Understanding environmental, social and governance factors in relation to your business.
Environmental, social and governance (ESG) is a set of standards that measures how green, socially conscious and well-run a business is.
By looking at your business through an ESG lens, you may be able to predict how sustainable it is in the long run.
In this article, we’ll discuss how to assess your business’s environmental footprint, social impact and governance principles, and explain why running a forward-thinking business is so important.
How sustainable is your business?
The three core pillars of ESG are:
● Environmental — how does your business minimise its impact on the environment?
● Social — how does your business affect your employees and society as a whole?
● Governance — how good are your business’s governance and risk management strategies?
These three factors can tell you, your customers and potential investors how prepared your business is for the future.
Good data collection is essential if you want to accurately measure how green your business is. That means looking at your primary operations and keeping track of factors such as energy consumption and waste.
The more in-depth your data is, the easier it will be to spot areas for improvement and make positive changes to your business.
It’s also essential to benchmark against similar businesses for a more realistic picture of your environmental impact.
You should also take care not to “greenwash” your business practices. Greenwashing is when an organisation claims to be greener than it is. This could include highlighting more sustainable products or services to conceal environmentally damaging practices.
If you greenwash your business, it won’t just damage the planet negatively, it can also harm your reputation. The key is to make real, sustainable changes to your business operations — that’s what will help you get ahead.
While it can be difficult to quantify a business’s societal impact, there are a few factors to keep in mind.
For employers, low staff turnover rates, fair pay and high morale are often good indicators of a positive workplace culture, along with diversity and inclusion policies.
Business owners should also examine how they keep customers’ sensitive data secure and whether their products and services are safe.
Good governance is all about integrity, openness and risk management. To measure this, you should consider your decision-making process and how you promote fairness, transparency and accountability in your business.
As a business owner, your finances will inform key decisions. Ensuring your accounting methods are up to scratch will help you produce accurate budgets and forecasts, keep you compliant and help you manage risks in your business.
Being transparent about your finances with investors and stakeholders is also essential to good governance.
Why is it important to meet ESG standards?
Governments often introduce new legislation to help protect the environment and tackle climate change. While only large businesses need to report on their environmental impact in the UK, this could change in the future.
Furthermore, if you trade outside of the UK or have plans to, you’ll need to ensure you comply with international laws.
Thinking about your impact on wider society and implementing good Governance principles can also help ensure your business meets compliance requirements in the future.
Making your business environmentally friendly can save you money. Limiting your energy and water usage means lower utility bills, while going paperless can reduce paper and printing costs.
According to the Confederation of British Industry, around two-thirds of investors now take ESG standards into account when considering investment opportunities.
Thinking about your business’s impact and your governance principles can reassure investors that their money is in safe hands, helping you secure the funding you need.
Improve your brand image
Consumers are increasingly concerned about their social and environmental impact. Demonstrating your commitment to sustainable and ethical business practices can improve your brand image and attract more customers.
How to put ESG at the heart of your business
Digitalise your business
Limiting the amount of paper you use in your business can reduce your environmental footprint — as well as save you money on printing costs.
Digital systems can allow you to organise your information more clearly and back up your data. Cloud accounting technology could also make it easier to understand your finances and collaborate with your accountant.
Access to real-time data can help ensure you’re always working on the most up-to-date financial information, allowing you to forecast accurately and keep shareholders in the loop.
Listen to feedback from stakeholders
Asking for feedback from customers, employees and stakeholders can also help you future-proof your business.
Regular check-ins can help you maintain transparency and open communication with your stakeholders.
Work with experts
Experts from outside your organisation can give you valuable insight into how to prepare your business for the future.
For example, your accountant may advise you on upcoming changes to legislation and offer guidance on how to cut costs while minimising your environmental impact.
We can also use what we learn from your financial statements to identify potential risks to your business and offer solutions for you to address them.
Our Thomson Cooper ESG Committee
We are firm advocates of working with staff to improve the environment in which we work and to minimise the impact our working practices have on our planet. To address these areas we have a Healthy Working Lives Committee who run healthy lifestyle initiatives within our offices, and a ESG Committee who are tasked with improving the impact we make on the environment as an organisation.
Our long-term commitment to reducing printing means we are ever closer to our goal of being an almost paperless office (as is practically possible from a compliance perspective). We are dedicated to recycling our waste. We recently removed personal bins in the office as they required replacement plastic liners every day and staff use centralised receptables. This shows that small, inexpensive measures can make a difference and can be applied regardless of the size of your business.
These are just a couple of examples of how we have reduced our carbon footprint. We would be happy to share our experiences of what’s worked for us in the past, and to receive feedback on other suggestions you may have that we could consider as part of our ESG journey. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org and one of the team will be in touch.