26 Jul 2021

In our exclusive interview with Michael Couture – Chief Product Officer at Cority – and Manfred Heil – CEO at WeSustain – find out what the strategic vision of the recent merger of the two companies is about. In addition, learn why there is an unstoppable momentum for digital transformation and sustainability as well as what role software solutions can and will play in it.

Cority is one of the leading global EHS software providers. To what extent is it the logical next strategic step for Cority to address the management challenge of „sustainability“ within the market-leading CorityOne™ platform?

Michael Couture:
We were thrilled to join forces with WeSustain because of the critical importance of ESG and Sustainability management globally. We felt the product and the specialized team would bring a great deal to CorityOne™ and the early indications are beyond our expectations. We have a roadmap that will see us both continue to enhance WeSustain, but also bring tight integration across EHS and Sustainability for operational EHS data and enhanced reporting and dashboards over the coming few months.

 WeSustain’s aim is and always has been to make businesses more sustainable and future-proof in Europe and around the world. To what extent is the merger with Cority the perfect match for this objective?

Manfred Heil:
In order to meet these targets a couple of important prerequisites have to be fulfilled. It goes without saying that there has to be a compelling strategic reasoning in terms of product and market. But equally important, there has to be the right fit between people and culture of the companies involved to make things happen. During our early discussions and “bonding” time we had the opportunity to meet the Cority team and we’ve been impressed with their business values and professional attitude. In addition, there was a good sense of humor and positive vibes.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) emphasize in goal 17 that strategic alliances are essential for sustainable development. What is special about the alliance formed between WeSustain as a new member of the Cority family? What specific potential for more sustainability in business do you want to leverage?

Michael Couture: Coming out of the pandemic, the interest in digitising sustainability performance management is overwhelming from companies around the world. We believe that by partnering with WeSustain that we can utilize our global reach to help our current customers – the likes of Unilever, PPG, ExxonMobil, and more than a thousand others – as well as new clients, improve their sustainability performance; holding themselves and their partners more accountable to improve performance in developed and developing nations.

Manfred Heil: At WeSustain we always believed in decentral structures and networks of innovation. And I know that Cority is the same. Sustainability asks to look at things holistically and integrated. On the flip side this drives complexity and the need of combining complementary competencies and experience. Providing our customers with integrated solutions, which share a set of common raw data and provide a unified user experience in terms of workflows and business logic will improve productivity dramatically and generate new insights for our customers.


In the age of digitization and Big Data, two transformational pathways are growing increasingly closer together, the digital and sustainable transformation. How does Cority combine these two pathways?

Michael Couture: Digital transformation has been accelerating for several years, but the pandemic has exponentially increased that trend as we see in our everyday „new normal“ lives. This has fueled demand for cloud-based software solutions to help enterprises both automate processes for efficiency and improve compliance (as HSE software has done for many years), but also utilize insights from the data collected to become more predictive and prescriptive in how they can improve their EHS and sustainability performance. Cority is investing significantly in the area of analytics and ultimately Industry 2.0 capabilities that tap into this opportunity to empower our clients to achieve the highest levels of performance.

Manfred Heil: The international presence and reach of Cority will enable us to achieve a much broader presence in an accelerated fashion. For me that’s one of the main drivers. We see that the pieces of the puzzles are now starting to fall into place in terms of harmonization of reporting standards and international regulations. With Cority we will achieve the scale and pace in order to leverage the great work of our team around the globe.


Where do you think North America currently stands compared to Europe in terms of sustainable development?

Michael Couture: Frankly, North America is just awakening relative to the advanced nature of the subject in Europe. However, it is doing so at a very rapid rate now, in part driven by ESG in the financial sector. We plan to continue to advance the great innovations that WeSustain has been bringing European firms for 10 years, and to also offer that to meet the exploding demand for digital sustainability software solutions in North America. The tight integration of EHS and operational data for Cority will add tremendous value to this overall proposition.

 Manfred Heil: I can only confirm this observation. North America is catching up fast. Of course, the EU is doing some ground-breaking and bold work currently. Still, I sometimes wonder if we are doing it too complex and too theoretical on this side of the pond, which potentially dilutes the intended impact. So, North America with more of a pragmatic business focus and result-driven approach could be a valuable counter-draft in that regard. Eventually concepts will blend in the near future.


What are the next major milestones Cority is pursuing together with WeSustain in 2021?

Michael Couture: We have an aggressive plan for product integration that is underway and our teams are now working as one in unity to advance the WeSustain platform and the overall CorityOne™ offering. We’ll be educating our clients as a first step on what can be anticipated, listening to our clients suggestions and feedback and working to improve the offerings. We have many events and communications planned in the coming months to do that.


What can WeSustain existing customers expect in the coming weeks and months?

Manfred Heil: Of course, we will do the internal homework and integrate the existing solutions and processes on all relevant levels. Both companies have been using similar technology and architecture in the past. So integration will be swift and seamless with ready to use integration scenarios as of Q3 2021. We will reach out to our existing customers to keep them up to speed with the integration process and new solutions available. In addition we will invite them to the bigger Cority user community as a platform for on-going engagement and joint innovation.


Empower for better tomorrows. On that note: What is your very personal entrepreneurial vision for a sustainable future?

Michael Couture: I’m not exactly a ‚visionary‘, but I do have some strong opinions on the power of technology to solve big problems and drive real change in our lives. It’s as much about a hope as it is a vision, but I really do think that there is unstoppable momentum coming out of the pandemic in the areas of digital transformation and sustainability. I envision a world where companies‘ economic best interests become one with that of the wellbeing of society that they operate in. I think it’s starting to happen. We’ll definitely do our part at Cority/WeSustain to help.

Manfred Heil: This will be a question of “freedom and responsibility” for us as mankind and therefore very much politically driven. When we were founding our company, we put the “We” in front of our name. I can only hope that the “We” (instead of a pervasive “I”) becomes the common perspective in the upcoming political and societal discussions ahead.

