How business leaders can act on ESG

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For years, business leaders have been in the limelight to demonstrate measurable progress when it comes to environmental, social, and governance (ESG) initiatives. Despite growing consumer demand for action and a flurry of new corporate initiatives, many business leaders still struggle to develop and execute their ESG plans and track and measure success. .

According to a recent “No Planet B” survey, 89% said it is not enough to say companies are prioritizing ESG, they need to see action and evidence. Additionally, 96% of his business leaders say they want to move sustainability initiatives forward, and the majority (80%) are frustrated and fed up with the lack of leader I want To rise to this opportunity and make further progress, many do not know where to start.

I recently reached out to Pamela Rucker, CIO Advisor and Instructor at Harvard Professional Development and co-author of the No Planet B study, to discuss how business leaders can turn their promises and promises into action. Here’s a summary of the conversation:

What are the critical first steps for business leaders on their ESG journey?

Pamela: The first step to achieving your ESG goals is to get business leaders to schedule regular meeting times. Business leaders should establish an ESG working group that meets quarterly and is composed of top-level leaders from each function of the organization.

This “ESG suite” ensures leaders in each sector of the business who are accountable for their company’s ESG efforts and produce results. Without representation at the highest level, even with the best of intentions, it is all too easy to put these goals on the back burner.

How can business leaders engage employees?

Pamela: Millennials and Gen Z vote with their wallets and choose employers according to their values. Companies need to make ESG a core competency of their organization and have a culture that values ​​sustainability as part of the backbone of their operations. Examples of this include:

  • Engage employees and customers in authentic conversations about the impact of ESG on individuals.
  • Engage ESG coaches, champions and sponsors to work with employees to gain buy-in for company goals.
  • Collect ideas from employees and customers on how to improve your ESG strategy.
  • Emphasize the importance of ESG in corporate culture. Provide internal and external communications that support the company’s transformation efforts.
  • Provide feedback that you did what you said you would do.

How should business leaders work to set achievable goals?

Pamela: Business leaders should set practical goals and benchmarks that are specific, measurable, and (most importantly) achievable. Leaders should start by setting achievable first-year goals to show early results. Some examples of these are:

  • Develop a net zero carbon emission target and an implementation strategy by the end of the first year.
  • We are committed to reducing Scope 1 emissions under our direct ownership or operational control by 5% by the end of the year.
  • Implement “One Big Thing” (a very important initiative for employees) in one year.
  • Encourage your interests to be more supportive of global change (allocate a small portion to one effort to make the world a better place).
  • Implement effective governance strategies for sustainability and climate risk reporting and disclosure.

Why is it important to have a single, clean data source to advance your ESG initiatives?

Pamela: 91% of business leaders surveyed say they face major obstacles to implementing sustainability and ESG initiatives. The biggest challenge is getting her ESG metrics from a partner or third party (35%). Lack of data (33%); time-consuming manual reporting process (32%).

Without one clean data source, it’s nearly impossible to accurately measure and track progress across an organization and find the efficiencies that drive progress.

ESG data is sourced from many systems across the organization, including finance, human resources, supply chain, and customer experience applications. Incorporating new technologies such as AI, these systems can become powerful recommendation engines, increasing efficiency and reducing waste. As a result, business leaders must invest in solutions that can connect, manage, and standardize data across all systems to enhance planning and execution and accurately report progress.

For example, organizations managing supply chain data on the same platform as financial data can find the most efficient routes and transportation methods to reduce costs and carbon footprint. Together, these connected systems can quickly report GHG Protocol Scope 1, 2, and 3 carbon emissions to show the impact that streamlining logistics operations has had on his ESG goals. .

How can technologies like AI help organizations drive ESG?

Pamela: Technology can now play a major role in driving ESG efforts. In fact, 93% of his business leaders believe artificial intelligence (AI)-based technology outperforms humans in decision-making on sustainability and social policy.

Using AI and automation, business leaders can error-free collect different types of ESG data, reduce the time to manually extract and analyze these key insights, and integrate data across global supply chains. You can better manage complexity and uncover important information. Sustainability insights that can increase your competitive advantage.

This makes it much easier for business leaders from all departments to collaborate, track progress, and identify clear paths to achieving set goals.

How can business leaders make their goals more transparent and publicly share key milestones?

Pamela: Mobilizing large-scale organizational change requires accountability. Transparency of goals means clearly and publicly communicating where your organization stands, where you want to be, and the specific steps to get there. Increased transparency creates a clear sense of accountability and helps bridge the gap between intentions and outcomes.

Even if the organization fails to achieve certain goals, business leaders should take a stand against stakeholders and customers and use these failed steps to consider what needs to be changed. need to do it. Once you hit a major milestone, you should also share and celebrate it. Acknowledging this kind of achievement gives the cause more momentum and more enthusiasm for better results.


We all have a role to play in advancing an organization’s ESG efforts. By establishing an ESG suite, engaging employees, setting clear goals, having a single data source, leveraging advanced technology, and emphasizing transparency, a business leader can make her ESG a reality. You can make it a priority and accelerate your progress.