As the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) draws near there are increasing calls for governments and businesses to make net-zero commitments and urgently take stronger action on climate change.
Public sentiment for sustainability is stronger than ever and awareness of environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues and emphasis on their importance is increasing.
Many companies around the world are already making ESG a priority in their organisations, recognising the opportunity to create long-term value and build trust with employees, customers, shareholders and stakeholders.
The hope for COP26 is that it will drive more to follow suit.
Clearly, it’s not enough to talk the talk on ESG, companies must walk the walk. Failing to do so can garner mistrust among stakeholders and fall short of regulations. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) recently said it would review the disclosure practices of managed and superannuation funds offering financial products claiming to be environmentally friendly or 'green', following concern they may be misleading investors about ESG credentials.
As communicators we can generate awareness and strengthen the impact of ESG initiatives while avoiding superficial approaches or so called “greenwashing”. It’s important we focus on approaches which are:
- Action-oriented: ESG is intricate and rapidly evolving, but fundamentally companies need to set clear intentions and take action. Mobilising employees with a passion for ESG and empowering them to play a role and knowledge share is a powerful way of driving change.
- Rigorous: Thinking and acting proactively cannot be at the expense of expert input. ESG is complex with certain areas require specialist knowledge and science-based targets.
- Committed: Change won’t happen overnight. To make meaningful impact and realise long-term value can require business transformation.
- Accountable: Clear key performance indicators are vital for measuring progress and reporting.
- Genuine: when is ESG is clearly defined and aligned to an organisations purpose it can inspire employees and strengthen communities.
As communication experts we are well placed to support businesses in this space. We play an important role as they navigate ESG, take meaningful action and show accountability. The countdown to COP26 is on, creating new momentum for climate change action and giving businesses a chance to lead the way across the spectrum of ESG.