Mobilizing Internal Support For Environmental, Social And Corporate Governance (ESG) Efforts
Once your environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) strategy is aligned to your organization’s purpose and values, you need to ensure it is understood, believed and lived.
Once your environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) strategy is aligned to your organization’s purpose, you need to ensure it is understood, believed and lived. How can your program drive the socially conscious outcomes you envision? How do you make sure employees are true stewards of your ESG efforts? While there are many traditional communications approaches to help with adoption and action, communications in itself won’t ensure success. We like to think about “activating” ESG within a culture through both communications and experiences. Through years of working with clients on cultural transformations on this scale, we have identified three elements necessary to gain internal support for your ESG efforts.
Do What You Say You Will
Your ESG initiative must be supported by the actions of executive leadership. When leadership is committed, others can trust the projects they’re asked to participate in and the directives they hear. Leaders need to be clear about the goals of the ESG program and its rollout, and behave in alignment with these intentions. True ESG leaders share and show up as a united front. This goes beyond just communication. There must be structures in place that create conditions for leadership to want to deliver on ESG goals. One way to enact this principle is to ensure performance bonuses are tied to your values and ESG pillars. For example, Southwest Airlines ties its compensation plans to a performance scorecard which includes direct measurements of the company’s ability to achieve its mission. When leaders are encouraged to not only adopt the intentions of ESG efforts, but also to do all they can to achieve those goals, you create core credibility for the organization. Leaders who do what they say they will, inspire employees to contribute to efforts and to believe in their ability to make a difference.
Involve All Levels of the Organization
Purpose-driven organizations believe in the collective wisdom of all stakeholders, so seek to establish meaningful dialogues with them. Throughout implementation, insights about ESG programs need to move up to inform leadership decisions. A feedback loop can find disconnects before they become setbacks or discover novel opportunities to solve tough problems. Some organizations take the pulse of their employee base by engaging with internal special interest groups, cross-functional committees or informal influencers. When employees at all levels feel like their voice is heard, they want to continue to contribute their best and brightest. As their feeling of belonging and ownership increases, they will infuse energy and new ideas into your change efforts.
Show Collective Impact through Stories
Humans are not motivated by simple data or directives. They are most influenced by stories that appeal to their hearts and minds. As ESG efforts unfold, tell actual stories of actions and lessons learned. Paint a picture for your employees using examples of real people doing the work and the real impact you’re making on the world. When you can demonstrate these wins to internal stakeholders, they see and feel the real impact of their actions. They are able to translate their efforts, which may feel small or in a silo, into big wins for the organization. This continues to uplift employees as they work alongside you to deliver on ESG goals.
If you can bake the ideas we’ve outlined above into your ESG efforts, you’ll be able to prove that you are serious about your intended ESG outcomes, and also your organization’s purpose. This enables you to build the unity, trust and excitement you need to deliver on your goals and to make a lasting impact on the world.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on August 21, 2020 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
As President at Savage Brands, Bethany is known for forging powerful connections – connecting people to people and connecting companies with the fresh ideas that make their brands purposeful. In her recent book, "Get Your Head Out of Your Bottom Line and Build Your Brand on Purpose," Bethany conveys to business leaders the importance of leading with purpose.