Alessia Falsarone joined the OpenCorporates Operating Board as a Non-Executive Director in 2021, bringing 25 years of experience working in financial firms.
Alongside her role at OpenCorporates, she is head of sustainable investing at a global investment firm in New York City, adjunct faculty at the University of Chicago and the award-winning author of a recently published book about data science applications for business sustainability.
In this blog post, Alessia tells us why she believes OpenCorporates is fast becoming a core building block in a global infrastructure network that promotes accountability on governments, companies and other organisations.
Tell us about your professional background
I have spent nearly half of the past 25 years working in banking institutions around the world, and the other half working for investment firms in New York City. My work lies at the intersection of financial innovation and how it can help to fast-track the sustainability ambitions of companies, and the analysis of risk-taking behaviours of producers, consumers and their intermediaries.
I’m a strategist by trade and a mathematician by educational background. While doing my graduate studies at Stanford in the early 2000s, I discovered a passion for what I would call the “science of impact” – a multidisciplinary field that researches all those hard to quantify outcomes that businesses and society are responsible for co-creating, whether positive or negative.
Why did you decide to join OpenCorporates?
I have always believed in the need for integrity that comes from opening up data for everybody to tap into and chart their own insights. To my mind, OpenCorporates enables anyone – whether companies or the general public – to go through that journey and find answers to the accountability questions they seek to address. OpenCorporates doesn’t force or push particular insights. The platform makes neutral statements about a company by giving users the core information they need.
While researching for my recent book, The Impact Challenge, I presented frameworks for companies that don’t just want to make sustainability commitments but want to create better governance and accountability for societal outcomes, while remaining commercially viable. Over the past year I have seen how OpenCorporates works to collect, standardise and make available corporate data. Starting with the analysis of ownership networks is a natural stepping stone for anyone interested in aligning long-ranged sustainability commitments with the ultimate decision makers in the complex world we live in.
The way the platform has been deployed to map entity level data with deforestation financing is one of the recent examples of how impactful OpenCorporates can be in a wide range of domains – from fighting global corruption to identifying who finances climate change.
How does your professional background and experience shape your work at OpenCorporates?
I joined OpenCorporates a year ago and by then the company was already clearly on the fast-track for growth. It has been remarkable to see the team not just shape a clear vision and purpose (to be a technology company with mission and ambition), but quickly adapt to making their data more usable and help their users to integrate it faster. Their success in the North American market is a testament to that. It comes at a time when transparency is the ultimate tool to tackle systemic issues and promote trust.
My background and experience allows me to help the team with this growth phase. OpenCorporates is already helping power a global market of sustainability solutions, which aligns with my expertise and passions.
From your perspective, what is the benefit of open and transparent company data?
I believe everyone needs open data like that provided by OpenCorporates. It allows them to verify realities and form assumptions based on trusted inputs, instead of needing to rely on opaque data. Access to open and transparent company data is a priceless proposition and an equaliser. It is a must for efforts to rebuild trust in an environment where there is widespread mistrust of information sources, especially when hidden behind paywalls.
Have these benefits changed at all given the upheaval caused by the pandemic?
The pandemic has amplified the need to access information and drive accountability, both in the for profit and non-profit sectors. There is more pressure to find out what decisions are being made and who does and doesn’t benefit from decision-making.
During Covid-19, OpenCorporates became a partner of choice for private and public organisations, including government entities who are stewards of public trust and transparency – and who need information to help them to enforce laws.
The benefit of open data is that it allows everybody to build solutions to problems and map out an accountability framework – not just those that can afford it. Our society has become more activist than ever before. OpenCorporates is an engine for engagement which benefits all stakeholders.
Looking to the future, what is the potential of OpenCorporates?
OpenCorporates is already leading the way in its commercialisation efforts, while coming from a place of purpose. We now need to get even more company data into the public domain so that more people know about us and our data platform. In the future, I believe everyone will realise that OpenCorporates is a necessary building block for creating global accountability.
OpenCorporates’ data is already being used to address systemic issues like corruption and greenwashing allegations. But OpenCorporates can also help to identify and reward those companies and entities who are enabling positive societal change.
I believe OpenCorporates will be employed more and more to scrutinise sustainability commitments vs. corporate behaviours and to find any divergences in sustainability disclosures earlier in the due diligence process – whether looking at strategic partners, or simply conducting Know Your Customer vetting.
Disclaimer: The opinions rendered in the blog by the author (Alessia Falsarone) are expressed in personal capacity. They are not attributable to any organisation. They do not constitute a financial nor an investment advice.
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