What To Know About DQ Institute’s New Framework For Digital-ESG

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by KnowESG
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The DQ Institute, an international think-tank working to set global digital intelligence standards, launched its digital-ESG framework, Safer Internet Day 2023, in early February. This new framework is designed to cover the digital-related risks from technology's negative impact on society and the environment. It also highlights opportunities for technology to have positive impacts on the world.

This framework is crucial as it offers guidance for companies and how they interact with technology. After all, technology is constantly changing, and businesses need to adapt to stay relevant. At the same time, this framework will allow companies to be responsible, transparent, and accountable for their own individual goals.

How Is The Framework Structured?

To start, there are eight digital-ESG criteria that are used. These are aligned with both the DQ global standards and the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These particular criteria are designed to allow companies to achieve what DQ calls “beyond sustainability”, in terms of technology.

These criteria are:

  • Human-Centred Transformation (Digital G) - Companies innovate cross-dimensional technologies in a responsible manner.

  • Operational Efficiency (Digital E) - Companies maintain a balance between boosting operational efficiency with tech while considering environmental impacts and human-technology relationships.

  • Stakeholder Safety, Health & Well-Being (Digital S) - Companies consider the health, safety, and general well-being of all people when using their technology.

  • Data Security & System Reliability (Digital G) - Companies assure reliability in their digital security to protect data, systems, and networks.

  • Digital Rights & Ethics (Digital G) - Companies uphold the digital human rights and ethics of stakeholders.

  • Digital Skills & Human Capital Development (Digital S) - Companies empower their workforce through digital literacy and skills.

  • Digital Reputation & Stakeholder Engagement (Digital S) - Companies maintain digital consider communication and

  • Digital Inclusion & Equity (Digital G) - Companies integrate social responsibility values in the tech they build or acquire.

Each of these also corresponds to one of the three components of the digital ESG. These are the definitions:

  • ‘Digital E’ represents the company’s impact on environmental sustainability and how its digital activities affect it.

  • ‘Digital S’ represents the personal, interpersonal, and social impact its activities have.

  • ‘Digital G’ represents the principles that define the rights, responsibilities and expectations of stakeholders in governing a company’s digital activities.

What Purpose Does This Have For Businesses?

Similar to the UN’s SDGs, this particular framework is all about the digital use of a business. Even if your business isn’t in the tech industry, this is still something to do since technology has been fully integrated into our lives. This particular framework can be implemented into how technology is currently being used in your business and can influence tech-related decisions in the future.

Think of this framework as an additional layer for ESG initiatives, another area where it can have significant social impact while also being something worked on internally. This also fills in the digital part, as the UN’s SDGs hardly cover digital adoption or how technology can be woven into ESG beyond tools. This will allow technology to be fully integrated into ESG in a meaningful way.

Focus on ‘S & G’

The other key thing to note is that there is less emphasis on the environmental impact of technology as the UN’s SDGs provide an umbrella for environmental coverage. As a result, this framework focuses more on the social and governance aspects, which are often overshadowed by, for example, the increasingly visible environmental consequences of anthropogenic climate change.

Adoption of these measures can, as mentioned, coincide with other internal company activities, all while delivering increased beneficial social impact. For example, working on Digital Inclusion & Equity can mean creating products or services online that are accessible to everyone in a broad sense. Digital Skills & Human Capital Development can blend with initiatives like creating a digital platform for employee training, or employee-centric promotions.


Ultimately, by working on some or, ideally, all of these criteria, any company will stand to develop a better understanding of digital competencies as they go along. Furthermore, these efforts will be able to mitigate digital-related risks while maximising company opportunities.

As with the SDGs, this is a framework for discerning which actions can be taken according to a company’s specific circumstances. The faster we can integrate such guidelines into the regular expectations of corporate operations, the faster we stand to generate both the social and governance benefits which, in turn, will validate the further evolution of these frameworks.

Find more Social & Governance-related ESG news here.


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