23 Mar 2021

Whether upstream or downstream, supply chains attract particular attention in terms of sustainable development. The decision for a German supply chain law has now been politically announced and aims to make corporate due diligence obligations binding.

von Marie-Lucie Linde, Freelancer at WeSustain and consultant for sustainable business management

In the era of globalization and its anchored principle of ” global division of labor”, our economy is defined by high levels of international interconnections and interdependencies. Industries are globally connected through their production and procurement structures in a wide variety of directions, as are their new sales markets.

Food producers, for example, source raw materials from Africa or South America, and textile manufacturers have their products made in Asia. In this special feature, we take a closer look – following the decision to introduce a German supply chain law – and explore what new corporate due diligence obligations are associated with the law and how these can be met – for instance, with the help of digital processes.

Supply chains and their relevance for sustainability

Modern supply chains go hand in hand with an increasingly high level of social and environmental responsibility. This has matured as a clear awareness not only in economy, but also in politics. The German Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs therefore provides the following definition of the term “supply chain” and the resulting corporate responsibility:

The supply chain encompasses the entire path of a product, from the extraction of raw materials, through manufacturing and processing, to the delivery of the product to the end customer. In the globalized world, several companies and suppliers are often involved in production. That’s why it’s important to look at the entire supply chain and pay attention to human rights, including working conditions and environmental protection.1

And so, for many companies, there are risks but also opportunities in taking a special look at the supply chain:


  • a prevailing lack of transparency in the supply chains with regard to sustainability-relevant aspects
  • a lack of enforcement and control of sustainability aspects along the supply chain
  • potential economic damage due to violation of minimum social and environmental standards (fines, sanctions, property damage, etc.)
  • Reputational risks due to insufficient fulfilment of corporate responsibility (example: Kik in connection with the collapse of the Rana Plaza textile factory, Bangladesh)2


  • Proactive risk and compliance management in terms of minimum social and ecological standards
  • more transparency and control over their supply chain 
  • An increase in competitiveness through a sustainable supply chain
  • a strengthened own credibility and consumer confidence (through the created transparency)
  • a positive image as “corporate citizen” by assuming corporate responsibility along the supply chain.

In practice, this outlined area of conflict between opportunities and risks confronts companies with challenges and tasks that are not to be underestimated.

Focus on new corporate due diligence requirements

In order to make corporate responsibility more tangible in the context of sustainable supply chains, so-called “corporate due diligence requirements” have been defined according to OECD guidelines3 in the following areas over the past few years:

  • Respect for human rights (e.g. prohibition of child labor, protection against slavery and forced labor, social labor protection, etc.)
  • Compliance with environmental standards if they lead to human rights violations (e.g. poisoned water)
  • Avoidance of corruption, bribery, demands for bribes and bribery extortion
  • Respect for consumer interests
  • Duty of disclosure

In Germany, expectations of corporate due diligence to respect human rights have been specified in the “National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights” (NAP for short), with the aim of improving the human rights situation in global supply chains. According to the NAP, human rights due diligence includes the following five elements or tasks:

  • Recognize responsibility
  • Identify risks
  • Minimize risks
  • Inform and report
  • Enable complaints

What in theory sounds so simple turns out to be much more demanding in practice: A representative survey conducted in July 2020 as element of the National Action Plan showed that only between 13 to 17 percent of the companies surveyed meet these NAP requirements.4 

A milestone: Binding obligation through a supply chain law

In order to make corporate due diligence requirements along the supply chain more binding, a very special solution has been lobbied for over the past few years: a supply chain law. Tireless negotiations between economic and political representatives came to an end in February 2021 with the decision by the German Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs in favor of such a law. And so it is definite: A supply chain law in Germany is indeed coming.

Fact sheet on the German Supply Chain Law (in accordance with the resolution of the German Bundestag):5

Name: “Law on Corporate Due Diligence to Prevent Human Rights Violations in Supply Chains” (also: “Due Diligence Act”).


  • Creating more justice for workers worldwide and empowering victims of human rights violations and civil society
  • Creation of legal certainty for German companies
  • Binding regulation of corporate due diligence requirements along the supply chain


Entry into force and affected parties:

The law will apply to companies with 3,000 or more employees from 2023, and to companies with 1,000 or more employees from 2024. The German Supply Chain Law has yet to be passed as part of the legislative process.


  • Establish and implement appropriate and effective risk management along the supply chain
  • Conduct a risk analysis to identify particularly high human rights and environmental risks
  • Take preventive and mitigative measures to prevent violations
  • Establish responsibilities for due diligence, e.g. appoint a human rights officer
  • Setting up a complaints procedure to address possible violations or breaches
  • Prepare and submit an annual report on compliance with due diligence requirements 

Similar to the CSR reporting obligation that came into force in 2017, only large companies will be directly affected and held accountable by the German Supply Chain Law. However, it is to be expected that with this law, too, the estimated 600 affected companies in Germany6 will pass on their compliance with due diligence requirements to their medium-sized suppliers and service providers in the upstream and downstream supply chain. And just as with the CSR reporting obligation at the time, there are two main forces in the market: those (e.g. “Initiative Lieferkettengesetz”) who see the law as a toothless tiger in terms of sustainable development, and those (e.g. business associations such as BDI) who see the law as a disproportionate burden on companies. At the same time, 50 companies have publicly spoken out for legal regulation in a joint statement.7

One thing is certain: The German Supply Chain Law will bring new requirements to companies in terms of supply chain management and the creation of transparency and collaboration along the supply chain. The key challenge is to integrate the extended due diligence requirements into the existing compliance management system and to introduce corresponding risk analysis and documentations.

Digital and collaborative management systems as part of the solution

In creating transparency along an entity as complex as the supply chain, there will be no avoiding an extensive and comprehensive digitization of processes. Digital solutions will be needed to help companies in practice to monitor their supply chains on a continuous, fact-based basis. To this end, data must be collected collaboratively along the supply chain, evaluated holistically and transferred into corresponding documentation. 

