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ESG tracking firm FigBytes takes on software industry giants

Ted Dhillon is the CEO of Ottawa-based FigBytes. (Courtesy FigBytes)

FigBytes, a Canadian ESG metrics tracking and management company, is making strides to compete with the likes of IBM and Salesforce by offering a platform which helps businesses, governments and institutions achieve their ESG goals.

Headquartered in Ottawa, FigBytes offers a software-as-a-service known as the FigBytes ESG Insight Platform. It automates and manages sustainability programs to create reports, strategies and facilitate engagement. It covers climate accounting, water stewardship, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace, philanthropy and supplier transparency.

The company targets vertical industries like private equity, and organizations with operational complexity in their day-to-day business, like automobile manufacturers or government healthcare.

CEO Ted Dhillon said because challenges remain in collecting data on which to draw ESG conclusions, the ESG Insight Platform fills in some of the gaps and can help provide a roadmap to goals like decarbonizing a portfolio.

“Those insights really help companies open up their eyes to the challenge and it just brings in a different way of looking at improving sustainability impacts," he said. "Not just give them data, but also provide a new way of slicing and dicing that data and seeing sustainability impacts in a completely different light so that allows them to come up with strategies that have an impact.”

How ESG Insight Platform works

The software first captures raw operational data acquired from mobile apps and screens, connecting to existing systems in an organization and external entries from sources such as utility providers. If data gaps like Scope 3 emissions are identified, machine learning algorithms and AI will work to fill in the holes.

Then an embedded methodology converts the centralized raw data into figures like greenhouse gas emissions and water risks, and packages the data for internal or external reporting. It automatically generates reports for stakeholders, the public, stock exchanges as well as ESG standards and frameworks.

“It takes the burden of customers having to know those methodologies away from them,” Dhillon said, stating it can compress months of reporting with one click, provided it is fed the appropriate data.

The third step covers disclosures and analytics.

Finally, Dhillon said what separates FigBytes from its competition is its processed data aiding in engagement with internal and external audiences and directing ESG strategy. 

“Think of FigBytes as not just a data management system for ESG or sustainability: it’s both a data and a content management system.”

Live websites called microsites can be developed with ESG Insight Platform for organizations to publicly display their ESG metrics and progress. The State of Minnesota combined data from 24 government departments to visualize its ESG progress and align it to the state’s sustainability strategy for the public to see.

“We help with visualizing sustainability and ESG strategies, we help with data capture, management, analytics and reporting, and then finally we allow for engagement with different audiences . . . Therein lies our biggest differentiator; is we approach ESG and sustainability in an integrated way,” he said.

Impact of ESG Insight Platform

FigBytes says the insights its software offers can propel organizations to make progress on all three elements of ESG.

For the environmental side, the platform has tracked close to 15 million metric tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions and has helped devise strategies to reduce the warming potential of emissions. The visualizations of data and strategies has played a role in setting climate targets and tracking performance year-over-year, Dhillon said.

On diversity, the ESG Insight Platform can take in internal workforce data by connecting to human resources systems, convert the data into a DEI output and present it in dashboards to build an ESG pathway. The organization can compare its diversity to other groups and find where improvements are needed.

For governance issues like IT security and board transparency – such as a board management system – the software can connect through APIs to bring the data to FigBytes, convert it into key performance indicators and merge it with ESG reports to produce one reporting area.

Dhillon said the ESG Insight Platform could help firms respond to increasing scrutiny on the financial sector, which is facing pressure to be more transparent about its investments.

As investors demand better reporting to avoid investing in companies or industries with poor ESG performance, in addition to new mandates and regulations, there is an urgency to report those risks and divest from greenhouse gas-heavy industries.

Private equity groups can use FigBytes to track data from different portfolio companies and convert it into ESG reports to manage the performance of their portfolio companies and benchmark to others on ESG standards.

Banks and asset managers can use the data to level-set their portfolios and make appropriate ESG risk divestments.

The future for FigBytes

More recently, FigBytes partnered with Quantum Energy Partners. The Houston-based private equity and venture group, which added FigBytes to its portfolio in 2021, invests in renewable energy and decarbonization.

In addition to helping Quantum Energy Partners improve ESG performance and track its investments, it will help push sustainability down to its portfolio companies, Dhillon said. There are also plans to integrate FigBytes into Quantum Energy Partners’ cloud product for energy and private equity.

The aim is to make FigBytes not just enable data capture but “provide the tools that reporting companies can start to use make themselves more sustainable.”

Dhillon touted FigBytes' continued early-stage growth as a company capable of standing toe-to-toe with multi-billion-dollar software giants. He cited its placement in a market report on sustainability management software from Forrester Research that named it a top-14 ESG software provider, with the likes of IBM and Salesforce.

The company isn’t planning to stop developing its software, either. Dhillon said risk management is its next frontier – creating profiles to help companies see ESG risks, then manage and reduce those risks. FigBytes expects to complete this by early 2024.

Other innovations will peer deeper into water impacts and adding new greenhouse gas calculation methodologies so its clients do not have to learn them.

To direct change, there are also plans to improve on engagement and strategy visualization by gamifying sustainability to encourage engagement across an organization. The idea is for all employees to understand sustainability and participate in the journey with rewards for sustainable actions.

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