An ABC of ESG

About the author

Richard Bailey FCIPR MPRCA is editor of PR Academy's PR Place Insights. He teaches and assesses undergraduate, postgraduate and professional students.

Two chairs, four speakers and some 200 attendees. In just 90 minutes we experienced a masterclass in ESG, diversity and inclusion, employee engagement, purpose and responsible business.

It can often feel like alphabet soup, so here’s a attempt to summarise and simplify the discussion on day one of the Mind The PR Gap conference organised by PR Academy and University of Greenwich. (Any misunderstandings are mine, not those of the presenters.)

Authenticity: You can’t fake it. See discussion of employee engagement below.

B Corp: John Brown was scornful of much of the talk of purpose on the grounds that anyone could have good intentions: it’s proof that counts. He praised the B Corp movement

BIA: Business Impact Assessment, the tool used to prepare for B Corp certification.

Biodieversity:

Brand purpose: More than one speaker dismissed this bandwagon, though there was praise for the concept of responsible business.

Corporate affairs director:

CSR: Few still espouse Milton Friedman’s outright dismissal of the social responsibilites of business. But for Matt Peacock, CSR is 20 years past its sell-by date. Ganga Dhanesh, speaking from the UAE, took a more positive view of CSR.

D&I or DEI: Diversity and inclusion should become diversity, equity and inclusion according to Matt Peacock.

Duty of care:

Employee engagement: A company pretending to be one thing to the outside world would first have to fool or silence all its employees (see authenticity above). So conversations have to start internally, and employees need to be fully engaged with the organisation’s purpose.

ESG: It’s not a new concept, but it’s only recently come to the fore. Matt Peacock presents ESG and purpose as a continuum: ESG is about the harms your business can do and you need to work on these first.

Hybrid and remote working:

Internal communication:

Materiality: Matt Peacock recommended the Materiality Map from Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) as a framework for assessing risks that could impact a company’s profitability and reputation.

Organisational listening:

Philanthropy: Donations from wealthy people can do some good in the world. But our panellists were speaking about being better as judged on the triple bottom line: people, planet and profits.

Purpose: