manage complexity every day, and it’s tempting to solve complex problems with complex solutions – but it’s ineffective and unnecessary. Pragmatic innovation stems from an ability to cut through this complexity and focus on where you as a business have, and can have, the most impact, whether it’s negative or positive. Many of today’s most successful companies exemplify this ability. Tesla, for instance, couples efficiency with minimalism to achieve design sexiness, advanced performance and boundary-breaking efficiency. As Tesla exemplifies, technology helps us tap into new forms of innovation that can breed competitive business models and positively impact society-at-large.
That’s exactly why I founded eRevalue – to help reinforce these strengths in companies worldwide, the “Teslas” and “non-Teslas” alike, though the “non-Teslas” especially need some help.
Skroupa: What challenges and opportunities lie ahead for companies when it comes to balancing out short- and long-term value creation?
Alma: The key challenge is to stay on top of the issues that matter most to your business, which are increasingly shaped by a variety of stakeholders– the public, environment, shareholders, regulators. It’s a matter of being tuned in at all times, and sharp enough to cut through the noise to identify what actually matters to your business – now and in the future.
Google, for example, has committed $150 million to workforce diversity – a “hot” topic in Silicon Valley that has received a fair amount of negative press. An interesting commitment, but it can also be seen as a reactive measure. Balancing out the short- and long-term will be dependent on being proactive in these types of commitments.
Skroupa: eRevalue just launched Datamaran™. Tell us a bit about Datamaran™ and how it fits into the larger landscapes of risk management and ESG.
Alma: Datamaran V1 has set its sails today on 2 June - our first anniversary – to an exclusive group of companies that helped co-create and co-innovate the product. We’ve had the unique opportunity of collaborating with senior decision-makers from BSH, Mahindra Sanyo Steel, HP, KPMG and others to build Datamaran.
Datamaran is an emerging issues management system that delivers real-time analytics on regulatory developments, competitor activity, industry best practice and public opinions around financial, environmental, social and corporate governance issues. It provides an all-around view of these issues, tailored to any particular situation, so a variety of users – legal counsel, risk managers, financial officers, sustainability leads – can interact simultaneously with the data while contributing their specific expertise. This multi-user capability helps to break down silos within a company and between the issues themselves. Additionally, a company can use it to screen suppliers as well as customers. With value chains becoming more complex, this is where the risk and opportunities may lie.
Provided as a Software-as-a-Service to corporate decision-makers, Datamaran extracts narrative from a variety of publicly available sources – corporate reports, websites, regulations and digital media. This information is quality checked by our team of analysts – legal, industry, financial, investment and corporate responsibility experts – before it is distilled into interactive visualizations of markets and trends.
Currently, we track over 130 issues worldwide. We provide this analysis for 6,000+ companies and we have compiled hundreds of regulatory initiatives that affect corporate disclosure – but Datamaran’s databases are constantly evolving, as they adapt with the global markets to capture emerging trends. For instance, modern slavery and green bonds - issues that are complex in their own right and on which we are able to capture digestible data to indicate how these issues may become increasingly regulated in the future. As we like to say, we do the legwork, you do the masterminding.