At WeSustain, software provider for responsible business management, this necessity in the context of sustainability reporting was already detected 10 years ago. “We observe that corporate sustainability has become a central management task in companies, which needs to be planned, controlled and communicated professionally. However, many companies still lack orientation on how to integrate processes efficiently and professionally, moving away from Excel spreadsheets to smart and collaborative process solutions. This also applies to supply chain management,” stresses Markus Bowe, product manager at WeSustain. Thus, based on the Enterprise Sustainability Management (ESM) solution, WeSustain offers its customers proven digital and collaborative process structures to create transparency on sustainability-relevant aspects. One example of this kind of solution developed by WeSustain is the digital platform “GS1 Ecotraxx” for GS1 Germany – a private sector organisation for modern communication and process standards. It is used for the efficient exchange of sustainability information between producers, suppliers and retailers.



Currently, there is a patchwork of national and sector-specific standards and laws regulating corporate due diligence along the supply chain. Countries in the EU such as the Netherlands and France are leading the way with their already adopted legal regulations, even if these are being criticized for not being far-reaching enough. The EU Commission is also planning to introduce an EU law this year that will make companies liable if they violate or contribute to violations of human rights, environmental standards and good governance.8

In the end, the key to full transparency and traceability of supply chains lies in the digitalization and Big Data. Innovative and digital tools are needed to support companies in this new management challenge. Blockchain technology is highly anticipated for supply chain management. In the future, blockchain technology could make it possible to reliably collect data along the supply chain and to verify and secure it by means of encryption.9

Fußnoten zum Themenspecial: “Nachhaltige Lieferketten auf dem Vormarsch”:

2 Cf. “Kik-Textilien in eingestürztem Fabrikgebäude”:LINK, vom 2.5.2013.
3 Cf. OECD: “OECD-Leitfaden für die Erfüllung der Sorgfaltspflicht für verantwortungsvolles unternehmerisches Handeln”, S. 10.
4 Cf. BMAS:  LINK, abgerufen am 14.3.2021.
5 Cf. Referentenentwurf des BMAS “Gesetz über die unternehmerische Sorgfaltspflichten in Lieferketten” vom 15.2.2021
6 Cf. CSR in Deutschland: LINK, abgerufen am 14.03.2021.
7 Cf. Tagesschau:LINK
8 Cf. LINK, abgerufen am 16.03.2021
9 Cf. EU-Parlament: LINK, abgerufen am 16.03.2021.
10 Cf. CHE Manager: “Mehr Transparenz durch digitale Lieferketten” LINK, abgerufen am 11.03.2021.

26 Nov 2020

17 global sustainability goals and 5 to 7 trillion US dollars per year to achieve them.  The Sustainable Development Goals and their financing represent a challenge to societies, the real economy and the capital market. The “SDG Investment Case” is designed to close the gap between aspirations and reality.

by Marie-Lucie Linde, freelancer at WeSustain and consultant for sustainable business management

At the SDG Business Forum in 2017, leading business organisations, private sector institutions and networks highlighted the importance of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for business: “SDGs provide a new lens through which companies can translate the world’s needs and ambitions into business solutions (…).1

But the SDGs are not only of central importance for companies. They have become a universal framework that commits all actors in the global community to a clear and unprecedented vision of how to tackle the world’s most pressing problems, such as poverty, hunger and climate change. In addition to companies, the private sector of the financial market plays a key role in this process. In this special we therefore ask what relevance the SDGs have for investors and what is hidden behind the so-called “SDG Investment Case”.

The SDGs – a universal vision for the world

The United Nations Agenda 2030 and with it the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted by the global international community – both industrialised and developing countries alike – in 2015. An international breakthrough of unprecedented proportions and long overdue for sustainable development, emphasized the then UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: “Ours can be the first generation to end poverty – and the last generation to address climate change before it is too late.2

The 17 sustainability goals represent a universal agenda for tackling the most pressing problems of the 21st century and paint a clear picture of a world worth living in 2030. With their 169 sub-targets, the SDGs provide the international community with a framework of clear objectives and areas for action that have to be worked towards. The SDGs are thus a “call to action” to create a new and sustainable model for the future by achieving economic growth without endangering our environment or imposing unjust burdens on other societies. This call goes to all market players with no exception:

  • to entire countries, which are to create the political environment and incentives through their national sustainability strategies
  • to companies that are expected to contribute to solving specific problems such as climate change, poverty and inequality through sustainable business solutions, and
  • to investors, mainly from the private sector, who should use the SDGs as a guideline for responsible investing in order to provide the necessary financing for the SDGs.

SDG Goals








Figure 1: United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals

The SDGs and the capital market

According to experts, making SDGs a reality requires an investment of about 5 to 7 trillion US dollars per year. However, when you look at the current situation, there is a significant gap between what is needed to achieve the SDGs and what is currently available in financial resources. Experts refer in this context to the so-called “SDG funding or financing gap”, which needs to be closed from 2015 to 2030. But who is to close this gap and how?

At the latest with this question, the SDGs – along with governments worldwide – have reached the capital market. After all, private financing and private capital in particular have the potential to close the SDG financing gap. And so the call goes out to investors to redirect their investment flows to the new innovative products and services that focus on achieving SDGs. “In contrast to the ESG approach, the focus on the SDGs contributes to the active solving of problems. This is why we operate the SDG INVESTMENTS platform, which focuses exclusively on arranging financing for companies whose services and product solutions have a positive contribution to the SDGs“, emphasises Frank Ackermann, Managing Partner at SDG Investments. The Business & Sustainable Development Commission and the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment (UN PRI) also point out that there is a clear “SDG Investment Case” for private sector investors: After all, the SDGs could open up market opportunities of up to 12 trillion US dollars in food, agriculture, cities and municipalities, energy and raw materials and health care alone, and create 380 million new jobs by 2030.3 

In addition, the 21st century fiduciary duty states that investors, as part of their duty to beneficiaries, must consider all material financial factors, regardless of their origin. This means that environmental, social and governance issues (ESG criteria) and risks must play a central role in financial analysis and portfolio building strategies in addition to strictly financial factors. The most prominent example at present is the integration of climate-related risks into existing risk processes, as recommended by the German Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (BaFin) in its leaflet on dealing with sustainability risks. And so the UN PRI initiative defines responsible investment as a strategy and practice for integrating ESG factors into investment decisions. And at the same time, the UN PRI signatories make a clear commitment to the SDGs in the preamble to the “6 Principles for Responsible Investment”: “We recognise that applying these principles may better align investors with the broader objectives of society”. Furthermore, in its 2017 publication “The SDG Investment Case”, UN PRI stresses that never before have these “broader objectives of society” been more explicitly defined than in the SDGs.4

