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Data Innovator Tanya Seajay Takes Engaging Next Step in ESG Evolution

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After almost a decade at the helm of one of the ESG space’s most innovative data companies, Tanya Seajay took a wellness break. With her departure from Orenda, the alternative data company she founded and built into a ground-breaking vendor of ESG sentiment data, she wanted time to think over her next move.

“I just sat back and thought about where I saw some of the biggest gaps in the industry based on my experience,” she explains to ESG Insight.

Eventually, the answer came to the Canadian entrepreneur: disclosure practices are the weak link in the ESG chain and need urgent attention. But providing a solution to address a critical need in the industry wasn’t enough. She also wanted to alloy that with pursuit of a personal passion.

“My favourite part is sustainable engagement,” she relates during a holiday break in Florida. “So, I thought ‘how do I put those two together’?”

The result is 7 Centre, an ESG and sustainable engagement consultancy that is designed to guide companies, including financial institutions, on best practices for sustainability disclosure and stakeholder engagement. The company takes its name from the seven principles of the Taskforce for Climate-related Financial Disclosure (TCFD) framework, on which 7 Centre has built its consultancy platform. It also references seven best practices that Seajay sees as extending from the globally used framework.

Is Your Data Relevant?

Seajay has long been an advocate of the TCFD for many reasons, including that it is forward looking and because it is descriptive rather than prescriptive.

“It’s more about the principles behind the disclosure –you think about whether or not the information that you’re providing is relevant, whether or not it’s consistent, whether or not it’s clear for anybody to understand,” she says.

“It gets you outside of the very specific data points that are required in the disclosure and gets you asking ‘is this relevant? Is it clear, is it easy to understand? Is it comparable?’.”

The new company will advise firms on how they can get their disclosure practices in order to meet the growing demand for ESG data from regulators, investors and consumers. It’s a skill that’s so far lacking among businesses around the world but one that they will all need, however small, Seajay says.

While 7 Centre will offer ESG subject matter expertise within its services, the differentiator will be its stakeholder engagement work. The ESG data record is patchy because many companies don’t have the processes in place to gather and disclose their own ESG data. This is a particular challenge for investors, who must make portfolio- and risk-management decisions based on incomplete information on those companies. Many deploy sophisticated analytics to estimate what that information might be – a process that’s often been blamed for inconsistencies in the ESG data record.

Seajay, along with many others, argues that engagement between all stakeholders within the ESG sphere will help yield the data that’s missing and fortify both corporate leaders and investors against sustainability-linked risks.

“Being able to show them how to do that effectively, and honestly and authentically and integrate that into ESG disclosure and best practices is the most effective and efficient way of being truly ESG forward-thinking,” she explains.

Career of Engagement

Seajay’s career is steeped in sustainable stakeholder engagement. She earned a master’s degree that focused on best practices within the discipline before accepting a number of professional stakeholder engagement roles in industry. She took a detour in 2014 with the formation of Orenda, in which she brought artificial intelligence to ESG data analytics, deploying the technology to mine sustainability sentiment pointers on companies from social media.

The company was such a success that SIX, the operator of the Swiss stock exchange and a data giant in its own right, bought a controlling stake in 2021.

Now Seajay is back on home turf as managing partner of her new venture and is likely to be joined by some of her most trusted colleagues at Orenda to pursue what she sees as the next evolutionary step in ESG.

She doesn’t intend 7 Centre to be a long-standing consultant to any single company. There are many thousands of businesses that need to be tutored in disclosure and stakeholder engagement best practices and the best way to do that is to provide them with the tools and processes to do so and then let them run with it. That’s why Seajay is so enamoured with the TCFD approach; it is clear, understandable and easily replicable.

“Engagement is definitely going to be vital – whenever you are in a crisis, you want everyone around you supporting you and hoping that you’re going to come out of it doing well,” she says. “If you make a mistake and you haven’t engaged your stakeholders, then you will see the opposite. You will see people attacking you for not being more thoughtful or empathetic. And you won’t have the backup team that you need to get through crisis events.”

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