Role based ESG – capturing workforce attention and contributions

Peter McAteer
9 October, 23

It may be that within an organisation or a business at an individual level, for example, employees are already doing great things towards ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) beyond switching away from single-use plastic coffee cups, sharing vehicles, using public transport, cycling to work etc. However, more often than not this data is hidden or not captured at all. It may be that your company and employees are making great steps towards reaching net zero, yet the impact of these actions is not captured and shared across the business. If this is the case, you are not alone.

We’ve reached an all-time high in sustainability reporting, according to the Governance & Accountability Institute which points out that today 96% of S&P 500 companies publish ESG reports in some form, along with 81% of Russell 1000 companies. ESG has emerged as a mainstay in boardroom discussions, yet the impact on the average employee remains under explored. From C-suite to middle management and operational roles, ESG responsibilities can be effectively embedded across all roles and ‘data hygiene’ is the linchpin to success with this approach.

Within organisations, large and small, there will be a great deal of data and data touch points. However, much of what is collected isn’t suitable for informing decision-making at any level. Put simply, there is an extensive amount of collected data which isn’t fit for purpose. For role based ESG to be successful, a data centric culture must be adopted across a company and some leadership teams already understand that this must be done. The challenge remains however, on how to engage employees at all levels across an organisation to embrace this approach. Namely, how do we move to a ‘we want to be doing this’ attitude with momentum for change driven by employees rather than a ‘we should do this’ directive from the top down?

The solution isn’t by adopting a didactic approach, rather it involves using qualitive data to validate employee actions. In this way individuals feel validated in their actions and engaged in the decision-making processes rather than feeling that they are simply paying lip service to a corporate goal. And it’s no secret that the perception of paying lip service to a corporate goal fuels employee disengagement. Yet across many industries and the public sector there are hidden gems when it comes to ESG and some of these are done deliberately.

By measuring data through different tasks and communicating the results of the data capture across an organisation, employers empower individuals. It is this approach which will validate employee actions, as it acts as a proof of concept. In this way, organisations can encourage a data centric culture and in the same heartbeat measure the results. Data empowers people to make changes.

Employees also should not fear role based ESG strategies either. By assigning ESG-related tasks and responsibilities across various roles, companies can cultivate a culture of sustainability and social responsibility. This can lead to improved job satisfaction and morale as employees feel their work contributes to a broader, positive societal impact.

However, it’s essential that companies implement these strategies thoughtfully. ESG responsibilities should be embedded in a way that is relevant and manageable for each role. This means providing the necessary resources, training, data and support so employees can effectively contribute to the organisation’s ESG goals. For role based ESG to be successful, it’s crucial that these efforts are genuine and not perceived as “greenwashing.” If employees feel the company is using ESG initiatives merely as a public relations strategy, it could lead to cynicism. Therefore, transparency, honesty, and commitment to real change are key when implementing role based ESG strategies. And it’s here that data capture and the adoption of a data centric culture comes into play as it enables people to feel validated and to validate.

So that all organisations can continuously improve and support ESG best practices, capturing workforce contributions will be necessary and this in turn will help shape and drive the evolution of ESG best practices across the enterprise. This creation of community sharing of best practice not only within an enterprise but across all companies could be potent.

Energy transition remains a hugely complex subject and the ongoing debate around transition looks set to continue for the next 50 plus years. Boards, CEOs, CFOs, and other executives can strategise, measure, and communicate their ESG commitments. Simultaneously, mid management can oversee the implementation and supervision of ESG projects, and operational staff can be involved in day-to-day activities. In this way, organisations which embrace a role-based approach to ESG are likely to thrive, reaping the benefits such as improved risk management, enhanced reputation, and increased profitability. ESG should not be relegated to a boardroom niche, but integrated as a crucial, strategic component across roles in forward-thinking businesses.

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