UN PRI marks the “SDG Investment Case”

The United Nations initiative “UN PRI” with its “6 principles for responsible investing” and its clear statement of position has had a significant impact on the current debate around the “SDG Investment Case”. The over 2,400 signatories of the principles jointly commit themselves to an ambitious mission: “We believe that an economically efficient, sustainable global financial system is a necessity for long-term value creation. Such a system will reward long-term, responsible investment and benefit the environment and society as a whole.5

Consistent with this mission, the UN PRI, in partnership with the UN Alliance for SDG Finance and others, is advancing the SDG investment case and is calling on investors to adopt impact-oriented strategies. With the publication “The SDG Investment Case”, UN PRI sets the tone for responsible investing in the sense of the SDGs and provides an answer to the question why the SDGs are so relevant to investment strategies, asset allocation and investment decisions.

Here 5 arguments are in the focus6:

  1. The SDGs are the globally agreed sustainability framework to be financed until 2030 by investing money in long-term and sustainable companies and economies.
  2. The SDGs are part of fiduciary duty, as they give global concrete form to environmental, social and governance issues (in short: ESG).
  3. The SDGs will drive global economic growth and create enormous market opportunities.
  4. The SDGs are suitable for microeconomic risk management by identifying external costs and their financial materiality, thus strengthening ESG risk frameworks among investors.
  5. The SDGs can be translated into a capital allocation guide for various asset classes as more and more companies align their business models with the SDGs.

This argumentation is comprehensible to most investors, which is why many consider the role of the SDGs to be central to the development of a responsible investment agenda for the next 10 years. And yet, for many, the “SDG investment case” is still in its early stages: many investors still have no answer to the question of whether and how the SDGs will influence their investment strategy, policies, asset allocation and other investment decisions. The planned EU taxonomy is supposed to contribute to answering this question. “For each industry, the taxonomy defines criteria for climate-friendly measures to avoid emissions (mitigation) or to adapt (adaptation), such as emission limits for cars or green steel processes in the production of steel. Investors who finance measures and comply with these criteria can mark their investment as green and call it taxonomy-compliant.8

The role of Big Data for the “SDG Investment Case”

In the real economy and on the capital market, more and more players are using the SDGs as a framework to make the impact of sustainability or ESG activities measurable. And where the word “measurability” is used, the topic of “big data” is not too far away. And so data also represents a central potential for transformation in this context. “New sources of data – such as satellite data -, new technologies, and new analytical approaches, if applied responsibly, can enable more agile, efficient and evidence-based decision-making and can better measure progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in a way that is both inclusive and fair9, underlines the United Nations in its statement “Big Data for Sustainable Development”. 

And here too, the private sector plays a key role, as it does on the capital market to close the SDG financing gap. Because a lot of data is currently being collected by the private sector. Arturo Martinez, statistician in the Department of Economic Research and Regional Cooperation, and Jose Ramon Albert, research fellow at the “Philippine Institute for Development Studies” explore in their blog post “Big Data can transform SDG performance” the opportunities and challenges in measuring the impact of the SDGs. Their main assessment is: “The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) offer specific, time-bound, and quantifiable targets in sync with national development plans and priorities. However, with over 230 SDG indicators—many of which require disaggregation by location, sex, gender, age, income, and other relevant dimensions—collecting the necessary granular data to monitor all SDGs and targets is no easy feat for national statistical systems (NSS).10

The trend towards “Big Data”, which the two scientists likewise describe, thus plays into the cards for impact measurement in the sense of the SDGs: the enormous amount of data generated by increasingly digitised processes and modern technologies such as software solutions in the private sector can create the basis for reliable measurement. As a result, first companies are beginning to match their business activities and their additional commitment to these 17 SDGs in order to identify which of the goals they can make a measurable contribution to. However, impact measurement along the SDGs, as well as the “SDG Investment Case”, is still in its early stages. In practice, there is often a lack of reliable management tools to collect and analyse the relevant data for impact measurement. The software provider for responsible business management – WeSustain – as an example has detected this need of companies and is now supporting with its “Impact Management Software” to professionalise their operational impact measurement along the SDGs. With the help of numerous features, users can reliably collect data, evaluate the impact of individual projects using targets such as the SDGs and generate reports.

The SDGs as guideline for a sustainable transformation

The “SDG Investment Case” drawn here and promoted by the UN PRI initiative shows that we have matured in terms of sustainable development: Leaving the age of “do no harm” and entering the age of “real-world impacts”. It is becoming increasingly clear that “doing safe by doing good” in the form of a proactive ESG strategy is a factor of success for investors. The orientation towards the SDGs offers immense market opportunities – both for the real economy and for investors. But only if we manage to close the financing gap, i.e. by bringing together capital and sustainable business solutions to tackle the world’s most pressing problems addressed in the SDGs. Capital flows from the private sector will be of crucial importance in this process, which is why we can look forward with anticipation to the EU taxonomy becoming more concrete. For the implementation of the SDGs, Big Data and smart data-based tools will become a new standard, so that the “real-world impact” in terms of the SDGs will be steerable, measurable and transparent in the future. This is the only way we will be able to steer and work concretely towards the target picture for 2030.

Footnotes used in the article: “Closing the gap with the “SDG Investment Case”:

1 Cf. LINK, accessed on 05.11.2020.
2 Cf.  LINK, accessed on 14.11.2020.
3 Cf. UNPD (2017):  LINK, accessed on 14.11.2020.
4 Cf. UNPD (2017):  LINK, accessed on 14.11.2020.
5 Cf. UN PRI (2017): “”SDG Investment Case””: LINK, accessed on 02.11.2020.
6 Cf. UN PRI (2017): “”SDG Investment Case””: LINK, accessed on 02.11.2020.
7 Cf. Susanne Bergius im Handelsblatt (2018): “Nachhaltige Investments – UN-Ziele zum Investmentfall machen”. S. 3.
8 Cf. Dr. Matthias Kannegiesser – sustainable natives eG (2020): LINK, accessed on 14.11.2020
9 Cf. UN, LINK, accessed on 14.11.2020.
10 Cf. Asian Development Blog (ADB): LINK, accessed on 14.11.2020.
11 Cf. UN PRI: LINK, accessed on 14.11.2020.

