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ESG is an attempt to analyze the most important elements of an organization and how policies are regulated and applied. Organizations should address environmental, social and governance (ESG) practices and reporting within their framework. Originally designed to better approach the most sustainable realms of investment, ESG has evolved into a ubiquitous public discussion that greatly impacts the business ecosystem.
Stakeholders, customers, employees, and investors want to be sure that the companies with whom they interact and invest share the same values and commitments and that those values are reported in their policies. Regulators are paying close attention to ESG (Environmental Social and Governmental) practices as governments enforce standards for sustainability, social justice, and corporate governance.
Additional Read: Elements of an effective compliance program
ESG refers to a standard of business conduct that incorporates environmental, social and governance considerations. As ESG becomes more important to directors, it’s essential to consider the regional nuances that drive focus. The core of ESG is about organizational integrity. ESG covers a wide range of corporate behavior:
Investors and stakeholders have a primary interest in the environmental impact an organization has. This includes an analysis and reports of the organization’s values and commitments related to the management of the natural world and the environment. From this, there will be a reporting and tracking of the organization’s environmental initiatives related to climate change, waste management, pollution, resource use and depletion, greenhouse gasses, and more.
The social element includes employee and customer/partner relations, human rights (e.g. anti-slavery), diversity and inclusion, anti-harassment and anti-discrimination, and privacy of individuals. Employees and others subjected to the working conditions and labor standards (e.g. child labor, forced labor, health, and safety) must be protected by social policy procedures. How the company participates and contributes to society and the community is reflected in the ESG and stems from the manner in which the company operates.
For the governance section, there will be measures and reports about the organization’s culture and behavior in the context and their alignment with the organization’s values and commitments. Typically, an organization needs strong management to oversee the entire operation in order for the legal priorities to function smoothly and remain consistent with the policies set in place. These policies define the behavior of individuals/roles, transactions, processes, and organizational relationships. This includes financial and tax strategies, reporting, resilience, combating bribery and corruption, security, diversity and board structure, and transparency and accountability.
For an organization to report an ESG, it must have something to report. This requires an ESG program to be built around the organization’s policies.
Policy management is a continuous process that requires regular adjustment to accommodate new technologies, updated legislation and best practices.
Managing your policies is an ongoing process. As the organization changes and grows, so must your policies. Setting them in place and communicating them across the organization is equally important. What lies at the heart of effective policy management is making sure that the policies you have worked hard on are adopted. The most perfectly-designed policies are nothing more than words on paper if they are not implemented and acted upon. Enforcing their take-up and ongoing compliance is the real nucleus of policy management; the key stage that will take your policies from aspirational to in-built.
The risks of not managing your policies effectively should provide sufficient incentive to prioritize and recognize the importance of policy management, though. There’s the risk of health and safety breaches. The potential for regulatory fines. The reputational damage that results from publicity around legislative breaches. The possibility of lawsuits.
Good policy management demands the buy-in and understanding of your policies. It might mean training and testing the teams responsible for implementing the policies to ensure they fully appreciate what they need to do.
The main foundation of the ESG strategy is based on the policies of the organization, starting with the code of conduct and operating under the scope of policies that support the many E, S and G aspects of the ESG. In policies, what is acceptable and what is not should be clearly defined. Furthermore, you cannot have an ESG program without policies. Policies set a standard that should be upheld as a whole. With the proper policies implemented, the organization’s behavior, values, ethics and controls will work well to address risks and ensure that the organization reliably achieves its objectives, including ESG related goals.
Any organization developing an ESG program must have the following:
Your ESG should result in a diverse, sustainable, environmentally sound perspective. Many aspects can be considered when performing ESG structuring. For example, it is important to be clear in the statement of policies but organizations should always be open-minded about how they can change and improve their operation. The impacts an organization has on its surrounding community are crucial and should be dealt with in its policy. All policies should be reviewed frequently and documented. Easy access to policies for employees is mandatory and the well-being of everyone involved should always be held as the highest priority.
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