The rise of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) criteria as a set of standards for a company has put socially conscious activities at the heart of business. Rather than shy away from increasing investor, customer, and stakeholder pressure on these issues, why not see them as an opportunity?
What does ESG stand for?
This term covers a wide-ranging framework that takes into consideration the environmental, social and governance components of a business.
Environmental criteria evaluate the risks a company faces and how the company is managing these risks. It can include compliance with regulations, disposal of hazardous waste, toxic emissions, treatment of animals, and more.
Social criteria examine the company’s relationships – all of them. From employees to suppliers, the company must ensure that its values are replicated throughout its wider networks.
Governance focuses on how a company operates, covering issues like avoiding conflict of interest to transparency in financial matters.
Historically, the term ‘ESG’ has been most frequently used in the finance sector. However, the framework can helpfully be applied to overarching company strategy and communications approaches – no matter what industry you’re in.
ESG should be on your radar
Quite apart from the urgent need for companies to evaluate their carbon footprint and set targets in line with national and global net-zero goals, being upfront and honest about your ESG initiatives will help differentiate you in the marketplace, particularly if you’re targeting millennials and Gen-Z-ers. According to RepTrak research, millennials are three times more interested in ESG than other generations.
Recent research analyzing social media mentions and keywords also found that online conversations around social issues such as mental health, climate change, and race relations are all on the rise; and are often intertwined.
While it won’t be appropriate for every business to get involved in every topic, the findings demonstrate that there are opportunities to get involved in the conversation online and engage with your audience on new topics.
ESG in action
Rather than trying to tick all the ESG boxes at once, start with what you’re already doing, and go from there.
For example, do you encourage employees to use public transport to get to work rather than driving? How about incentivizing them to cycle or walk? Have you reduced waste in your office as a result of employees working from home? How about going further and avoiding printing unnecessarily?
While these may be small steps, they help to build a conscious workforce, laying the groundwork for conversations around increasing the sustainability of your supply chain or seeking a formal accreditation relevant to your sector.
Telling your ESG story
Once you have your ESG strategy in place, it’s time to share your work with the wider world. Build ESG into your internal and external communications to enhance your company’s reputation and increase trust and interest.
But, before your start communicating your work, might sure it’s tailored to your different audiences in the right way.
- Clearly define your target audiences.
- Understand the pain points and issues of stakeholders, potential investors and employees.
- Establish what is expected of you from your audiences.
Each audience will need to see and hear different messages from you with regards to your commitment and work around ESG.
1. Take control of your organization’s story
ESG is now part of your narrative and it’s important to weave in the ESG work against your business objectives and outputs. Demonstrate how you are implementing ESG throughout your company and how you’re managing your supply chain.
2. Be transparent about what has and hasn’t worked
Your audience will want to know about your highs and lows as a business. They are invested in how you are performing. Being open when something has failed creates trust.
3. Regularly communicate about your projects and work around ESG
ESG is gaining popularity but it’s still uncommon enough that audiences want to understand the impact of the work being done. This will appeal to audiences, develop interest in the business and could be taken further to bolster your position as a thought leader.
4. Leverage your employees to help share your ESG story
The best people to tell your story are your employees. They are micro-influencers in their own right and will have a following of their own. Use them to show how ESG standards are being implemented and activated at different levels of the business.
5. Spread the word through an outreach programme to place your content on other sites
As well as telling your story on your own channels, place your content on earned channels through guest blog posts, comments, and thought leadership articles. This is where you can build your profile with new audiences.
6. Build your network through email
Use email as another touchpoint to tell your network about your work. It’s another way to build trust and create interest in the work you’re doing across ESG.
7. Social media is the perfect place to tell your ESG story
It really is. The amount of time spent on social media has increased over the last two years, along with the amount of time spent online generally. People use social media to find information about ESG and to find out about people’s experiences. It’s a very valuable resource and one that you can quickly gain traction on.
8. Develop a content hub
Share your ESG knowledge and experience through creating a content or resource hub. This is where you can provide your audiences with the knowledge they need to make a decision.
A content hub could include regular reports on your environmental impact, information about your suppliers, case studies of policies and work implementation, or blog posts showcasing deep knowledge about ESG and how to apply your learnings to their business.
Communicating ESG effectively
Weave ESG content into your brand awareness and boost your business’s profile. ESG is a popular topic and stakeholders and investors consider ESG to be of paramount importance.
Ensure you tell your ESG story in the right way for your audiences and expect to see better results.
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