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GreenBiz 2023 Q&A with Persefoni CEO Kawamori

Article Overview

Following Wednesday’s keynote address, Persefoni CEO & Co-founder Kentaro Kawamori discussed some key takeaways from one of the Climate industry’s premier events, as well as some views on what’s next.

Q:  Is there a key topic everyone is discussing at this year’s GreenBiz conference?

A:  Compliance regulation is clearly the biggest topic of conversation.  It’s what everyone is facing, and naturally, there’s a lot of uncertainty.  It’s not just the SEC Climate proposal, it’s also how is CSRD going to impact us here in the States? And what should we expect soon from the ISSB & IOSCO - our Emily Pierce is up in Montreal right now for that important conference.

We have customers that must respond to the Federal Reserve Board’s September announcement, and still others impacted by the U.S. Treasury’s Financial Insurance Office October proposal.  Many more are asking about CA SB253 and SB261, or the GSA’s FAR Initiative, or the Commodity Futures Trading Commission taking a deeper look into the $1 billion voluntary carbon market…  This is just the United States.  Business is global.

Individually, these are all important, but collectively they serve to both cement and accelerate the inevitability of this sea change.  The sooner organizations start preparing for this, the better.

Q: Your keynote centered on data - would you summarize your presentation?

A:  Sustainability people are, for the most part, not data practitioners; it's viewed as more of a mystic practice.  Yet the need for confidence in climate data management, planning, and reporting is critical, and it’s only going to get more demanding as compliance and assurance requirements accelerate.  The speed at which this collective effort mobilizes will ultimately depend on this confidence.  Just like it does with financial management and reporting, because climate risk is financial risk.

The important thing to recognize is there’s nothing unique about “climate” data in its structure, storage, or how it navigates across an organization.  It’s data.  As the Chief Digital Officer of a global Fortune 300 prior to starting Persefoni, I know firsthand that most large enterprises have many people already managing data complexity.  

Reach out to them.  Engage them.  They will have strategies and best practices on how they manage data, and data security, which will help you plan for today and tomorrow.  A lot of these learnings will save you headaches down the line.

Q: As compliance regulation marches forward, what can we expect?

A: You’ll see more technology and tools designed to maximize network effects and reduce complexity.  Deloitte recently reported that 99% of U.S. public companies plan to invest in ESG reporting technology and tools this year, and we track similar feedback globally.

Just like we witnessed the rapid emergence of the Chief Sustainability Officer role earlier this decade, we are seeing risk management, disclosure, and reporting collapsing into one.  This will be messy at first, particularly for an early market just now embracing compliance.

Also, many companies made net zero targets without accurately calculating the associated costs.  As they begin to use Climate Management and Accounting Platform (CMAP) tools like Persefoni, it’s likely that some will need to restate these projections.

Q:  At GreenBiz23, we heard from a number of CSOs that they are getting summoned more regularly “to the table”, either with the CFO/CEO or the board of directors.  What advice can you give them?

A:  First and foremost, learn how to speak to your board.  It seems obvious, but people overlook it.  It’s a specific skill set, one I had to learn in my last role.  It does little good to put in all of this effort if you can’t communicate well.

Understand the particular driver for your board.  Persefoni speaks with many that are chiefly concerned about access to capital and risk vis-a-vis Sustainability.  We are happy to share with you the many drivers we have encountered, which are often segmented by industry or region; Persefoni has customers in 19 of the 20 NAICS sectors, across 19 countries.

Enterprise software helps reduce complexity, increase transparency, and improve efficiency, as it has for many corporate verticals before Sustainability.  We also have key relationships with our partners, like Bain & Co., Deloitte, PwC, Workiva, and more, and can share insight and connections here.

Q:  Can you share your high-level takeaway from GreenBiz23?

A:  Participating at events like GreenBiz23 reminds us of the connectivity that we largely lost during the Covid-19 pandemic - it’s such a contrast.  And the exponential impact that such connectedness builds. Particularly for Persefoni, which grew up during this period of remote work.

I think my colleague, Kristina Wyatt, summed it up best when she said this morning, “Really an amazing response to the two SEC panels earlier this week … I can't walk ten feet without someone stopping to introduce themselves."  That doesn’t happen without connectedness.

Such engagement not only drives information exchange between industry participants, it also motivates us to continue pushing aside challenges and obstacles as we work together to effect change. Reminding us that we are all part of a growing community who are making a difference - doing well while doing good.  Each with his/her/their own niche that they must execute.  A community that recognizes that more reliable, transparent carbon accounting is where it has to start.

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