Let’s talk about ESG

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There is no escaping it, ESG (Environment, Social and Governance) is a hot topic. All our clients are talking about it and often ask us how they should communicate their commitment to it. Realistically though, the leadership and management concerns around ESG aren’t new. Issues related to ESG have been the domain of public relations and public affairs practitioners for at least 50 years. Arguments have been made over this time that management decision-making has needed to broaden to include stakeholder concerns and broad social and environmental issues.

Companies have carried commitments to meeting broader social responsibilities for many years, acting on them with degrees of sincerity. Corporate social responsibility has moved on from doing good works and seeking recognition for these to a realisation that corporations must demonstrate that they exist to contribute to the creation of sustainable value and broad
social wellbeing.

Research published by Vuelio highlights the growing awareness of ESG as a corporate issue but also the opportunity for further education. Three out of five (63%) public relations practitioners claim that they can confidently define ESG and its impact on their clients or organisation. A third (31%) of organisations reported that they have a policy in place to manage ESG, while 41% said that it was a work in progress. More than a quarter (27%) said that they had taken no action to assess and manage ESG risk.

In future the complexity of concerns grouped as ESG will need to be managed together. The investment community increasingly expects to be informed on company commitments to and actions on these concerns. ESG relates to people and the planet. There is no bigger issue. Organisations and public relations professionals should focus on the role they can play to make improvements to ESG in their own public sphere.

The paper concludes with areas where practitioners can provide support to their organisations and clients in ESG.

  1. Planning

Communication planning should demonstrate a roadmap of action along with evidence of progress. It should take a long term view.

  1. Internal communication

There is an opportunity to engage employees in delivering solutions to reduce consumption in each of the areas of ESG. Getting staff involved in waste management, addressing governance and transparency will promote staff engagement through panels, groups and volunteering.

  1. Listen, Measure, React

Key techniques in issues management include scanning and monitoring an organisation’s environment and the concerns of stakeholder groups to identify and understand issues at the earlier possible point in their development

  1. Wider collaboration

Many critical issues related to ESG are fundamental to society and require a government or industry level approach. Find out what your peers are doing and engage with them to encourage wider industry decisions via trade associations.

  1. Reporting

Planned improvements to company reporting aimed at providing more depth to the steps taken to meet social and environmental obligations, how responsibilities to people, the planet and profit have been met. PR reporting insights can be drawn upon to provide additional detail.