Environmental, social and governance, or ESG, is more than just a buzzword that’s been making its rounds in the investment industry—it demonstrates how your business measures up to others in the realm of environmental protection.
Adopting ESG practices and policies is becoming more important to consumers as well as investors, making sustainable practices good for business as well as your brand. Below, 14 members ofForbes Communication Councildetail how to incorporate ESG into your branding and promote deeper loyalty among your customer base.
Forbes Communications Council members share smart ways for companies to incorporate ESG into their branding.PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE INDIVIDUAL MEMBERS.
1. Go Beyond Branding
I believe a perfect storm is brewing in the world today with the rise of conscious consumers, impact investors and activist employees, and more importantly, SOS calls from planet earth telling us that the clock is ticking. The pandemic had the hope of a vaccine, but climate change doesn’t. ESG is not about better branding; it is about our existential continuity. -Monalisa Sahoo,Sterlite Power
2. Share Policies With Customers
Plenty of brands have been built on the back of their sustainability efforts. Toms Shoes comes to mind, with its positive environmental practices and the strong social impact it has by donating shoes to those in need for every pair sold. For other brands, a sustainability policy may not be as in-your-face as that, but a good policy can often be the difference between a client selecting you over a competitor. -Scott Schoeneberger,Bluewater Technologies Group, Inc.
3. Communicate Your Authentic Values
The basis for credible crisis management is the foundation you build over weeks and years. Authentic and strong brand values communicated consistently, including ESG policies, create organizational integrity. Today’s groundwork significantly contributes to your speed of recovery if and when a crisis hits. Communicating your values is more important than ever during these turbulent times. -Reyne Quackenbush,ThoughtWorks
4. Clarify Commitments For Customers And Employees
I believe it’s more than just our customers who care about ESG. One of the first questions our HR team is asked when interviewing a new applicant is about our commitments to ESG and employee resource groups. Where do we stand on social issues, diversity, equity and inclusion, and sustainability? It’s very important that we weave in that messaging both for those buying our products and for attraction and retention. -Lee Gordon,Brunswick Corporation
5. Empower Your Employees To Participate
Employees are your most critical innovators and brand ambassadors. The first step is getting them involved in defining and setting appropriate sustainability goals for your organization. To have a meaningful and lasting societal and branding impact, you must empower your employees to actively participate in helping your company achieve ESG goals. -Alex Goryachev,Tulane University Freeman School of Business
6. Live Your Core Values
During today’s labor crisis, it’s incredibly important for business leaders to remember that when people don’t believe their values align with that of their organization, they move on. Living your core values helps you attract, retain, delight and inspire best-fit contributors and clients to your organization. -Jennifer Eddy,Eddy Alexander
7. Do Your Research And Take Action
Thorough research, meaningful action and alliances with leading organizations can ensure that your ESG policy isn’t “greenwashing,” but instead provides quantifiable benefits. With younger generations of employees, customers and partners, this will be key. AsDeloittefound, Millennials and Gen-Zers are value-driven and deeply concerned about environmental and social issues. -Sarah Falcon,Object Edge
8. Be Sincere
ESG has evolved in its own right in the past few years to the point where it can elevate your brand and business to new heights. It’s important to be sincere while showing tangible policies put into place to avoid accusations of greenwashing. Using measurement tools and data instilled by internal ESG officers to show what you have achieved or need to work on is a fantastic first step. -Lynn Kier,Diebold Nixdorf
9. Spend More On Stakeholder Engagement And Strategy
By striving for corporate sustainability, companies are in a better position to earn the trust and loyalty of their clients, team members and partners. While ESG disclosures are critical, companies need to spend more of their resources on stakeholder engagement and strategy. We know consumers align their values with organizations that they invest in, so their voice is critical in your process. -Camille Weleschuk,ATB Financial
10. Satisfy Social And Environmental Needs
As customers become more demanding about companies’ behavior, it is important to load value propositions with more than just what will satisfy functional and emotional needs. There is value to be untapped in social and environmental needs. Satisfying those needs can (and should) give your offerings a competitive advantage. And never forget that sustainability and profitability should go hand in hand. -Pablo Turletti,ROI Marketing Institute
11. Beckon The Commitment Of All Concerned Humans
ESG, although spearheaded by the financial markets, is essentially a call to action that every human being can rally behind. Why? Because the thrust behind ESG is essentially human. Good branding beckons emotional grit and commitment from every individual concerned about our future. That touches everyone, includes everyone and speaks to everyone. -Boaz Santiago,energyware™
12. Use Storytelling And Statistics
ESG is critical for every business. Today’s customers, staff and shareholders demand it. ESG provides companies with a framework to ensure the business operates in an equitable, sustainable, socially responsible way throughout the supply chain. For maximum branding benefit, pick one focus area to go deep in, then use storytelling and stats to share that impact and the company’s differentiation. -Amanda Ponzar,CHC: Creating Healthier Communities
13. Incorporate ESG Into Organizational Goals
Adopting ESG into your organization’s goals and reporting on them will help your brand clarify what it wants to be known for and how to package and share that message with stakeholder audiences. It will also help you organize your team to deliver on those goals. -Liz Sheets,TUNHEIM
14. Use A Seal To Demonstrate Your Commitment
Today’s consumers love to know that the businesses that they choose to spend their hard-earned money with are making a difference. By adopting sustainability policies and using ESG in your branding you are signaling that you make investments in policies you care about and that your company is focused on more than making a profit. A simple seal demonstrates your commitment and goes a long way. -Victoria Zelefsky,The Menkiti Group