It that time again. No, not pumpkin spice <fill in the blank with your favorite food or beverage> season. We are in another period where ESG practitioners are feeling overwhelmed – facing fatigue and an inability to focus and work as efficiently as we wish. I’m not only reading about it, but friends and other ESG professionals are telling me their stories. Among the matters weighing most heavily on ESG professionals are disclosure fatigue and anti-ESG pressures.
- ESG Investor recently pointed out “There are now 100 different sustainability disclosure requirements in place or under development around the world…”
- IPE.com said “The onslaught of ESG disclosures sent to companies is overburdening chief sustainability officers (CSOs), risking greenwashing…”
The disclosure pressure is about more than not having data, by the way. And although the anti-ESG movement lost some steam in recent months, it had an effect on practitioners by causing companies to reconsider/reassess their strategies and practices – generally, not in a positive way. ESG professionals are stressed and it is beginning to take a toll.
The three most impactful – and easiest – things ESG professionals/CSOs can do right now to maintain sanity are:
- Take a quiet moment to think about what is most important for you to accomplish at this time. That could be writing a procedure, assisting the procurement team with supplier identification, gathering DEI or emissions data for a single facility or a division or answering questions from senior management. Tune out the noise, news and distractions and put all your attention on that one task. Focusing on one single thing will bring you a bit of calm and completing an important chore brings a noticeable sense of accomplishment.
- Realize that even though there is so much going on in ESG right now, you don’t need to know or track it all. Understand what your job requires from a practical point of view and focus on that. This can be hard given the amount of information on ESG, DEI, climate, circular economy and biodiversity coming at you. Potential distractions are endless at the moment and create mental fatigue, a loss of enthusiasm and may ultimately manifest in depression, disillusionment and even inability to execute needed tasks.
- Spend your time reviewing practical information from credible sources. Mangling a line from Jerry Jeff Walker’s Takin It as it Comes (“seems like everybody is a cowboy these days”) – everyone seems to be an ESG expert these days. Critically assess information sources to make sure they are credible and worth your time. Academic studies can be insightful, but are not always practical or actionable in corporate settings. Service providers camouflage non-substantive marketing materials as white papers and trade journal articles. Some people claim to be experts with only a couple years of tangential experience and some sort of on-line certification. One way to look at this: would you be comfortable bringing this source to your CEO/Board? If not, then it may not be worth you spending time on either.
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