5 Ways to Improve Your Approach to ESG


While Corporate Social Responsibility has long been a staple of employer lingo, the importance of ESG – Environmental, Social and Governance – has only more recently gained prominence. Moving beyond a set of CSR initiatives, ESG tends to be more quantifiable and measurable, and more embedded within the broader organisational strategy.

The Missing Ingredient in Employee Engagement

More than ever, it’s important for businesses and organisations to be able to demonstrate that they are a force for good when it comes to societal and environmental issues – and not just in the eyes of external stakeholders like customers and investors. The Gen Z workforce in particular is attracted to organisations that share their values, and they expect their employers to take action on things like climate change and social justice.

A recent Inpulse study shed some light on the significance of ESG for today’s employees, revealing a strong correlation between ESG and retention of talent. For example, 88% of respondents who felt that their organisation took environmental and social responsibility seriously reported that they could see themselves still working there in a year. Of those who felt that ESG initiatives were not a priority within their organisation, only 40% expected to still be there in 12 months’ time.

In short, a robust and embedded ESG strategy helps employers to attract the best talent and improve employee engagement – while minimising the costs and disruption associated with high levels of employee turnover.

Developing and Embedding Your ESG Strategy

The categories of “Environmental, Social and Governance” are, of course, extremely broad and diverse. It can be difficult for employers to know where to start, and how to do more than just pay lip service to ESG in an attempt to win people over in the short-term.

In McKinsey’s Insights on Sustainability, they point out that, “Not all aspects of “E,” “S,” and “G,”… are priorities for all companies, and it is unrealistic to expect that companies do not have to make hard trade-offs within and among ESG dimensions, or that they can lead on every topic.” They identify` “forward-looking companies” as those that “make ESG intrinsic to their strategy by defining, implementing, and refining a carefully constructed portfolio of ESG initiatives that connect to the core of what they do.”

Ok, sounds great. But, how?

1. Define Your ESG Goals and Strategy

This starts with putting the topic of ESG on the table and inviting input from your employees at every level. Line managers are a great point of contact for meaningful conversations with members of their teams, so holding quarterly discussions and focus groups will keep the topic of ESG at the forefront and help people throughout the organisation to feel involved in shaping your strategy. You can also gather quick and informative data from regular pulse surveys.

2. Integrate ESG Into Wider Organisational Decision-Making

Your ESG strategy is only going to be meaningful, effective and sustainable if it is embedded within your wider strategy and organisational goals. When you make strategic decisions or organisational changes, or set targets, you should be able to communicate how these things are going to help you achieve your ESG goals.

3. Communicate, Celebrate and Be Transparent

You can demonstrate to your employees that ESG is an ongoing priority and not just a nod in the right direction by regularly communicating what the company is actually doing, and sharing the results or impact of your initiatives. This encourages your people that your values align with theirs, and that you’re putting your money where your mouth is.

4. Stay Accountable

Good intentions and ambitious goals only get you so far. It’s not enough to just hold a focus group, draw up a strategy, and file it away. Instead, make sure that specific duties and responsibilities are assigned and followed up. Those responsible for the actions that will help you actually achieve your ESG goals and drive positive change should be regularly reporting back. Don’t leave yourself open to accusations of “greenwashing”.

5. Embrace the Cycle

ESG is not a “one and done” thing. Your strategy should evolve over time, which is why it’s important to keep the conversation open and hold quarterly discussions within your teams. An effective ESG strategy will anticipate risks and opportunities, changing landscapes and shifting priorities. When your ESG strategy is intrinsic to your broader organisational strategy (rather than floating around somewhere by itself, untethered to anything else), you are more agile and adaptable. McKinsey describes the ESG journey as a continuous process of mapping, defining, embedding, and engaging.

In other words, commit to ESG and settle in for the long haul. Your employee engagement depends on it. For more about why ESG is the missing piece of your engagement strategy – and what to do about it – check out our free guide.

Master Engagement Throughout the Employee Lifecycle