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Making Transformational Change Sustainable

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In 2019, TransUnion appointed Hilary Chidi as its first Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO). As CSO, Hilary brings a wealth of experience, having held sustainability-related responsibilities at previous employers in addition to having a graduate degree in sustainability. Since assuming the role, he has overseen a transformation in TransUnion’s engagement and approach to environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues. We sat down with Hilary to discuss what has changed since his appointment and what’s on the horizon.

Why did you become interested in sustainability, and what advice do you have for professionals interested in joining the field?

Hilary: I was first introduced to many of the principles of sustainability in my youth, growing up in Nigeria. I saw the role poor governance and corruption has in eroding trust in private enterprises and public institutions. The impact oil extraction firms and their practices have had in the Niger Delta and surrounding communities has been widely reported; however, it was somewhat personal for me as my father’s hometown is geographically close to some of the most environmentally impacted areas. That said, I also saw individuals and companies that were acutely focused on driving solutions to some of the most pressing issues in the region.

My advice to young professionals interested in sustainability is that now is a great time to get involved. The problems facing the world require not just attention but innovative thinking — economic inequality, climate change and social justice require talented and passionate people to step forward. My hope is that someday my role will become obsolete because we’ll live in a world where sustainability criteria is embedded into every role.

What are some current priorities for TransUnion’s Sustainability Office?

Hilary: At TransUnion, our Sustainability Program focuses on four strategic pillars: Financial Inclusion, Security, Governance and Compliance, People and DEI, and Environmental Footprint. These pillars reflect our commitment to delivering solutions to global challenges and creating lasting value for our customers, communities, consumers, employees and investors. Also central to our ESG focus are areas that are most critical to our business including Data Privacy, Cybersecurity and Corporate Governance. Furthermore, to unlock our full potential, we are expanding our efforts to address a wide range of ESG issues like Consumer Protection, Supporting Communities, Supply Chain Management and Natural Resource Management. 

We identify our priorities based on what is important to our business and stakeholders, and our program will continue to evolve in response to global regulatory landscape, ESG trends and stakeholders’ interests.

Looking ahead, what are the top sustainability trends you see emerging in the industry?

Hilary: ESG issues are no longer treated as a fad or an afterthought by companies. They are increasingly pivotal to a firm’s reputation, valuation and financial performance and are heavily scrutinized by an array of key stakeholders — including, of course, shareholders. Drawing on ongoing studies and industry sentiments, I’ll provide insight into five key sustainability trends that are top of mind for leaders in our industry.

  1. Multiple waves of the COVID-19 pandemic have exacerbated existing socio-economic and geopolitical issues, and have made certain ESG issues even higher priorities for policymakers and corporate authorities. Many communities, groups and regions are in dire straits or facing sustained hardships. To combat this issue, one of the biggest ongoing trends and emerging focus areas of our industry has been financial inclusion through innovative solutions aimed at enhancing fair access for individuals and businesses to a wide range of affordable financial products and services that meet customer needs.
  2. Data stewardship is becoming a key focus area for savvy and socially responsible investors. Likewise, consumers are increasingly focused on trust and certainly more aware of the part companies play within society. This echoes a fundamental shift in how businesses must operate. The growing permeation of privacy and protection-related disclosures in sustainability reports indicate an operational shift towards prioritizing responsible data management
  3. Globally, corporations, capital markets and asset managers in particular are placing a high value on the sustainability nexus that interlinks human capital management and ESG principles. We are in a time of historic turnover rates resulting in extraordinary competition for talent (and vice versa). The companies that may be best positioned in this new environment are those that most effectively execute reforms in talent strategies including human capital management specifically around Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI), employee well-being and culture, talent development and succession planning.
  4. Another avenue of emerging opportunity and white space for firms like TransUnion is the role we can play in catalyzing, galvanizing and accelerating the transition to a new economy by making bold commitments to renewable energy use and greenhouse gas reduction. Tackling climate change and transitioning to a net-zero economy is a new imperative, and will continue to be at the forefront of this revolution over this decade and beyond.
  5. The demand for sustainability reporting standards and improved ESG data reporting will continue to grow significantly. Existing frameworks may serve as a blueprint for mandated ESG reporting requirements. Additionally, new regulations and standardizations will demand more disclosures from corporations across all industries — including ours. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has already responded to growing emphasis from investors on disclosing ESG-related issues, and has intensified its focus on assessing and addressing ESG risk and opportunities for building sustainable companies.

How is TransUnion accelerating these trends in our own ESG programming and business practices?

Hilary: TransUnion has been a long-time advocate of using alternative financial data — such as rent, utility and phone payments — in credit reports to assemble a more accurate financial picture and demonstrate credit worthiness of consumers. We pioneered bringing trended credit data alongside alternative data to advance credit inclusion of individuals globally. In US alone, around 60 million people have thin or no credit profiles. We are constantly striving to change such realities worldwide with our products, partnerships and community engagements. We also provide innovative tools and solutions that extend beyond expanding access to credit. We are empowering consumers to understand and navigate through the credit management space with the help of our impactful credit health and fraud prevention solutions like CreditView® and CreditCompassTM.

In BlackRock CEO Larry Fink’s most recent letter to the corporate world, the push toward a “net-zero future” was clear. In line with the expectations of TransUnion’s investors, employees and other key stakeholders, we announced our climate goals in 2021. We are targeting to reach net-zero on our scope 1 and 2 emissions by 2025 while reducing our scope 3 emissions from real estate 30% by 2030. We have adopted various strategies that will continue to shape our climate action over the next decade — such as real estate consolidation, environmentally-friendly migration to cloud solutions, renewable energy usage and carbon offset purchases.

Our workforce culture and talent strategies are underpinned by our deep understanding of human capital management, sustainability trends, industry best practices, government policies and talent industry insights. We are committed to promoting a diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace that attracts, develops and retains exceptional talent. We have a three-pronged approach to our DEI strategy — hire, develop and promote. We engage with underrepresented groups in Black and Hispanic communities through targeted recruiting and development programs and maintain tailored engagements to address their specific needs. We have a commitment to achieve global gender parity for VP+ roles by 2030, as well as dedicated working groups on gender and racial equity. We also offer tailored wellness sessions and various talent development programs for our associates to create a culture of well-being and continuous learning.

We are continually working toward developing and refining our ESG disclosures. In our opinion, better measurement of our ESG performance will lead to better informed decisions of where to direct our resources and attention. Recognizing the demand for more standardized, comparable and improved ESG reporting, we are using the most widely used voluntary disclosure frameworks — Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) and United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs). In 2021, we also started following the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosure (TCFD) framework, and in our 2021 Sustainability Report, we outline the status of our alignment with the recommendations and our anticipated reporting schedule for coming years.

We recognize the criticality of data privacy and protection for our business, and we take great pride in responsibly stewarding the consumer information under our care. Our commitment to protecting consumer information is crucial to our mission of making trust possible and a source of our competitive edge. We ensure integration of privacy and data protection into the design and development of our products and services. We also regularly conduct privacy-focused assessments of our products to confirm compliance with fast-changing regulations.

Read more about how we are advancing our ESG performance in our 2021 Sustainability Report.

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