29 Jul 2020

Our society, economy and politics are facing unprecedented challenges. The reason: a virus called Corona. At the same time, it is accelerating a change towards more digitalisation and sustainability. How the Corona virus challenges companies and how WeSustain can support them by providing new solutions.

by Marie-Lucie Linde

Covid-19, Sars-CoV-2 or Corona. Three terms that refer to one and the same virus that has thrown the world community into an exceptional and unprecedented situation since this spring. From the tragic loss of human lives, social distancing and the wearing of masks in public to the shutdown of entire economic sectors (car industry, tourism, etc.), the virus has turned our society and economy upside down and changed it irrevocably. In view of the high loss of human lives caused by Corona, it is almost presumptuous that one would want to take something positive out of the crisis. But it is human to look for something positive in crisis in order to accept the suffering and all the changes. And so, many entrepreneurs ask themselves: What changes or developments do I want to positively carry forward in the future for my company from this crisis? What new challenges has Corona brought to my company? This special is also intended to show which of these new challenges can be met by companies using WeSustain solutions?

From the existential crisis, to standing machines, up to ghost offices

Every company is affected and challenged by Corona in one form or another. Reports about large corporations (e.g. Lufthansa) and entire industries (restauration and tourism), which fear for their existence, are accumulating. Bankruptcies and insolvencies become a mass phenomenon. Only through the emergency aid packages that politicians have put together in short-term, the economic collapse is avoided, at both national and European level. But even today, in some companies, both operations and machinery are at a standstill, despite easing measures.

Companies that were able to keep their operations going during the crisis, for their part, are looking into ghost offices. Only occasionally do employees return from their home offices – wherever possible – to their offices. Empty desks, quiet corridors and small meetings with distance regulations or video conferences characterise the image of offices and everyday business life. But the Corona virus has not only changed everyday business life, it has also brought about completely new operational challenges: from a different form of collaboration, increasing digitisation, new requirements for supply chain, compliance and risk management – i.e. extended operator responsibilities – to new financial communication challenges for companies. While WeSustain, as a software provider for responsible business management, is also challenged by Corona, the exchange with customers has intensified in these special times. Because all of them are looking for solutions to master the new and operational challenges.

Digital and analogue: See? There you go!

In theory, in the age of digitisation, every company should have gotten used to analogue and digital collaboration. In practice, until recently the opposite was still a living reality: the possibility of working from home offices or meeting with customers or partners via teleconferencing was either avoided or scarcely available in many companies up until 2020. The assumption that home office employees were actually productive was simply too small. And even business trips to customers or partners became a must, if not a status symbol for personal or business success.

Corona has now proven that digital collaboration in companies works perfectly from a home office. Entire workforces were sent home because of the risk of infection and equipped with the appropriate hardware and software. Ignoring the loss of liquidity caused by a collapsed order situation or the domestic challenge of childcare, non-producing companies in particular were able to continue working as before. So even WeSustain as a software developer without a physical production is challenged by the new situation, WeSustain is still able to work effectively. Crucial factor for this: From the very beginning WeSustain has been focusing on digital work processes and decentralized structures for teamwork and can therefore – even in times of Corona – keep up business and software development from the home office.

The lawmakers have made their necessary contribution to accelerate this change in working together: For example, management boards, supervisory boards or shareholders’ meetings may now take place online and will continue to do so in the future. This is a change and a new mindset on effective collaboration in companies that will shape the working world of today and tomorrow: Instead of mistrust and control, trust and ownership will gain acceptance in corporate culture. Definitely a positive effect of the crisis.

The sleeping giant has finally woken up

The Corona crisis is having another effect: it has given an immense boost to digitisation in companies and made what was previously thought impossible possible in a very short time. All of a sudden, companies and administrations have extensively digitized their work processes, because if they didn’t, they would no longer be able to operate. Here are a few examples from industries that are now implementing digital solutions that were previously much discussed and in some cases criticized:

  • the healthcare sector, which is making use of telemedicine and digital consultation hours
  • universities, which are transforming entire university curricula into online lectures
  • the real estate industry, which uses online viewings and digital tools to match property and tenants/buyers1
  • politics with perhaps the most prominent example in form of the Corona App

The crisis has resolved perceived obstacles to more digitalisation in companies and thus paved the way for change. At the same time, it has shown and made transparent where the German economy has failed to take action in terms of digitisation. Germany has an acute need to catch up, especially in the area of IT security, as the incident in North Rhine-Westphalia in connection with the allocation of emergency aid funds has shown. ” At present it can be seen that those who were already very far along in digitisation were least restricted by Corona and quickly found their way into a new way of working. No matter whether home office, digital schools or digital administrations: Wherever the digital transformation was already far advanced, one could seamlessly enter a new mode. Digital companies, such as online retailers, currently have the least problems,” emphasizes Christopher Meinecke, a known digitisation expert and head of the “Digital Transformation” department at the German Association for Information Science, Telecommunications and New Media. (Bitkom) in Berlin. Manfred Heil, CEO at WeSustain, agrees: “Not only since Corona we know that a professionalisation of operational processes is mainly digital and collaborative. This applies to sustainability, ESG, compliance and audit management as well as to all other corporate areas. That’s why we develop software solutions that establish digital structures in companies and offer employees a collaborative platform to work on joint projects”.

