While the adoption of environmental, social and governance (ESG) programs is becoming increasingly important for building a sustainable future, implementing such initiatives does not come without its challenges. Cost, ROI, engagement and clear messaging are just a few of the many factors to consider when it comes to corporate sustainability.
Below are some common concerns with commonsense solutions that may help companies better prepare for ESG deployment.
- Capital allocation: Investing in and implementing ESG initiatives may require significant financing, which can be a hurdle for some companies, especially smaller organizations with limited resources. Not all ESG programs are costly, however. Starting slow and building a longer-term strategy over 2-3 years is good practice. It could be something simple, such as reducing a company’s carbon footprint by using energy-efficient lighting or adopting a hybrid workplace.
- Complexity and measurement: Determining the right indicators, collecting reliable data and establishing standardized frameworks can be arduous. Companies can overcome this challenge by leveraging emerging technologies, collaborating with industry peers and engaging with ESG consultants and experts to ensure accurate and transparent reporting.
- Benchmarking: It is important that organizations perform in a manner to maintain their performance, and at the same time, mitigate risk and capitalize on the potential benefits of sustainable business practices. Falling behind on these initiatives may lead to missed business opportunities. A good rule of thumb is to set realistic, achievable goals aside from regulatory obligations.
- Stakeholder engagement: Balancing the diverse expectations of multiple audiences can be very demanding. Companies can use existing technologies to set up open communication channels with each of its targeted communities, from employees and investors to customers and suppliers. Social platforms can be used to garner support and to ensure that ESG programs align with stakeholder needs.
- Integration and alignment: ESG programs often require changes to organizational structures, investment decisions and risk management practices. Since companies are constantly evolving, meaningful ESG practices can slowly and strategically be integrated into existing operations. What’s needed are leadership commitment, employee education and training and clear ESG goals that align with the company’s mission and values.
- Regulatory environment: Compliance with multiple reporting frameworks and keeping up with varying regulatory and local jurisdictions often can lead to uncertainty. Engaging with policymakers, industry associations and subject matter experts can help companies stay informed and adapt their ESG programs to meet evolving requirements.
Today’s business and social climate are having a trickle-down effect on ESG. Large organizations, for example, are requiring smaller companies to adhere to ESG criteria as part of their global supply chains. Moreover, a growing number of institutional investors will not invest in companies without an ESG program in place.
Lack of standardization, inconsistent data quality and subjectivity are adding to the confusion when it comes to ESG. As a result, Bloomberg predicts more ESG-related shareholder lawsuits this year, which was highlighted in a recent Morgan Lewis webinar.
Studies suggest that those companies embracing ESG will be competitive leaders and drive long-term value creation. ESG is not as complicated as it may appear. Deploying a program that does good – without breaking the proverbial bank – not only enhances brand reputation, but also will be well received among investors.
George Medici, email@example.com