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In this Earth-themed episode, Jenny Yuen and Jawwad Rasheed join us to discuss Alteryx's sustainability efforts and how Alteryx customers are using the product to improve their ESG reporting.






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Episode Transcription

Ep 157 Sustainability Reporting with Alteryx

[00:00:00] Megan Dibble: Welcome to Alter Everything, a podcast about data science and analytics culture. I'm Megan Dibble, and today I am talking with Jenny Ewen and Jawad Rashid, two of my colleagues at Alteryx. With Earth Day. This week we have a special episode where we'll hear from our guests about sustainability efforts within Alteryx and how Alteryx customers are using the product to improve their ESG reporting.

Let's get started.

Okay. Welcome to alter everything. It's great to have you both here. Could you give a quick introduction to yourselves and your role for our audience? We'll start with you, Jenny. 

[00:00:37] Jenny Yuen: Sure. So my name is Jenny Ewen. I am the ESG and Sustainability Manager at Alteryx. And my focus in this role is really on building out our own ESG reporting and disclosures and leading our environmental sustainability initiatives and our global climate strategy.

And I sit on our social impact team and I'll pass it to Jawwad. 

[00:00:58] Jawwad Rasheed: Thanks, Jen. Hi Megan. My name's Ard. Nice to meet you all. I'm based outta London and I lead our transformation initiatives across a number of different domains. Predominantly my focus has been in the finance space, something that we do a lot of with our customers in terms of, uh, explaining and scaling Alteryx through, uh, the Office of Finance.

I've also spent a lot of time in the financial services industry. One of the things that has grown in terms of my remit agenda has been how we position Alteryx in the ESG and sustainability space. So I'm also helping to lead our customer facing, market facing propositions in the ESG space. 

[00:01:38] Megan Dibble: Awesome. Yeah.

I'm super excited to have you both on the show. Today, we're doing kind of a themed episode since it's near Earth Day, and today we're gonna be talking a lot about the ESG landscape, as you both mentioned. So Jenny, I'd love if you could walk us through what ESG means and what the pillars are of that.

[00:01:59] Jenny Yuen: Sure. Absolutely. So for those who are unfamiliar with this acronym, ESG stands for Environmental, social and Governance. And as you can imagine, it covers a vast array of topics that really at its core point to accompany sustainability and ethical practices. So within the ee, these topics can range from the carbon emissions of your global operations to your climate impact within the S.

That can be your impact on the community through your volunteerism, philanthropy, it can be how you impact employees that work at your company through their career development, recruiting diverse talent, and having ethical labor practices. And then the G is really how the company is managed and governed.

So that can include things like your board composition and oversight, and how the company approaches risk management. So put another way. It really is the non-financial impacts of the company and how you disclose those. And ESG is really becoming an increasingly popular way for investors to evaluate which companies they want to invest in, for customers to evaluate who they wanna work with, and even for future employees to decide who they want to work for.

From my perspective, sitting on the social impact team at Alteryx, I feel really strongly about how important it is for companies such as ours to step up when it comes to tackling some of these really large societal issues that we're facing. Things like climate change, justice issues. So as we talk about ESG today, I think it's important not to lose sight of the bigger picture, which is holding companies accountable for being more transparent about their impact on the environment and their response to social and governance issues is really critical for our planet, for our people, and it really just makes good business sense.

[00:03:46] Megan Dibble: I definitely agree. It's super important and becoming increasingly important and I appreciate that overview. There are a few things you've mentioned there that I didn't even realize were all encompassed, that people aspect is really interesting. This episode came about partially because we are tracking some data points related to ESG at Alteryx and reporting out on that, and I wanted to hear from you on like what some initiatives we have.

At Alteryx for increasing sustainability or what initiatives have come out of that reporting? 

[00:04:18] Jenny Yuen: Absolutely. So here at Alteryx, we start our ESG journey back towards the end of 2021. And while it's definitely been a long journey, we've been making some really great strides towards becoming more transparent and holding ourselves accountable to our ESG commitments.

