For startups, implementing ESG may seem like quite a hurdle. Many prioritize pure growth and place ESG considerations on the back burner.
Yet, an increasing number of technology startups believe it’s best to get started on ESG initiatives as early as possible. One such company is Wovn Technologies, an MPower portfolio company. The company’s commitment to ESG is reflected in the words of Takeshi Fujiwara, CFO and Board Director:
ESG is important for companies, regardless of whether they are early stage or not, publicly listed or private. It is not something that can be done in a short time in preparation for an IPO; rather, it requires time and a change in mindset. I believe it’s important to address ESG as early as possible, and by starting small, by linking ESG with business goals.
Wovn Technologies CFO, Takeshi Fujiwara
How does WOVN approach ESG? Through MPower’s recent discussions with WOVN’s management and in our work alongside their ESG Project Team, we found that ESG is the backbone of their business and organization.
ESG is embedded in WOVN’s business objectives
WOVN provides multilingualization SaaS solutions for websites and apps with the mission to “create a world where all people can access all data in their native language.” ESG is not just a tagline or marketing tool; it sits at the core of what WOVN is trying to do as a business.
Further, Fujiwara says, “eliminating inequality of information due to language barriers hits right at the center addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Therefore, WOVN’s mission itself is aligned with the ESG framework, especially in terms of ‘Social.’” Indeed, ESG is embedded in its business objectives.
The company’s rapid growth is enabled by its highly diverse team. Currently, WOVN’s employees represent over 25 different nationalities. “In order for our business to be successful, we need to realize the potential of our diverse team members. This is one of the reasons why we embrace and place such a high priority on DEI,” explains Fujiwara.
In other words, ESG elements are part of WOVN’s business objectives and form the foundation to realize its mission.
A cross-functional ESG Team supports a company-wide effort
After MPower invested in 2021, WOVN officially launched their ESG Project. What was important to WOVN at that time was to create an environment for the entire company to work together on the endeavor.
Because they consider ESG and WOVN’s mission to be closely linked, the management team wanted all employees, whom they refer to as “members,” to be aware of it. Fujiwara recalls, “we wanted to create an environment where members not only from corporate but also from product or business divisions, and anyone interested in ESG, could come together and be involved.”
When the ESG Project Team was formed, members were recruited from across the company. According to Fujiwara, this was a good opportunity to promote company-wide collaboration. “In a hybrid, remote work environment, it’s easy to lose interactive communication across departments,” he said, “but the ESG Project has allowed us to facilitate discussions cross-functionally.”
ESG has increased employee engagement
Since the establishment of the ESG Project, WOVN has expanded efforts into areas other than “Social.”
For “Environment,” for example, WOVN will measure and reduce their CO2 emissions, and with their recent office relocation, they chose recyclable materials for the floor and chairs in the central space. Fujiwara says that “when we thought about what we could do in terms of the ‘E’, we surprised ourselves that there are many small things we can do, and we would not have even thought about it without our ESG efforts.”
The ESG Project is also having a positive impact on the organization. “The formation and kick-off of the ESG Project has enabled shared thinking across the company about what’s coming in the future, and discuss it at a detailed level,” says Hisayuki Uemori, COO and Board Executive Vice President. From choosing physical materials for the office to reconsidering their ways of working, all members have a heightened awareness about sustainability. When members come across commonly-used terms such as “ESG” and “SDGs” in the news or in day-to-day business, they are now more aware and interested.
This change in awareness has also increased member engagement. Fujiwara says, “our ESG efforts have given us an opportunity to think about WOVN’s significance as a business – our ‘purpose.’ As a result, we believe our employees’ motivation and engagement has increased.” Further, Fujiwara believes the structure of running the ESG efforts in a cross-functional project team format has enabled that.
WOVN publicly releases its sustainability page
WOVN, which has formally committed to ESG integration, is pursuing a variety of specific initiatives and actions across “E,” “S,” and “G.”
For example, under “Social,” which is core to WOVN, the company has incorporated improvements in web accessibility into its product development roadmap, including the adoption of color schemes that take into account inclusion and accessibility not only from a language perspective but also a visual perspective.
In addition, in order to ensure data privacy and make the platform secure based on the highest standards, WOVN established the Cyber Security Office as an independent organization that reports to the company’s Board of Directors. The Cyber Security Office’s role is to promote compliance with personal information protection laws and global privacy-related legal regulations, such as GDPR and CCPA, and to ensure the stable operation of WOVN’s system.
WOVN also continues to strengthen initiatives that fall under “E” and “G.” For more information on the key issues and initiatives, please see WOVN’s Sustainability Page, published on May 24!
WOVN’s ESG-related links:
- WOVN Sustainability Page
- May 24, 2022 press release (Japanese only): WOVN publicly releases its sustainability initiatives
- October 5, 2021 blog post: WOVN’s ESG project has finally kicked off. So, what’s it all about?