Insights From Climate Week: Discussing Our Climate Commitments

At Climate Week 2022, our team shared insights on our sustainability journey at Workday and discussed best practices for other organizations looking to expand their climate efforts.

two office workers walking on sidewalk next to green trees

In September, I was invited to speak with Martin Whittaker, chief executive officer at JUST Capital, during Climate Week in New York. Our team had the opportunity to engage with policymakers leading sustainability conversations around the globe. Workday has been in the JUST 100 for several years, meaning we’re recognized as a top company due to our commitments to our employees, communities, customers, good governance, and minimizing our environmental impact. In addition, in the 2023 placements we’re recognized as the top performing company for environment across industries

I’ll share some of the highlights from Climate Week discussions and insights on our sustainability journey and advocacy at Workday. 

How We Started Our Sustainability Journey 

At Workday, we view corporate sustainability as a basic tenet of stakeholder capitalism. Many of our customers prioritize sustainability and expect their vendors to do so as well. Our core values guide us in everything we do at Workday. And, because customer service and uplifting our customers is part of those values, we’ve been on the journey toward 100% renewable electricity since 2008.

Every company has to use their own superpower to address climate. For us, it’s enterprise applications.

In fact, we reached our RE100 renewable electricity target in 2019 and provide all of our customers with a carbon-neutral cloud. We achieved net-zero carbon emissions across our offices, data centers, and business travel one year ahead of schedule.

Our business is focused on providing organizations with enterprise cloud applications spanning financial management, spend management, human capital management, planning, and analytics—to help them adapt and thrive in our changing world. Our customers are diverse, ranging from medium-sized enterprises to more than half of the Fortune 500, across a variety of industries. 

As an organization focused on supporting our customers’ sustainability journey, we asked ourselves: How do we prioritize emissions reductions in alignment with climate science? So the next step in our evolution was to commit to set science-based targets—across the entire value chain—that are consistent with keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (1.5℃), above pre-industrial levels by the end of this century per the Paris Agreement. 

Corporate Adoption of Science-Based Targets: Impacts and Challenges  

Corporate adoption of science-based targets is ramping up. Like most other companies, purchased goods and services are a huge part of our carbon footprint. Following The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) guidance, companies can cover their emissions from purchased goods and services and capital goods, with a supplier engagement target. 

Organizations are encouraged to have two-thirds of their suppliers, on a spend basis, set science-based targets of their own. If suppliers set targets across their own Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions, those will drive down emissions across the entire supply chain, which is a driver for more companies to adopt science-based targets. In accord with our science based targets, we—and companies like ours—are reaching out to suppliers with the expectation that they’ll set science-based targets too. 

Every company has to use its own superpower to address climate. For us, it’s enterprise applications. So to further support our customer community and actions to mitigate climate change, we recently introduced a supplier sustainability solution, and we’re an early adopter ourselves. 

This application measures the carbon footprint on a spend basis across the Scope 3 emissions of our purchased goods and services. All of our customers can use this information to engage their suppliers and set meaningful environmental targets, as well as perform analytics around Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions. We’re also using this information to engage with our suppliers and reduce emissions across our value chain. 

Supporting Climate Policy

The scale of the challenge posed by rising global temperatures demands comprehensive, systemwide action, elevating the importance of public policy as a tool to respond. Our sustainability efforts sit within our corporate affairs team, which allows us to strategically drive forward our climate policy advocacy plan. For example, last year we developed a climate policy statement, helping guide our positioning and align our climate policy engagement at a global level. 

During Climate Week, we also focused on the need for supply chain transparency to accelerate an economywide transition to a more sustainable future. We’ve publicly supported this in the United States and the European Union as climate disclosures continue to evolve. 

In the U.S. we support the direction of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) proposal for climate-related disclosures, and we provided feedback during the consultation process to help shape and improve the final rules. In particular, we advocated for a more thorough safe harbor around Scope 3 emissions reporting to reduce liability around this challenging dataset. And we support innovation to further improve access to actionable insights to address climate change. 

In the EU, we provided comments to the European Financial Reporting Advisory Group advocating for increased alignment and mutual recognition between the European Sustainability Reporting Standards and international frameworks, such as a global baseline developed by the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB).

In addition, we built on these comments during Climate Week when our team, led by Chandler Morse, vice president of corporate affairs at Workday, hosted an industry roundtable discussion with Frans Timmermans, European Commission executive vice president for the European Green Deal, and Werner Hoyer, president of the European Investment Bank Group, in partnership with Corporate Leaders Group Europe. While the conversation cut across a variety of climate priorities and energy issues, we focused our contribution on the need for trans-Atlantic cooperation and alignment on climate reporting standards to improve the availability of actionable data. 

The Business Case for Sustainability and How to Overcome Challenges 

Our core values are what I point to when I go to leadership with a new commitment to better support sustainability and climate. In accord with our core value of integrity, at Workday we’re committed to doing everything we can to take care of our planet and support our customers who are doing the same. 

Our employees—another core value—also expect us to set ambitious targets around ameliorating climate change, especially because climate change is increasingly important to our younger generation Workmates. It’s the right thing to do, and there’s a business case: Our shareholders, employees, and customers are all demanding this. 

I’d advise anyone trying to figure out how to ramp up sustainability efforts at their organization to look at the DNA of their organization; learn what resonates with leadership and connect the values of the organization to climate goals. Mapping sustainability goals to your organization’s core values is essential to making your business case. 

To make change, companies must focus on prioritizing high-leverage, high-impact areas. In every company, working to combat climate change should be the No. 1 environmental focus area. Be bold and be ambitious.

Interested in learning more? Watch the full conversation with JUST Capital

More Reading