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Now it’s Personal: ESG is More than a Business for Plan A Chief

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For Plan A co-founder and Chief Executive Lubomila Jordanova, ESG is a personal mission.

The former investment banker said she experienced something akin to an epiphany in 2016 that set her on the path to creating her carbon and ESG accounting startup.

Now, five years after setting up Berlin-based Plan A, Jordanova is seeing her ambition come to fruition. The SaaS company, which helps businesses identify and automate the gathering of data they need to improve their sustainability position, recently pulled in US$10 million in a series A round of funding to help it expand across Europe.

The company now has a portfolio of more than 400 clients, ranging from major financial companies such as Société Générale and major manufacturers like BMW, to startups including sustainable fashion brand Silfir. It now has offices in Munich, London and Paris, and was granted B Corp status earlier this year.

Jordanova’s personal journey was impressively recognised when she was named an Obama Leader by the former president’s foundation, which seeks to highlight young people working to better the world.

“I was drawn to the topic of climate change for personal reasons and I educated myself,” Jordanova tells ESG Insight.

“I spent close to a year educating myself about the issues and it gave me a foundational knowledge, but since then I’ve been surrounding myself with a lot of scientists, who have helped me deeply understand what is the fundamental problem that we’re addressing.”

Assessment and Offset

Plan A helps companies establish a performance benchmark against which they can forge a strategy to lower their carbon footprints. Carbon is accounted for using the Greenhouse Gas Protocol methodology and the company also offers carbon offset services to help lower clients’ emissions.

Service packages start at EUR1,999 and differ mostly in the level of support and bolt-on additional modules available. Each provides the data technology and guidance that enables them to monitor, calculate and reduce their carbon footprints, while higher-value options give support on such processes as data sourcing and validation.

Bolt-ons include support for ESG management of multiple corporate sites, regulatory and investor reporting, and API integration.

“Once the data is analysed, we automatically give prescription on how companies can improve, which means that we don’t only focus on the analysis and the status quo and the reporting on that, but really on how do you move forward so that you become a sustainability and ESG leader,” Jordanova explains.

One of Plan A’s key selling points is that the entire process is automated, from data retrieval to analysis and strategy formulation. Unusually for a carbon accounting service, however, Plan A also provides automation to gather social and governance data.

This can take the form of hooks straight into human resource systems, which also can be anonymised to prevent exposure of individuals linked to controversial disclosures.

Jordanova said the focus on social factors is important because more companies are being asked to offer information on such things as their diversity and inclusivity records. For governance reporting, Plan A enables the aggregation of individual departmental and policy data.

“We need to start developing some benchmarks and a better understanding of what the gender distribution within the company is; does the company have the right policies in place to promote this? Is the company in the right place to be protecting itself from corruption and so on?

Wider Benefits

While Plan A’s technology is geared primarily to helping companies improve their ESG standings, Jordanova says the service is also invaluable to companies in winning clients and investors. Being able to demonstrate a decarbonisation and social strategy has become a determinant in sourcing business and financing, she says.

Comparability between companies is also improving as Plan A services more companies. The growing body of corporate data Plan A has helped clients surface is enabling the creation of accurate performance benchmarks.

“To be able to predict accurately how a company is going to be able to improve, we use a lot of analysis that has been done on other companies,” she said. “That helps us to continuously improve the suggestions that we make and the accuracy of the analysis.”

Plan A has been helped in the past year by clients’ growing awareness of what data they need to find.

The gradual introduction of regulations in Europe, the COP26 summit in the UK and the growth of sustainable investing have put ESG issues at the top of news agendas. That’s had a beneficial impact on companies, which have begun to look more closely at their own ESG performance.

“If you had asked me one and a half to two years ago, I would have said something different, but from today’s perspective we’re not speaking with companies that are totally in the dark about understanding what this topic is,” Jordanova explains.

“Maybe they don’t know where all the data is sitting, but they’re starting to get a grasp and the larger the company, the more legislation and regulation they need to follow, the more aware they are.”

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