How to build an Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) SaaS Product?
You have experienced first-hand the changes in clothing manufacturing industry around sustainability. You are ready to bring your unique vision for ESG to the fashion industry as a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) product.
In the early days, you will want to spend more time and energy on the features that matter most to your target market, but soon, customers and potential buyers will ask for a more complete product. The roadmap expands.
ESG products are usually built on top of surveys, assessments, and certifications. As the table below shows, the certification market is rather vast.
|Sponsor||Government (Local, State, Federal)||Professional Trade Association|
|Mandatory||Yes to exercise profession||Recommended to be qualified as a vendor (procurement)||No (but useful as a marketing tool)|
|Time limits||Valid forever||Must be renewed every year||Must be renewed after infraction|
|Provider||State-registered vendor||Professional trade organization affiliate||Product IP owner||Anyone with knowledge|
|Method of delivery||Self-paced online course||Instructor-led webinar||in person, on location|
|Minimum requirements||number of hours||quiz with passing grade||inspector discretion|
In this context, we are looking to assess supplier organizations against ESG frameworks. A mature product in that space has the following features one way or another:
These are qualitative and quantitative surveys sent to suppliers, including calculators to facilitate input of estimates; for example Green House Gas (GHG) emissions calculators.
These are intelligent bots going through publicly available information such as annual reports, company websites, stock exchange filings, Corporate Social Responsability (CSR) reports and news sources, extracting relevant ESG data.
These keeps corporate responsibility policies, environmental ISO compliance procedures and audit related documents often asked during Request for Proposals (RFP) in a central place, easily shared with customers and investors.
These features enable independent auditors to assert the data collected is valid and calibrated.
Each supplier assessment leads to a scorecard such that suppliers can be compared to their peers.
Default charts (Scope 1, 2 and 3 GHG Emissions), customized charts and drill downs, are an integral part of benchmarking features.
Best practices, step-by-step guidance designed by sustainability experts, and up-to-date information about carbon tax regulations & carbon-related disclosures.
Scenario analysis, roadmaps, projections about the impact of implementing an initiative across the organization.
These features include Web pages, downloadable PDFs and slides with a supplier logo and colors that can be embed into a supplier's website.
These features include APIs and other connectors with corporate ERP Systems used during supplier selection.
Mapping to frameworks
Some mappings a required for compliance such as Conflict Mineral Report Template (CMRT) reports for SEC Form SD filing. Other mappings are encouraged, for example, GRI, IPIECA, SASB, TCFD, UN SDGs, CDP, MSCI, Certified B Corporation.
Reports can either be made publicly available, or shared with specific individuals or organizations.
A pricing page, a registration page and an account profile page are the first features you will think about in order to deliver your ESG for clothing manufacturing product as Software-as-a-Service.
Of course, customers expect a lot more standard features in a SaaS, especially an enterprise or B2B SaaS (Analysis shows up to 80% of a SaaS code base implements undifferentiated features like login, billing history, etc.). A mature ESG SaaS none-the-less requires to implement those features.
- Friction-less registration
- Email verification
- Welcome email
- Temporary disable registration
- Registered user notification
- Profile picture
- Standard default profile data fields
- Application-specific custom profile data
- Profile updated notification
- Delete profile (GDPR compliance)
- Shopping cart customized for subscription purchases
- Redeem discount at any point
- Option to pay multiple periods in advance
- HTML, Email and PDF charge receipts
- Balance due notification
- Billing history
- Active and past subscriptions
- Unsubscribe-now option
- Monthly and yearly plans
- Renewal notification
- Expiration notification
- Engagement with product features
- Daily active users
- Recently active users
- Subscription plans
- Active and churned subscribers
- New, churn and total sales
- New, churn and total customers
- Income, backlog and receivables balances
- Pricing page
- Contact-us form
- Terms-of-use page
- Role-based access control
- Billing-based access control
- Multiple roles on a profile
- Multiple organization profiles per user
- Invite and accept role on a profile (double opt-in)
- Request and grant role on a profile (double opt-in)
- Session debugging tools
- 40x Permission denied, not found, etc.
- 50x server error (Ooops)
Now that you have narrowed down the features of your Minimum Viable Product (MVP) for ESG targeting clothing manufacturing, it is time to think about the concrete steps to build it. In practice, most of the choices will boils down to the type of technical co-founder you have. None-the-less, that means picking:
The considerations for picking an hosting provider, either it is an Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) or Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) provider, typically include
- availability, i.e. the ability for users to reach your site over the Internet, and how long before they have to wait before receiving a page result. (related glossary: DNS, CDN, load-balancer)
- cyber-security, i.e. underlying security of the physical machines, and built-in pre-configured network security of the platform (related glossary: TLS, WAF) that are the basis for your SaaS to meet compliance requirements (related glossary: PCI, GDPR, HIPAA).
- multi-tenancy, i.e. the ability to support multiple customers, where each customer/tenant's data is isolated and remains invisible to other tenants.
- whitelabeling, i.e. the ability for your customers to customize logos, pages and up-to the domain name your SaaS is served under.
- technical support, i.e. how responsive and useful the hosting provider technical staff is to your inquiries.
- porting to mobile devices
- integrating with OpenAPI tools
- implementing Machine Learning (ML) algorithms
- maturity and size of the language/framework community
For your SaaS to remain competitive, your team must be productive. Features must be scheduled, developed, tested and deployed to a production environment reliably and often enough. The considerations for picking a DevOps workflow typically include
- Agile frameworks supported
- Source Code Repository platform
- Build Artifacts
- Testing Infrastructure
Photo of tropical forest by LayHwa Chew.