So last year we actually calculated our first greenhouse gas emissions inventory. You'll hear about that a lot throughout this episode. And the purpose of that exercise is really to understand where our company generates the most negative impact on the environment and where we have the opportunity to offset that negative impact.

We also published our first Global Impact report, and this report is really a cohesive representation of all the work that we've done across these ESG issues, including our corporate responsibility through our volunteerism program, our philanthropy program. Our Tech for Good program, which is our free license program for nonprofits.

It also included everything we do around sustainability and our diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging efforts. So that report is available right now publicly on our Alteryx website. If you search Alteryx for Good and then ESG, you can, uh, read through that report and see everything that we're doing as a company to commit to ESG.

But why are we doing all this with, as you mentioned, Megan, April being Earth month. I wanted to just take a moment to bring it back to what we're fighting for, and that is the threat of climate change. I think that we're all familiar with just how in the past year or two alone, we've seen the devastating effects of wildfires, heat waves, and flooding, and as the effects of climate change, where on these extreme events will likely only get worse.

But that's where we come in. We believe that being a global company, we have the opportunity and the responsibility to really step up and take action. We've been doing this by reducing our own emissions across our global operations. So as I mentioned, we did perform that exercise last year to quantify our environmental impact.

That was the first step, really setting that baseline to understand where we're generating impact on the environment, and then devising a strategy to reduce that impact. So some of the things that we've done. Recently include the fact that our Irvine headquarters is lead certified. That's an indication of sustainable design construction operations in the building.

We've also been in discussions around having our London office be 3M certified, which is the lead equivalent in the uk. So collectively, we're really investing in the sustainable design certifications with our new facilities whenever we're able to. Speaking of our facilities, within all of our offices, we are working on rolling out three stream waste bins.

So that means there's a trash recycling bin and compost bin in the majority of our global offices. We also are very intentional about removing single use cups and plates, and instead encouraging use of reusable mugs and glassware. Instead, whenever we have catering brought in, we always work with our caterer to reduce single use packaging and order less food to prevent food waste.

And we also selectively a packaged meals in compostable or recyclable containers whenever possible. And then outside of our offices, we've partnered with AWS Amazon Web Services as our cloud service provider, and they've committed to power their operations with a hundred percent renewable energy. We're also working on offsetting our company-wide business travel.

We definitely travel as a company. Oftentimes we host conferences and events, but whenever we travel, we work on offsetting the impact of that, those emissions by investing in, um, high quality carbon offset projects. Then lastly, we've also kicked off a project to, um, diversify our supply chain, so making sure that we partner with vendors that support green and eco-friendly initiatives and also ethical practices.

The last thing I'll mention is that another way our sustainability efforts really show up at Alteryx is through our alter Eco Employee Resource group. So this employee resource group is made up of 200 plus employees across the world that are passionate about protecting and sustaining our natural environment.

The focus of this group is really to create ways for employees to engage and learn more about being sustainable. So we often host webinars, workshops, eco challenges, and volunteering events, and we invite everyone in the company to join us, both in person and virtually, especially with Earth Month coming up.

That is our flagship month, so we make sure that. Everyone is aware of what we're doing throughout the company. 

[00:08:53] Megan Dibble: Thank you for that response. Doing a lot of stuff, so that's really exciting and I'll definitely link the report in the show notes so listeners can check that out as well. You mentioned quantifying our impact as a company, and I'm just curious, throughout this project that you guys have had to improve ESG reporting, what hurdles have there been?

Has it been difficult to quantify things? How have we. Improved and upgraded our ESG reporting and what does that look like? 

[00:09:22] Jenny Yuen: We definitely recognized from the start that ESG was really a massive data problem, and that's really where Alteryx came into play. So we'd already been using Alteryx for some aspects of our ESG reporting outside of the sustainability reporting we had been using.