Some other leading experts, just as before Meinecke, see the danger that this development towards more digitisation could remain a one-time effect and that the willingness to invest in consistent digitisation could be weakened by the costs of the crisis. They therefore call for the new momentum in digitisation activities to be consistently carried into the future.2

Glocalisation as a new principle 

In addition to digital experts, leading futurologists are looking above all at global value chains and the supply chain management of companies. Again, the “Corona” magnifying glass reveals a weak point: Global supply chains are fragile and carry the risk of collapse in case of supply bottlenecks or complete delivery failures. The call for “glocalisation” – i.e. globalisation with stronger local and regional components – is therefore becoming louder and louder. The aim for European countries, for example, should be to manufacture and stock their products primarily within the EU in order to shorten transport distances and save emissions on the one hand and reduce their dependency on entirely globally organized and outsourced supply chains on the other. Again, digitisation and new technologies as well as software solutions play a special role: “Supply chain management in particular is complex and brings with it particular challenges in terms of consistent data and its transparency. With the help of our WeSustain software, we support companies in systematically identifying and managing sustainability risks along the supply chain, which have now become increasingly important due to the crisis,” says Manfred Heil.

Corona therefore reinforces the call for a digital transformation in order to connect decentralized and local processes with global processes in a way that creates meaning and value. One example of how this can be achieved is additive manufacturing, which already today makes digital development but local production of products possible. However, not only digitisation but also the promotion of circular economy plays a central role in the context of “glocalisation”. Only if resources are reintroduced into the value chain in a closed-loop system, companies will be able to emancipate themselves from global supply chains in the future.1

New territory: non-financial risks and extended operator responsibilities

In times of the corona pandemic, risk and compliance managers in companies are once again called upon. They are the ones who are currently performing numerous additional tasks (e.g. business continuity management or publishing ad hoc reports) and making a vital contribution to limiting the damage to companies. In this context, Corona has above all identified new risks which only allow for a limited use of proven control instruments. This is because they are mainly caused by “non-financial risks”. Examples for this kind of risks are reputational risks, IT system failures (cybercrime) and IT security risks or sustainability and/or ESG risks. Risk and compliance management in times of Corona is therefore new territory for many.2

In addition to securing the financial existence, especially the compliance departments of companies are currently busy ensuring complete legal conformity with new country-specific and authority measures – especially with regard to the Infection Protection Act. After all, these measures entail a number of sanctioning risks: for example, the risk of paying horrendous fines if the company violates the order to close the operating site, to name just one example. The particular challenge lies above all in keeping oneself constantly informed about the rapidly changing administrative regulations –some of which are issued in urgent proceedings – and in implementing them adequately in order to guarantee legal compliance for the company.3 A reliable software solution such as WeSustain’s “Enterprise Compliance Management” (ECM) solution can be a valuable support in this context. Among other things, relevant legal cadasters are always updated and users are immediately informed about the update so that compliance managers can respond quickly and legally compliant.

Experts agree that the professional handling of the Corona pandemic lies within the operator responsibilities of companies. After all, it no longer only includes the responsible operating of technical systems and the legally compliant operation of buildings, but also the employer’s duty of care for their employees in the form of health and safety measures (keyword: HSE or EHS). However, it is still being discussed what the outsourcing of responsibilities away from the private individual (employee) to a private enterprise level (company) means for operator responsibilities and legal compliance outside such exceptional events such as the corona pandemic.4

Sustainability paves its way into investor relations

The Corona crisis has also given a boost to corporate financial communication, especially with regard to sustainability. Even though the topic of “Green Finance” or “Sustainable Finance” is still new territory for many investor relations departments, it is now right at the top of the agenda due to upcoming regulations, but also due to the corona crisis. The call on the capital market is becoming louder and louder to bring the sustainability department, which is primarily responsible for the management and communication of non-financial aspects (ESG) of the company, closer to the investor relations department. In the future, digital data management and reporting processes, such as the ESG solution or the “Enterprise Sustainability Management” (ESM) solution from WeSustain, will become vital for these departments: “We are working closely with stakeholders from the financial market, who give us concrete indications as to which new challenges for financial communication digitized processes can simplify,” reports Dr. Manfred Heil from WeSustain.

Last but not least, the financial recovery packages at both national and European level have established the importance of sustainable transformation. The rebuilding of Europe after Corona – among other measures through the “Green Deal” – is a historic opportunity for many to push climate protection and consistently reduce investments in “dirty” investments. This time, the central concern shall be to direct the money to a large extent not again, as after the financial crisis in 2008, to climate-damaging sectors, but above all towards the decarbonisation of the economy. This will give companies that focus on sustainable business strategies and integrated and transparent non-financial reporting through their investor relations a clear competitive advantage in the market of the future.

And what is left in the end?

The Corona crisis changed a world of things: People, whole societies, but also politics and economies. The way we interact with each other in our private lives as well as in our professional lives has changed. The exceptional and unprecedented situation triggered by a virus has clearly accelerated processes of change towards more digitisation and sustainability, and has made the previously impossible possible. But whether companies will carry these changes or developments forward into the future has to be seen and depends on the solutions they have at their disposal. “We are convinced that if companies now combine digitisation and sustainability initiatives, e.g. through our IT platforms, the reciprocal effect between digitisation and sustainability can be made efficient and meaningful,” says WeSustain CEO, Manfred Heil. The hope therefore prevails that even after the acute pandemic, companies will continue to proactively shape the “new normal” in the sense of a sustainable and digital transformation. The global community now has the once unique opportunity to choose a new path.

sources “A virus with big impact”:
1 cf. WELT AM SONNTAG: “Plötzlich schafft Deutschland, was bisher unmöglich schien” LINK, accessed on 05.07.2020.
3 cf. WELT AM SONNTAG: “Plötzlich schafft Deutschland, was bisher unmöglich schien” LINK, accessed on 05.07.2020.
4 cf. LOGISTIK Express: “‘Glokalisierung’ als Antwort auf Corona” LINK, accessed on 05.07.2020.
5 cf. Haufe: “Risikomanagement und Coronavirus – worauf es jetzt ankommt” LINK, accessed on 07.07.2020.
6 cf. Haufe: “Neue Compliance-Risiken für Unternehmen in Zeiten der Corona-Pandemie.” LINK, accessed on 09.07.2020.
7 cf. Weka Akademie: “Hat Corona etwas mit Betreiberverantwortung zu tun?” LINK, accessed on 09.07.2020.
25 Mar 2020

Private markets: A decade with a new imperative

Private markets are moving from a prosperous decade into a decade of change. Strategies that have been successful so far must be reviewed for sustainability risks and thus for their licence-to-operate. Read our trend report to find out which trends (e.g. ESG) will shape private markets in the new decade.

by Marie-Lucie Linde

Private markets can look back on a decade of prosperity and steady growth. In recent years, however, developments have emerged that announce a new decade of change and bring leading players in the private markets to the question: How can a new growth formula look like in times of climate change and global sustainability goals (in short: SDGs)?

