ESG: Where to Start

This post originally appeared on the blog of our PRGN partner agency in Denver, Novitas Communications.

Stuck on how to get started communicating your ESG policies and results? You are not alone. Many companies and organizations face challenges when determining what components of ESG to share and how to share it.

The good news is that there are no right or wrong answers when determining your approach. Currently, there are no SEC reporting requirements, there are no big expectations (yet) from the investor community, and business schools have barely scratched the surface on ESG reporting.

If you are struggling with the first step towards creating an ESG reporting and communications framework, let us share a few ideas. Below are three topics that you can use to jump start the development of your ESG policy framework.

Explain the company’s vision and values. We didn’t start here by accident: every action taken to improve your company’s ESG performance is linked to your vision and values. Just as your company’s operations are guided by your vision and values, so is your ESG framework.

When communicating about vision and values in your ESG framework, it is important to be intentional, simple, and transparent. Anyone who reads it should immediately understand what your company’s values are, and see how these values map to other areas of your ESG framework.

Acknowledge controversies and dilemmas. No company is protected from controversy. If you are in a competitive marketplace, working hard to create value for stakeholders and profit for shareholders, you simply cannot please all the people all the time. Be transparent about what you are doing, the reasons for doing so, and why you believe that this is a sound choice moving forward. Let dissenters be heard, and be respectful.

Notice, this does not say avoid them. It will be impossible to avoid some controversies and dilemmas in the course of business. How you handle them when they come up can make all the difference.

Acknowledging controversies and dilemmas shows that you are thoughtful. It can often head off aggressive attacks from opponents, and being transparent can fend off “gotcha” style attacks in the media. This is a key area of ESG reporting that supports a strategic communications strategy around some of the company’s most sensitive issues and may require outside counsel.

Identify areas of action. To begin identifying areas of action, ask yourself these questions. What big picture ESG initiatives can your company endeavor to improve upon in the coming year? How will these areas of action help employees, suppliers, customers, neighbors, the environment, and the bottom line?

Pick a couple areas, identify associated goals and a course of action, and execute. To set yourself up for success, the action areas don’t have to be vast, or require the work of many people. However, they must be clear, actionable, and measurable at first.

From a communications standpoint, these areas of action create opportunities to inform stakeholders through a multi-channel approach, including positive earned media. Because few companies have a formalized ESG framework, this type of innovative thinking is interesting to journalists in the financial press and mainstream media. Employees with a renewed sense of pride and greater purpose will share positive news about the company on social media, with friends, and others in the business community.

If your company is thinking about building a formalized ESG framework, and the appropriate communications strategy around it, you are on the right track. We are here to guide you in creating the ESG framework that best suits your organization and selecting areas of action, share industry best practices, and ensure you get the ROI that your company deserves for this important topic. Ready to dive into ESG? Complete the form below to learn more.

About the Author: Abigail Anello is an associate at Novitas Communications

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