Alteryx to calculate our volunteer time off to calculate our monetary donations through our Tech for Good program. But as we started working on our sustainability reporting, we realized that it was such a challenge for companies that were doing this for the first time to, first of all, collect all of the data coming from so many different sources, oftentimes data that had never been collected before.

And second of all, take that data and figure out how to derive insights from that to drive strategy and decision making. So it was definitely a challenge, and I think any company doing this exercise for the first time is going to face a similar challenge, but we actually had a wonderful opportunity to partner with our Sparked team, which is our analytics education program for students, educators, and independent learners.

That team was actually working with a group of computer science students at uc, Irvine, on their Capstone project, and so we were able to partner with them and bring our greenhouse gas inventory to them. Propose it as a semester long project. Task them with learning how to use Alteryx and to translate a lot of these really complex data processes into Alteryx workflows.

And then the output was they were able to create visualizations and tableau to work out their progress. And so we took these initial workflows they created, brought them back to our internal team, and then we refined them. And that's kind of where Jawad and team stepped in. 

[00:11:04] Megan Dibble: When you said data that have never been collected before, I think a lot of our listeners probably got some anxiety thinking about that.

We've all been there. That's always like the unique challenge. And yeah. Jawad, I'd love to hear from you on how we're taking the lessons learned from that project, from that process that we as a company went through on. Collecting brand new data and doing brand new reporting and how we're taking those lessons to our customers.

[00:11:30] Jawwad Rasheed: Yeah, sure. I mean, I think there's a really good opportunity for us to use our internal applications as a stepping stone on how we could voice, um, the best of what Alteryx can do, and obviously then much more. When we engage with customers, so in, in many ways, our own story is obviously a good place to start when trying to evangelize and promote what Alteryx is and how it can be applied specifically around ESG data collection, integrations, reporting, and analysis.

I think one thing that's very common about this theme, let's say compared to others, is it's continually evolving as it has done since the whole notion of. ESG really came together in the early noughties under the UN PRI, the principles for responsible investing, where the things that Jen mentioned earlier around the pillars themselves have evolved and will continue to evolve.

That isn't something that's meant to be static because actually. The notion of universal themes that we can all rally around also changes as our opinions change and as the environment changes as a whole. I don't mean the physical environment per se, but I mean, or the working environment, the places that we live in change.

So that's just one thing to bear in mind when I think that we've definitely learned internally and when we engage customers is their agenda is continually changing, as is the focal points around those themes. It's also important to consider those themes not necessarily as three independent or linear domains.

You know, it's more of a way of organizing them so they can be understood, but they, they very much are three circles that overlap, right? You can't have a good focus around how you drive initiatives and project to reduce emissions, for example. Unless you have good corporate governance and you have a good workforce that supports it so you can understand the impacts around the g and DS coming together.

To effectively deliver outcomes for you. So they're very much, you know, there's a, there's an overlap and there's a connection across those themes. I think one of the things we've learned from our customers is there is a kind of common approach that all customers are taking. I. To try and put some structure around this for themselves, and it typically starts with doing some level of self-assessment as to what's important for that organization.

How do I assess what's material for me and what I stand for, and how do I translate that into something that can be disclosed and can be made transparent in the same way that we did internally going through our own materiality assessment? And many customers are doing that right now. Some have already done it and some are moving into the operationalizing components.

To kind of help with that. I think it's been really useful to share with customers how we've gone through that ourselves. What were the outcomes? Have we translated that into, let's say, the use of Alteryx to bring non-financial data sources, operational data sources, external data sources together to show where Alteryx position is.

That's helped customers think about their own journey, think about their own approaches much more, and helped us work with them in their capacity. 

[00:14:34] Megan Dibble: Yeah, that's really cool that our journey has been able to be influential for other companies journey, and I thought it was interesting that you brought up a good point about the field being continually evolving.

