ESG is the latest evolution of corporate responsibility divided into three focus areas — environmental, social, and governance. Whether it is referred to as ESG, sustainability, sustainable investing, or socially responsible investing, it amounts to the same thing — the consideration, measurement, and reporting of environmental, social and governance factors alongside financial aspects in the investment and/or business decision-making process. Environment: Stewardship of natural resources and a firm’s environmental footprint is the focus of E. This includes reducing impacts on and maximizing the benefits from land and resources with a usual focus on, but not limited to, energy and water use, greenhouse gases, natural resource conservation, materials, packaging, and waste. Social: Relationships and communities is the focus of S. It covers everything from a company’s approach to diversity and inclusion, working conditions including health and safety of its employees and child labour and slavery, philanthropic investments, partnerships with contractors and suppliers, and commitments to investors. Importantly, S also includes I — Indigenous rights and responsibilities. In fact, S has the biggest portfolio of components in the ESG equation. Governance: G is the foundation. Good governance is essential for success. Positive outcomes on E and S are not possible without a strong governance framework. Governance is a system and a process for decision-making, accountability, control, and behaviour. It influences how an organization’s objectives and commitments are set and achieved, how risk is monitored and addressed, and how performance is optimized. Done well, good governance cultivates a culture of integrity, strengthens stakeholder confidence, enables a nimble response to a changing external environment, and creates value for all stakeholders. ESG is most often associated with the outcome — a sustainability report. But this is the final step. Arriving here requires both an internal and external process that reconciles the specific meaning of ESG to a company, its culture, and its stakeholders. In its detail, ESG means different things to different companies based on many considerations including the industry, location, services, and products, to mention a few. No two companies will have the same ESG metrics or strategies.
On one level, it is simply an enhanced risk management tool and attempts to make abstract and often hard to measure issues, tangible and real. Integrating ESG into business strategies using a structured and deliberate evaluation process against “standards” that reflect minimum performance expectations can have benefits. It can help reveal opportunities and avoid issues and negative consequences from poorly conceived or implemented business strategies. In a reporting sense, accurate ESG data, meaningful measures to manage impact and authentic storytelling can strengthen internal and external communication, enhance a firm's reputation as both a place to work for employees (current and future), be a trusted partner for clients, attract new investors and build loyal customers for products and services. Ultimately, embedding sustainability into the business model of a company provides a transparent line of sight on a company's contribution to and impact on its immediate community and society more broadly.
The history of ESG in its various forms has been around for as long as humans have traded goods and services. Today, it is an evolving and expanding field of study and practice. ESG considerations are increasingly important for both investors and businesses. Investors want to see ESG factors incorporated explicitly and transparently into the investment process alongside traditional financial analysis. Businesses are using ESG to differentiate their products and services to attract investors, maintain customer loyalty, and establish more long-lasting connections to their employees and communities. The expectation is for ESG to continue to grow in importance.
The exponential growth and desire for businesses to articulate Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) principles and measurements is a rapidly evolving global business trend and represents a significant opportunity for British Columbia businesses, employers, investors, and entrepreneurs.
Launched on May 17th, the ESG in B.C. series will feature diverse interests and perspectives to explore the progress and possibilities for B.C., the forces driving the evolving ESG frameworks, and the implications for business, supply chains, talent and investors. The series will consist of five virtual sessions, written commentary and digital content, each focusing on different aspects and opportunities for ESG in B.C.
ESG in B.C. would not be possible without the generous support of our sponsors and is completely carbon neutral. The Council will be purchasing the carbon offsets required for the time of all attendees, panelists, and moderators to attend the events and will purchase additional offsets to account for the staff and contractors who have worked diligently to prepare and deliver this series. ESG in B.C.’s Carbon Sponsor is Wheaton Precious Metals
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