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ESG as a field has existed in one form or another for decades, but suddenly faces explosive growth as companies scramble to keep up with increasing reporting obligations, regulations, and societal demands. It is chaotic, rushed, and unpredictable. ESG professionals are feeling the effects. A recent post from The ESG Advocate highlights the growing disillusionment with the profession stating:

… there is certainly no shortage of job postings, but a quick search shows that many roles focus on the reporting aspect, not purpose or outcomes. This is matched with a wave of interest from purpose-filled candidates who see more in the jobs than may be there. I talked to one hiring manager recently who said they had over 800 qualified candidates for a role, not including the entirety of applicants.

What these job seekers often find, is that the path others have forged is now full of disillusionment and disappointment.”

The article goes on to give some great tips for giving ESG reporting jobs meaning and staying afloat as an ESG professional. It can be disheartening to think you’ve landed a job that will be full of purpose and meaning only to wind up spending your days entering data into spreadsheets. We are in the middle of a move from voluntary efforts to mandatory regulation. As such, leadership has shifted their perspective to a compliance mindset, which means lots of disclosures that are either required by law, requested by investors/raters or in anticipation of future legal requirements. This creates drudgery for ESG professionals responsible for reporting.

Is this the new normal? I am cautiously optimistic this is a phase, a growing pain for ESG. Right now companies are scrambling to improve reporting practices and comply with new disclosure laws. However, once this levels out and comparable data is available, that focus will likely shift to improving the underlying data to outperform competitors. Helping figure out how to improve that data by improving the sustainability of company operations is where sustainability professionals will really shine. It’s a matter of getting to that point and surviving the torrent of standards, frameworks, and regulations that precede it.

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The Editor

Zachary Barlow is a licensed attorney. He earned his JD from the University of Mississippi and has a bachelor’s in Public Policy Leadership. He practiced law at a mid-size firm and handled a wide variety of cases. During this time he assisted in overseeing compliance of a public entity and litigated contract disputes, gaining experience both in and outside of the courtroom. Zachary currently assists the editorial team by providing research and creating content on a spectrum of ESG… View Profile