I think we hear a lot on the show and in general about people using Alteryx for. Financial applications of financial reporting. And that is so in my mind at least so well structured and unchanging. And then we're looking now at all the non-financial impact. It just seems like a tough problem to solve and so interesting to hear about people that are solving it.

And I know we have a few customers that you wanted to talk about the different ways that they're getting value out of Alteryx for their ESG reporting. So. Maybe we could just start off with your story about the UK London Borough Council. 

[00:15:23] Jawwad Rasheed: A really interesting story exactly for the reason that you pointed out, Meghan.

I think sometimes when we think about Alteryx, it's typically for financial gain of some form. It's for, you know, driving some efficiency in, in operations and executions. It's doing the things that we've been talking about in the market for, for many, many years, and that doesn't ever go away. That's still very much a core proposition, a value proposition that we have.

What is interesting is how some organizations, and in this instance it's a UK base, London borough, boroughs make up a number of, uh, I guess there a collection of areas in London under the uk, London Borough Construct, and each of those have a council that manages that respective borough. Local councils.

One of the things that is being pushed harder by the UK government to a, a lot of its public sector organizations and the council structure in particular. Is, how can we improve the efficiency and performance itself of local councils and the households from a energy performance set of metrics? So are there houses that are seen as inefficient regarding the energy performance in missing a lot of unwanted waste, overusing gas are just inefficient in terms of how they're designed and how they operate.

What are the opportunities to improve that? So in this example, this was one of the councils that's based out in West London. It's the SLO council. The, the objectives that they had was being able to bring together energy performance certificate data, or what in the UK is called EPC data. From all of the different homes in the local council to assess which households meet, let's say, a certain threshold, which households have the opportunity to improve, and in doing so, what's the level of investment that that council would need from the government to get that level to the, to the standard that they're setting?

The challenges that they had to do this, unsurprisingly, were there are a lot of different types of properties out there. They're rented properties that you don't have information for. There's a lot of disparate information across the council that needs to be brought together and they couldn't find a way to retrofit, let's say, the quick wins, which houses would get a good return on investment, assuming that they could raise the bar.

Unsurprisingly, there are also challenges to identify what's also affordable, because if you're improving the EPC rating for examples and properties, you are say, increasing the value of that property. 'cause it makes it more attractive for others saying, Hey, I've got a more efficient house that I'm buying.

But what does, what does that do to the market? So there are factors to consider here. At the same time, in order to achieve, I guess the overall goals of just better analyzing EPC data across the household. So Alteryx was really powerful here in terms of providing a spatial analysis through our like kinda location analysis, geospatial capabilities and mapping that cost and benefit and affordability aspects in line with the EPC potential of the local council in that particular census.

And the outputs, I think were, were, were super cool visually. Number one, it gave you kind of the map of the area, identified the hotspots that were potential for increased investment opportunity. Ones that you could increase the bar on to improve the EPC rating and ones that probably couldn't because there isn't a retrofit available to do so.

So it helped to identify the concentrations of opportunities, not just as a one-off, but almost as a, as a continued appliance exercise to see where could we uplift and improve. The potential investment into the council to get the best level of return. That's a really nice way I think that Alteryx can be used and has been used in this instance, to really pinpoint the locations and provide more business case from the government to direct investment into those areas that drive the best return.

Not just from a financial perspective, but very much from reducing your carbon emissions across those poorly managed households. So yeah, that was, that was one example from the London Borough Councils, as I thought was quite useful to share. 

[00:19:16] Megan Dibble: I always love hearing about geospatial analysis 'cause I think it's super interesting and not everybody gets to do geospatial analysis in their everyday work.

It always is really informative and, and looks really cool when you, when you get to map it all out and get to visualize the hotspots of opportunity like you're saying. Jenny, I'm curious if we, have we done geospatial analysis in a similar way in projects that you've been working on? 

[00:19:42] Jenny Yuen: Not to that same extent, but one of the categories we did look at for our own greenhouse gas emissions inventory related to business travel.