Considering that about 5 years ago, very few Limited Partners (LPs) and General Partners (GPs) were acting in the sense of impact investing and according to ESG criteria, the developments of the last few years are all more impressive. After all, more and more LPs and GPs are taking care that capital is invested for greater impact. And the market proves them right: Impact-oriented investments have proven to be an attractive investment opportunity with an appealing risk-return profile. As a result, the pressure to focus more on alternative investments is steadily increasing. And so a decade of new trends, which entail changed requirements and new opportunities, is looming on the private markets.

A new era for Private Markets

Looking at the private markets – i.e. investments such as private equity, private debt, infrastructure and real estate projects – five trends in particular are becoming increasingly important:

Trend 1: Climate change and climate scenarios as part of risk management
Climate change is not a passing fad, but a serious reality affecting society and economy. For the global economy, the effects of climate change have become one of the greatest threats – and not just since fridays-for-future. For this reason, the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) of the G20 Financial Stability Council has already published recommendations for standardised climate reporting in 2017. Investors and companies should thus be able to quantify the financial impact of climate change on their business model and strengthen their resilience. The Sustainable Finance Advisory Board has just recently even published a proposal for a climate label that foresees a “mandatory product classification” in terms of climate impact for all financial products. The current ESG reporting, in which the two topics “climate change” and “emissions” are the most important aspects, also reinforces the importance of climate risks. Consequently, climate scenarios are moving to the top of the agenda of private market participants’ risk management.

Trend 2: Sustainable Finance and ESG as the imperative of the hour
The financial market plays a central role in guiding the real economy into a sustainable and decarbonised transformation. European decision-makers, among others, have recognised this fact and with the EU action plan “Financing Sustainable Growth” or “Sustainable Finance” have developed a framework or path for Responsible Investing. With the action plan, financial approaches and instruments such as the Transparency and Taxonomy Directive are meant to promote a sustainable and resource-efficient economy. Indeed, financial actors (e.g. insurance companies and banks) already have to report according to TCFD. However, “sustainable finance” has become an established trend internationally as well and generally refers to the inclusion of environmental, social and corporate governance aspects in the decisions of financial actors. As a result, public interest and pressure from LPs – especially institutional investors – to take environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors into account when making investments has increased significantly. ESG is becoming the imperative in private markets, not only since studies have confirmed that the inclusion of ESG criteria has a positive impact on investment performance. And yet, private markets are only at the beginning in terms of the material incorporation of ESG factors into investment and portfolio management processes as well as the development of new products that target ESG-driven demands.1

Trend 3: Impact instead of profit maximisation as the guiding principle
In the last 5 years – in times of low interest rates – more and more investors are following sensitively where their money is going and put sustainability more clearly in the focus of their investment decisions. Under the term “Impact Investing”, investors put their money into very specific industries, assets and projects that they hope will have a positive impact on society and/or develop solutions for socio-ecological problems. For example, there are so-called impact investment funds, where private, impact-oriented and state investors join forces across sectors. The aim of impact investing is to make the impact measurable and to link it to the return and repayment of the investment.

Trend 4: The new concept of inclusive growth
Many international economic experts, including Prof. Dr. André Reichel, expect growth rates of less than one percent by 2050. This means that a new way of thinking is needed: Those who want to be successful must emancipate themselves from the classic growth paradigm and focus on inclusive growth, which strengthens the economic and social inclusion of people in political economic measures. This also applies to the financial market and, within it, to private markets, which are equally faced with the challenge of translating externalised costs into a new growth formula. At IPEM 2020, the largest trade exhibition for private markets in Europe, it came as no surprise that this year’s motto was “Shaping a new growth formula”. Private markets are obviously looking for a new growth formula in terms of sustainability.

Trend 5: The financial sector facing changes in the digital age

Digitisation does not leave the financial system unaffected. On the contrary: the financial sector is in the midst of digital transformation. Many private market companies are therefore thinking about how they can digitise their investment processes. The largest GPs have taken the lead in the market, especially in the real estate sector, where investors have access to larger and more accurate data sets. In addition, the number of technology-oriented private market firms has grown rapidly in recent years.2 At the same time, digitisation is creating more and more crowd and community-based financing opportunities, i.e. private equity through community. This includes, for example, so-called crowdfunding platforms, where projects are financed by small amounts of money from people of equal interest. The crowd and everyone in it thus becomes an “investor”.3

Digression: Clearing up the myths about sustainable finance

The more often we deal with “sustainable finance”, the more often we face allegations that appear as being true in the market. These statements often turn out to be myths that can be proven wrong by simple facts. At this point, we would like to clear up the five most common myths about sustainable finance:

Myth Truth
1. Sustainable investments/assets underperform compared to conventional ones. 90% of current studies show that assets with a pronounced ESG profile perform just as well, if not better (good risk/return profile).
2. Sustainable investing consists only in sorting out “sinful” investments. Investment managers increasingly incorporate positive aspects of sustainability by integrating ESG factors into the investment process.
3. Sustainable investing is a passing fad. Sustainable investing has been around for decades and is becoming increasingly important, not least due to increasing regulations.
4. Interest in sustainable investments is usually limited to millennials and women. There is a broad interest in sustainable investment strategies, with institutional investors leading the way.
5. Sustainable investing only works for stocks. Sustainable strategies are offered across all asset classes.

You can find a visually appealing presentation including the detailed facts under Visual Capitalist who carried out the myth check.

Regulations on the rise: EU action plan & Co.

