From corporate boardrooms to solo entrepreneurs, ESG (environmental, social and governance) performance is a hot business topic and it is increasingly clear that businesses which can demonstrate strong ESG performance stand to enjoy a competitive and regulatory advantage over the medium to long term.
We looked at how this looks in practice, in day to day operations, with Julia Fawsley Grant, head of content and communications at ESGmark®, a community which brings together responsible businesses and organisations.
"Let’s start with what ESG means. “E” at the most basic level is about minimising environmental impact. How is your business taking steps to reduce carbon emissions and reduce waste? “S” covers your business’ commitment to the welfare of your people and the communities in which you operate. “G” is about building trust with stakeholders, through a transparent and best-practice led approach to business. No company can become a fully responsible business overnight - what is important is to start, and to be committed and transparent about it. ", says Fawsley Grant.
"There is no cherry picking as to what counts as ESG applicable and what doesn’t. There is also a responsibility to ask questions - without knowing where your products and services are coming from, how they are made and in what conditions, it is impossible for an organisation to validate their sustainability claims."
While ‘ESG’ trips off the tongue like a single word, the three pillars that make up the E, the S and the G are individually huge areas. "Incorporating ESG into your decision-making processes will be informed by what industry you work in and what your key ESG touch points are within that industry. While there are myriad best practice examples to follow, you need to ensure that the policies you put in place are achievable ‘in real life’ and that you apply that decision making process equally across the company."
"At ESGmark® we help businesses to craft policies which set standards and objectives for how they operate from an ESG perspective. It is critical that these policies are actionable, apply to the real-life decisions of your business and ideally have measurable outcomes. We support our members step-by-step in delivering on their ESG objectives", says Fawsley Grant.
She quotes the example of ESGmark® members Ancient + Brave, who put its principles at the centre of every decision it makes, regardless of what area of the business it might be. As founder and CEO Kate Prince says: “We consider our ESG principles and responsibilities in every aspect of our business – from the suppliers we work with, to sourcing ingredients, packaging and supporting the development of our team.” In its case, these principles stem from a commitment to “people and planet” and inform everything they do.
On a day-to-day basis, a fully-integrated ESG policy means making your business the most responsible, well informed and positive contributor to society that it can be.