As I mentioned as a company, we do travel quite frequently for business and that will likely be in our global climate strategy, having reductions in travel. But we did do a calculation around trying to understand the emissions associated with our business travel. So to do that, we were missing some data around the carbon emissions associated with some of our trips.

So we actually had to create an API that linked the departure airport and destination airports for all of our trips and then calculate the distance between those two airports and then calculate the emissions associated with that. So we used our geospatial capabilities to be able to map all of that out as part of the process.

So it a cool visualization and something I think a lot of other companies will face because a lot of other companies travel to for business. And I think it's something you can't really get away from in today's virtual environment. 

[00:20:43] Megan Dibble: That's super cool use case as well. And then Jaw, we discussed another one that was delivering different value to a customer still through ESG reporting.

Could you tell us a little bit about the Northern Trust use case you had? 

[00:20:57] Jawwad Rasheed: Sure, yeah. Northern Trust. So Northern Trust are a bank investment manager. We, we work with them on both sides of the, of the Atlantic. A good customer for us and a really important one, I think from an industry perspective. And, and lemme just kind of shine a bit of light on that.

When we talk about the ESG agenda, I think there's, there's almost two parts to this, right? There's a corporate agenda which corporations need to align to and meet as we have done internally. Which allows them to best represent their position to increase the level of investments they have by saying, Hey, this is what's important for us and this is what we're disclosing and this is how we're measuring against it.

Which is exactly what we did last year when we issued that Global Impact report. When it comes to banks and, and other lending facilities, they've got an additional, I, I call it onus and burden, but responsibility is really what they have to manage and their responsibility is to manage capital flows, right?

They bring in money from people that, that have money to invest, and they push it out into the economy to those that need it. And doing so has a huge level of accountability because where the money comes from and where it goes, goes to defines potentially the kind of projects that that money is then driving.

And therefore, those projects need to be well sustainable. They need to be helping us move away from initiatives that drive further, let's say, increasing emissions. They need to go through the right checks so they're not supporting corrupt industries. All of that adds a level of diligence in terms of how money is managed.

So when you take banks like Northern Trust who are involved in lending and investing, they have to think not just about their own corporate position as an organization, but also how are they promoting, or in some instances, not where money goes for other initiatives. So that lending and investing angle becomes really important.

Northern Trust are in the business of creating funds, and funds essentially are created by collecting money, packaging them up, and providing those as a means for people to invest in, in the market in order to demonstrate that those funds are viable. Clearly, a lot of funds have sustainability scores associated with, and there's lots of regulation out there in the market right now, like SFRD.

Which is absolutely focused on transparency in how the fund is rated in relation to sustainability scores. There are various articles in reference to this. They're saying a fund is absolutely green, it's, it's more of a hybrid or not at all. Right? This famous article six, seven, and eight in relation to ardi.

And it's really important that investors know this 'cause they need to know, well, what am I actually putting my money into and how's it being gonna be used? So Northern Trust, essentially we're looking to improve the way that they attract that level of investment into their funds by demonstrating the funds were sustainable, but wanted to do so in a way that allows customers to get full transparency and therefore ultimately increase the returns they get in the markets.

So improve the attractiveness of that fund. So they used Alteryx to, to bring together different information that provided a more comprehensive view around the sustainable position of that fund. The first was obviously the fund itself, as in what kind of, is it an an active fund? Is it passive? Does in invest in equities, bonds, real estate.

The second was identifying that there is third party data that isn't always managed in-house, but needs to be integrated so that it can provide the external position of the fund as a whole. Knowing that you need to provide a very simple investment risk, exposure, overview, and analysis to the customers.

The solution itself provided a single mechanism by which all of that information could be brought together. I. In reported outcomes with ESG ratings for every single fund in line with key metrics which were exposed to the customers. And by doing so, really what they were showing was all of the factors that we consider important to define our sustainability score on this fund were included.

