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.
How can your program drive the socially conscious outcomes you envision? How do you make sure employees are true stewards of your ESG story? While there are many traditional communications approaches, communications in itself won’t ensure adoption or the right behaviors. We like to think about “activating” ESG values within a culture, and through years of working with clients on cultural transformations and change management communications, we have identified four elements necessary to gain internal support for your effort.
Top Down ESG
Your ESG initiative must first be supported by 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. 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.
Bottom Up ESG
Purpose-driven organizations believe in the collective wisdom of all stakeholders, so seek to establish meaningful dialogues with them. As implementation moves forward, insights about the program need to move up to inform leadership decisions. A feedback loop can find disconnects before they become setbacks or discover novel opportunities. Some organizations engage with internal special interest groups, cross-functional committees or informal influencers for these kinds of conversations and discoveries.
Humans are not motivated by simple data or directives. They are most influenced by stories that appeal to their hearts and minds. Storytelling from the perspective of purpose shows how any initiative, whether ESG or otherwise, contributes to an organization’s overall intentions. As ESG efforts unfold, tell actual stories of actions and lessons learned. These stories can be as applicable to your internal audiences as they are to external ones. Paint a picture for others using examples of real people doing the work and the real impact you’re making on the world.
Experiences That Match What You Say
Finally, it is imperative that your communications align with true action. How your stakeholders experience your company is the core of your credibility. If you say something about ESG commitments and it doesn’t align with your actions, behaviors, procedures or how you make decisions, you run the risk of damaging your brand. It is up to your leaders to demonstrate how to live your values so that you create experiences for others that demonstrate your purpose.
As an organization driven by “why,” you lead differently. As such, the way in which you implement your ESG efforts is reflective of whether you believe in your purpose and live your values or not. If you structure your ESG rollout in the ways we’ve outlined above, you’ll be able to prove that you are serious about not only your intended ESG outcomes, but also about your purpose. This enables you to build organizational unity, trust and excitement for the future.
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.