Writing by Becky

See three ways ESG Objectives are being addressed

If you’re like me, seeing someone else succeed helps me accomplish my goals. This is useful in mundane parts of life, like seeing a co-worker eating a salad. It’s also useful in broader practices, like your organization’s sustainability goals.

I’ve collected three examples of how groups are taking action on environmental, social, and governance goals. We’ll look at one example for each category.

If you’re like me, seeing someone else succeed helps me accomplish my goals. This is useful in mundane parts of life, like seeing a co-worker eating a salad. It’s also useful in broader practices, like your organization’s sustainability goals.

I’ve collected three examples of how groups are taking action on environmental, social, and governance goals. We’ll look at one example for each category.

Environmental

Reducing your environmental impact is more than simply using renewable energy or encouraging recycling.

Consumers and organizations have paid attention to environmental sustainability goals for years. Fair trade products are now common in grocery stores. Consumers are increasingly aware of the value these products bring to the lives of farmers across the world. Careful consumers demand sustainably-sourced ingredients. And those consumers avoid companies who don’t follow through on their promises.

The health of your supply chain plays a large role in your environmental impact too. You can make a significant change in how quickly you reach ESG objectives by working with your suppliers.

But with the many layers in your supply chain, how can you make sure it’s sustainable? Not all suppliers manage to avoid the temptation to skirt around your agreements to use ethical business practices.

This is where CDP helps. They’ve helped over 100 companies across the globe figure out ways to reduce their negative environmental impact by making improvements in their supply chain.

For 15 years, they’ve run “the global disclosure system for investors, companies, cities, states and regions to manage their environmental impacts.” This not-for-profit charity helps companies look at the opportunities that are less visible and deeper in their production processes. Companies are “uncovering a myriad of opportunities for reducing their overall environmental footprint, boosting innovation and cutting costs.”

Expect to see more products talking about how they’ve reduced their environmental footprint. And expect better authenticity with improvements in reporting.

Social

Social changes are more than a feel-good effort. And individuals and companies want empirical evidence that these efforts matter.

We’ll get to see more of the science behind social change with the help of a new program at the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership. ‘Feel good’ may be nice, but learning what truly works best will improve everyone’s ESG efforts.

New research fellowships will work to “identify breakthrough solutions to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and mobilize evidence on these challenges as they undertake three-year studies.” This is officially known as The Prince of Wales Global Sustainability Fellowship Programme. Fifteen researchers will be funded by corporate and individual sponsors. This collaboration between industry and academics begins this year.

Partnerships like this bring value to all parties. “While Fellows will work independently of their sponsors, it is anticipated that research will be directly relevant to business and policy challenges.” The sponsors can identify “the general areas where they perceive there to be gaps in knowledge, helping to focus attention on the next generation of solutions.”

The research areas currently identified are:  social and environmental accounting, investing in sustainable communities, sustainable health, inclusive growth, radical innovation and disruption, the role of responsible business in the community, industrial transformation, and pathways to a circular economy.

We’ll get to see which sustainable business practices and policies have strong, real-world impact. Equally important, we’ll discover which practices are truly feel-good only.

This may, in turn, impact how you move towards your ESG objectives. You may discover you need to revise your action plan. However, you’ll also increase your confidence, knowing your approach to each of your organization’s sustainability goals is effective.

Governance

Policies and processes matter. Companies have been accepting responsibility for this, encouraging industry-wide policy changes. The organization that caught my eye most recently was the Sustainable Food Policy Alliance.

Four of the largest food companies have gotten together to make improvements in their industry. They announced, “As the makers of some of your favorite foods and beverages, we advocate for food and agriculture policies that improve people’s lives and protect the planet.” The founders are Danone North America; Mars, Incorporated; Nestle USA; and Unilever United States.

This group has focused on five areas, three of which are policy-specific. And these aren’t supposed to be internal policies. They’re looking to change public policy. “The Sustainable Food Policy Alliance seeks to accelerate the pace of change in the food industry through individual company leadership and collective support for public policies that raise the bar and inspire further action on this critical journey.”

This is how their site describes their focus areas.

  • Consumer Transparency: Improving the quality and accessibility of information available to consumers about the food they purchase for themselves and their families.

  •   Environment: Advocating for innovative, science-based solutions to take action against the costly impacts of climate change, build more resilient communities, promote renewable energy, and further develop sustainable agriculture systems.

  •   Food Safety: Ensuring the quality and safety of food products and the global supply chain.

  •   Nutrition: Developing and advocating for policies that help people make better-informed food choices that contribute to healthy eating while supporting sustainable environmental practices.

  •   People and Communities: Advancing policies that promote a strong, diverse, and healthy workplace and support the supply chain, including rural economies.

Not only are these positive shifts for these four companies and their products, they also help smaller companies with less clout and buying power. If only a few mid-sized companies want better sourcing, they take on more risk as they try to make changes. But this large-scale, collaborative approach at sustainable business policies should have a considerable impact on the industry overall.

And policies related to nutrition information and transparency give more power to consumers. They benefit with better options and improved health. And when consumers take advantage of these better choices in the food industry, it will encourage similar efforts in other areas of life. Consumers want better options.

 

These three examples are large-scale efforts. But you don’t have to fund a fellowship research program or try to get new legislation passed. You can use these examples, reduce their scope, and apply them locally.

If you provide a product, how do you produce it or ship it? If you offer a service, can you make improvements in your processes? Or maybe it’s time to share how you have already taken the time to find best-practices in your business. Should you collaborate with other organizations in your business group on improving local bylaws and policies? What if you gave a presentation at a nearby school to help them understand how your business runs and the sustainability challenges you encounter? Or for a more personal commitment, you could invite a student to an internship.

Have you seen new ways to embrace environmental, social or governance changes that make sense for you in your local area? Maybe you’ve embraced this type of work already. I’d love to hear from you about ways your organization has improved your community or the larger world.

 

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