As indicated in trend 2 “Sustainable Finance and ESG as the imperative of the hour”, the density of regulation for financial markets is increasing, which will have an impact on private markets that have only been regulated to a limited extent up to now. The aim is to create orientation and clarity as well as frameworks for the implementation of sustainable finance. Private market participants should be aware of the following legal developments:

  • EU action plan “Financing Sustainable Growth”
    The EU action plan “Financing Sustainable Growth” contains two EU regulatory measures which are to come into force by 2021 at the latest:
    • The EU Transparency Directive is supposed to come into force in March 2021 and stipulates that financial market players have to report on how they deal with sustainability risks in their investment decisions. This will also apply to financial advisors and their investment or insurance consulting services.
    • EU Taxonomy Directive establishes clear criteria for the classification of assets to identify when an asset is considered green or sustainable. It also requires providers of sustainable financial products to report on how they have applied the taxonomy to determine the sustainability of the underlying investments, to which EU environmental objectives the investment contributes and for which share of the investments the taxonomy is justified. The directive is expected to come into force in December 2020 for the first two EU environmental targets (“climate protection” and “adaptation to climate change”) and in December 2021 for the other four environmental targets (“closed loop management”, “waste prevention & recycling”, “pollution reduction” and “sustainable use and protection of water and marine resources”). More can be found here.
  • „Green Deal for Europe”
    The EU Commission’s “Green Deal for Europe” includes a European climate law and a plan for sustainable investments. More can be found here.
  • ESMA strategy for sustainable finance & climate-related stress tests 
    On the 6th February 2020, the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) published its sustainable finance strategy, which puts sustainability at the heart of all activities. ESMA’s framework is broad in scope and includes, among other things, emission certificates, ESG ratings of EU investment funds and so-called climate-related stress tests. More can be found here.
  • Recommendations of the Network for Greening the Financial System (NGFS)
    The Network for Greening the Financial System published six recommendations in 2019, in which they call, among other things, for climate-related risks to be included in supervision and to define supervisory expectations. More can be found here.

The recently published “Bafin memo” provides a concise overview of how to deal with sustainability risks, including recommendations for action.

New strategies and requirements for private markets

Throughout the financial market, the assessment of sustainability risks imposes new requirements on the regular business organisation, risk management and communication of financial actors: They have to deal with sustainability in a strategic and holistic way and translate sustainability risks into known risk types (e.g. market price risk, liquidity risk and credit risk) as well as ESG risks. That means no more and no less than having to review their existing business and risk strategies and convert them into a consistent ESG strategy. It is therefore not surprising that at this year’s Private Markets Exhibition in Europe – “IPEM“ – ESG was proclaimed by several leading financial players as the new imperative for private markets.

At the operational level, current developments demand financial actors to increasingly engage in stress tests and scenario analysis. They are regarded as a proven tool for assessing corporate and investment risks. Especially when applied to climate change, they help to assess future climate developments. The French banking group and asset management company BNP Paribas is one of the leading players that already integrates climate scenarios into risk management.4

Furthermore, the requirements on communication in the context of sustainability have increased in the private markets: complex issues need to be assessed and communicated in a transparent and comprehensible manner for all relevant stakeholders. The forthcoming EU Transparency Directive and increasing ESG reporting will contribute to making communication on sustainability risks in the financial market more comparable and effective.

Digitising the investment process with the “ESG Management” solution

One of the biggest challenges for professional ESG management is the large amount, complexity and aggregation of ESG data, as well as the need to ensure data quality and security. In the course of digital transformations (see: trend 5), software solutions are increasingly important in meeting this data challenge. One of the biggest challenges for professional ESG management is the large amount, complexity and aggregation of ESG data, as well as the need to ensure data quality and security. In the course of digital transformations (see: trend 5), software solutions are increasingly important in meeting this data challenge. In the BNP PARIBAS global ESG survey 20195, the surveyed institutional investors and asset managers named the following areas of potential use for digital solutions in the context of the professionalisation of ESG management processes:

  • Aggregation/analysis of ESG data
  • ESG reporting at all levels (company, portfolio and fund)
  • Increased depth of ESG-specific data for research
  • Creation and tracking of an ESG index
  • Creation of company profiles
  • Creation of new products based on the principle of sustainability

WeSustain’s “ESG Management” solution – a software for professional ESG management in the entire investment lifecycle of private market investments or alternative investments – has been designed to meet these requirements. It primarily supports portfolio, asset and risk manager who have to report ESG relevant data and manage ESG risks. The solution is also suitable for investors who want to make investment decisions based on ESG criteria. In addition to controlling relevant workflows centrally, software user can collect, evaluate and report ESG data securely. With the data management approach of the “ESG Management” solution, user gain a greater depth and significance for ESG data management. Developed as a collaborative IT infrastructure, the software enables easy and transparent networking and the integration of existing ESG tools via common interfaces in the company.

An agitated decade is on the horizon

This trend report throws a glance at the future of private markets and shows which trends the sector will be driven by during the new decade. It has become clear that sustainability has found its way into the business models and strategies of private market players and will continue to do so as a result of market pressure and future regulations. In the long run, there will be no way around sustainable finance.

In times of climate change and global sustainability goals (SDGs), ESG has become the imperative for private markets to implement a new growth formula. The challenge is not only to introduce a consistent ESG strategy, but also to transform the business organisation itself. This also includes the question of “diversity and inclusion”, as up to now only 20% of employees in private market companies are women. In addition, the potential of digital technology must be leveraged and the speed of its further development accelerated. To achieve this, private markets must build up digital expertise and integrate digital tools into the investment process to an increasing extent. Algorithms and machine learning will ultimately make their own contribution to optimising the quantity and quality of relevant data.

It can be assumed that we are facing an agitated decade for private markets.

Learn more about WeSustain’s ESG Management solution and discover the functionalities for your ESG compliance in an individual demo.

Request a demo now

1 McKeansey & Company, “A new decade for private markets – McKinsey Global Private Markets Review 2020”, LINK, 15.03.2020.
2 McKeansey & Company, “A new decade for private markets – McKinsey Global Private Markets Review 2020”, LINK, 13.03.2020.
3 Zukunftsinstittut: LINK, 11.03.2020.
4 LINK, 11.03.2020.
5 BNP PARIBAS: “Die globale ESG Befragung 2019 – Institutionelle Investoren und Asset Manager legen ihre Strategien zur ESG-Integration fest”, S. 29,  LINK, 18.10.2019.