We have transparency as to what are the initiatives that this fund is supporting and driving. And we have comfort that the collective view of how the, the fund was brought together from the investors. We've carried the due diligence for that. And all of that basically fed into a composite score that says, this is why the fund is sustainable.

Now, the reason why that's an interesting case, it's very different to the London Borough Council. It's different in a way to our own internal use, which is kind of to deliver an out for a series of emission related metrics. It's using Alteryx to improve the way that customers want to have a stake in that fund, and therefore drives a top line revenue for Northern Trust, but in a way that actually promotes the ESG agenda because obviously you'd want to promote the funds and people want to be more attracted to the funds and have a higher sustainability score.

So it's a nice compliment, I think, to some of the other examples on the call because it's a different perspective for an organization that is on the front line. That is like accountable and responsible to define the flow of capital into projects and initiative that drive further sustainability improvements, 

[00:26:07] Megan Dibble: driving this culture forward of people investing, wanting to be more sustainable, that it promotes the culture that we're looking for to improve that, as well as driving revenue and growth.

I mean, that's like the best of both worlds, right? I've loved all the examples throughout this episode of different things that we're doing and customers are doing, but when it comes to our listeners and beyond, what are some things that we can be doing as individuals to promote a more sustainable future?

[00:26:37] Jenny Yuen: I. I would just chime in from a personal behavioral aspect. Think about ways that you can be more sustainable in your daily life, especially this being Earth month, whether that be joining a park cleanup, helping to clean up some of the local beaches. There are a lot of events happening in the community that you can definitely join, especially this month.

It could be things like exploring and meatless Mondays, maybe cutting back on your meat intake and having a vegetarian diet for one day. Meat is actually the largest source of carbon emissions. So cutting back on diet, making those dietary changes would really make an impact. Reconsider taking your car to work one day.

Try public transportation. Try biking or walking if it's possible. There's a lot of really small but significant behavioral shifts that we can be making in our daily lives, and I would just encourage listeners to think about what is realistic for you and what you can really impart onto others to join you in doing.

[00:27:35] Megan Dibble: Awesome. And then Jawad, from your perspective, maybe in business and personally, like what are some things that we can do. 

[00:27:42] Jawwad Rasheed: Yeah, I, I think from an Alteryx perspective, in terms of how we go out and speak to others in the market and, you know, our customers and partners, the most important thing is just remaining inquisitive.

You know, ask them the question like, what's important for you? How are you defined your ESG strategy? How are you translating that into outcomes that you need? Where are you in that journey? What are the problems that you face in that journey? And I think what we'll find is more often than not. The very similar themes and common themes would emerge.

And, and also just being conscious that there isn't one answer for everyone. You know, everyone's gonna have a very different perspective on this, and that's perfectly fine. That's, that's partly the, I guess, incentive is to raise awareness around some common themes, but that everyone put their own thinking caps on to see what it means for them.

So. Yeah, remain inquisitive, ask the questions, understand where people are at, and more often than not, there's uh, there's always something that Alteryx can help within that space, given the flexibility of the platform. And that's probably the biggest, I think USP that we have is. It's a continually evolving space and we have a very flexible platform that can manage a number of different needs for the for, for very different personas.

[00:28:50] Megan Dibble: Awesome. Well, I just wanna thank you both for joining me today and just for all the work you're doing internally and externally to really promote a better future and a more sustainable future. So thanks for joining us today. 

[00:29:03] Jawwad Rasheed: Great. Great to be on. 

[00:29:04] Jenny Yuen: Thanks Megan. 

[00:29:06] Megan Dibble: Thanks for listening to learn more about topics mentioned in this episode.

Including Alteryx's ESG reporting resources. Head over to our show notes on See you next time.

This episode was produced by Megan Dibble (@MeganDibble), Mike Cusic (@mikecusic), and Matt Rotundo (@AlteryxMatt). Special thanks to @andyuttley for the theme music track, and @mikecusic for our album artwork.