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Keeping you in-the-know on environmental, social and governance developments

Brian Matt’s weekly NYSE Top 5 email from a couple weeks ago has a piece about an

.. interesting global survey data from LEK Consulting. N=400 here, with a quarter of the audience in C-suite and the remainder in sustainability and ESG roles. To us, the most interesting sections come when discussing the potential trade-offs between actions benefiting various stakeholder groups and financial performance. Page 17 covers the thought process – 58% of this audience notes there are ‘significant differences of opinion within our leadership team on how to balance short-term priorities with investments for sustainable growth.’ This audience would give itself an ‘incomplete’ rating on ESG measurement, with just 3% of those surveyed report having a full set of enterprise-wide ESG KPIs in place, with another 24% having KPIs for some ESG focus areas (Page 18). Just one-third of ESG leaders believe they have a good grasp of sustainability across their supply chain. Good odds you’ll find clippable items for your internal presentations here.

That brings up some interesting questions, as do results from this CFO survey from Anaplan and Deloitte:

… despite the positive words from their colleagues, ESG is quite low down in the list of priorities for CFOs. Currently, CFOs rank the management of ESG initiatives as fifth on their list of priorities (70%), only above ensuring effective cybersecurity (57%). In fact, CFOs consider themselves the least effective when it comes to addressing ESG initiatives (78%) – despite the rest of the business seeing it as one of their top three successes (91%)… With ESG set to only grow as a priority for all businesses, if CFOs can embrace it as one of their core priorities and make that commitment more visible, significant improvements could be made in this realm.

Granted, this is one of many, many surveys about how well companies are walking the talk of their ESG reports and communications. But I continually come back to the idea that companies should focus on the business fundamentals and opportunities of ESG, rather than “sprinkling ESG fairy dust on shares.” This article from Harvard Business profs Mark Kramer and Marc Pfister, published in the latest issue of Harvard Business Review says that same thing.

I’m happy to see an increasing number of case studies, articles and examples of ESG-centric successes that aren’t investor-focused, (and that don’t attempt to capture a too-frequently mythical green price premium). The more common these experiences and lessons become, the less important it will be to call something ESG – it will simply be business. We have a number of member resources that can help you in this journey, such as our checklists Economic Opportunities for Environmental Improvements and Assessing Your ESG Approach, along with our Guidebook on Communicating ESG Value.

And of course, our upcoming 1st Annual PracticalESG Conference will be full of practical experiences and lessons on a range of ESG topics:

  • ESG Hot Topics – Forewarned is Forearmed
  • Carbon Accounting Risks: Offsets, Disclosures & More
  • ESG Litigation & Investigations – Are You at Risk?
  • ESG’s Employment Law Landmines & How to Avoid Them
  • DEI Trends in the Midst of Rapid Change
  • Your ESG Team – Candid Board & Staffing Considerations
  • JUST ADDED: SEC Climate Rules – Jumpstarting Your Disclosures

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The Editor

Lawrence Heim has been practicing in the field of ESG management for almost 40 years. He began his career as a legal assistant in the Environmental Practice of Vinson & Elkins working for a partner who is nationally recognized and an adjunct professor of environmental law at the University of Texas Law School. He moved into technical environmental consulting with ENSR Consulting & Engineering at the height of environmental regulatory development, working across a range of disciplines. He was one… View Profile