Sep 21 / Violeta Xanthouli

5 simple steps to get you started on your ESG journey

ESG, CSR, Sustainability.

They are far from synonyms, but in essence they are all about the same thing: how to do business in a way that will secure the future of the business itself, of those around it, and of our planet.
Most companies are realizing the need to start thinking – and acting – in ESG terms, some because they want to do ESG, while others because they have to do it.

Here we will not discuss the why, but the how; we will try to lay out a few simple and clear steps that any business can take, without much effort or investment. Mind you though, the results of each step could lead to activities that require effort or investment, but this is further down the road. 
For the moment all you need to have to get started is a clear vision of where you want to go and why.
Let’s get started.

Step #1: Understand where you are.

Did you know that you are already doing stuff under the ESG scope?
Whether you are recycling in the office, or mentoring young people, or just employing women, you already have some impact on society and on the planet.

What you need to do is to better understand what you are doing, to what extent, and what you are measuring (or could measure). 
One way to do it is to write down any activity that could have social or environmental impact and add a number (or the value of the impact) next to it. Once this is done, you have a great starting point for your ESG journey!

Looking for help in making your assessment? Check out our ESG Audit, a simple assessment process that will help you record all the different actions with their respective KPIs. We can also run a zero waste audit for your office(s) in collaboration with wegozero.co!

Step #2: Set your long- and short-term priorities.

Now you know where you currently are, but do you know where you want to go?
It is important to set your long-term priorities, which will be a guide for your ESG strategy and will help you decide what kind of activities you should be planning for.

These should come from the leadership team with a clear vision of where the company is going. They should also be aligned with your overall business strategy, ensuring that all business decisions take sustainability criteria into consideration.

Then, once the long-term is set, you also need to work on short-term. What is it that you want to achieve? If a long-term priority is to raise awareness around climate change in your organization, then a short-term priority would be to get all people managers through a relevant workshop, and help them motivate their teams to participate in the related activities you may be organizing. Short-term thinking will help you draft a solid action plan.

Looking for help in setting your priorities right? Check out our consulting services and our awareness programs!

Step #3: Involve the right people.

“Just like a human being, a company has to have an internal communication mechanism, a 'nervous system', to coordinate its actions”, said Bill Gates once.
This is even truer for ESG priorities, as they are not as straightforward for every department, role, and activity.
To turn priorities and plans into solid actions, you need to involve the right people. To make things work, you need to find those people who truly believe in making the world a better place, and who can inspire other people to join them.
The ideal team working on ESG would need to be a mix of: the leadership team, functional directors, people managers, and those motivated individuals who are respected and heard by their colleagues. This team will be contributing to the drafting of plans, the reporting of activities, but most of all the generation of the momentum needed to build an ESG-first culture.
Looking for help in creating your team for ESG execution? Check out our consulting services and our awareness programs!
Step # 4: Draft detailed plans that can translate into reports.
Sounds obvious, but it is not.
ESG-related actions can be lost within function-driven plans and can be addressed as of secondary importance.
Organizing a tree-planting activity can sound more trivial than responding to a customer request or than developing the new product or service; this is exactly why your ESG plan needs to be specific, including actions, dates, owners, and metrics.
The latter is of utmost importance, as reporting is not only the only way to measure your impact to society or to the environment, but also the only way to prove you are actually taking steps towards sustainability to the authorities (if obligatory), to your investors, suppliers, employees and customers.

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king for help in drafting a solid ESG plan? Check out our reporting services.

Step #5: Communicate, communicate, communicate.
For retailers it’s: location, location, location. For French chefs, it’s: butter, butter, butter.
For ESG, the word is COMMUNICATION.
Going back to your “why”, whether you are doing ESG because you are obliged by regulation, or because you truly believe your business can have a positive impact, you cannot maximize your potential unless you communicate efficiently and effectively.
To do that, you need to identify your audiences (e.g. your own employees, your investors, your customers), and your channels (e.g. website, reports, intranet, PR). Then, you need to create a communications plan and the related content that will ensure that your actions are made known and appreciated by your selected audiences.
Looking for help in drafting a solid communications plan? Check out our consulting services that focus on branding and communications!
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