Following the first two entries in our blog series on how organizations can start building an ESG program (see our CEO Brian Stafford’s introductory blog here and our tips for new ESG professionals blog here), let’s now look at how to lay the foundational elements of a robust ESG program.
In my previous post, I talked about how collating information and doing your research is perhaps the single most important element when it comes to laying the groundwork for an ESG program and determining the direction you want to take as an organization. Below is a quick refresher on how to jump-start your program:
- Get an understanding of existing corporate initiatives and evaluate if they align with ESG (charitable contributions or existing data collection efforts, for example)
- Take into account what your competitors are doing around sustainability. This will not only help define your own steps but will provide you with the opportunity to move ahead of the competition the steps they’re taking aren’t clearly delineated
- Get buy-in from your executive leadership team. This is a crucial step. Your focus on ESG will permeate all areas of the business, and actions need to be cross-functional
Once you’ve completed the baseline organizational assessment, you can leverage those insights into establishing and defining the structure of your ESG program. To help illustrate how, let’s use the work we’ve been doing at Diligent as an example.
As a company, our goal is to be the global leader in modern governance. By following the steps above to map out our reporting framework, we were able to streamline and create efficiencies around current initiatives and growth areas, while also giving us the opportunity to truly understand our priorities and the areas where we wanted to focus and make the most change. Identifying, consolidating and categorizing these programmatic focus areas allows us to track, measure and report with integrity and align our ESG strategy with our company’s mission.
At Diligent, we’re concentrating our efforts into three clearly defined pillars that are most important to us as an organization — People, Planet and Purpose.
- Our People pillar (encompassing employee engagement, social investments, responsible sourcing, and research and education) is key given that our employees and clients are our priority stakeholders — investing in them materially and ensuring we have the structure in place to support them is important in everything we do
- Planet (encompassing climate and energy and building operations) is another non-negotiable point of focus for us. We sought to establish our own Net Zero commitment not only because climate change is a real threat to our way of life but also because companies — no matter size, location, or industry - have a moral imperative to act
- Finally, Purpose (encompassing accountability, transparency, modern governance, and leadership) is probably the closest of all the pillars to our own mission as an organization. As the premier modern governance company, accountability and transparency is paramount for our success.
Ultimately the framework or pillars your organization decides to set as the foundation for its ESG program will be based on what is most important to you. These key focal points will allow you not only to define your ESG strategy, but to set actions on the pathway to achieving your goals — and those of your clients, employees and other stakeholders — in the future.