Three ESG New Year’s Resolutions For Business Leaders In 2022


CEO of Aquicore. Named Top 50 Entrepreneurs in Tech industry History. Board Member, Speaker, Advisor. Started Cybersecurity Titan Websense. 

2022 is underway, and the momentum around ESG shows no signs of slowing down. In Larry Fink’s annual letter to CEOs, he posed the question: “Every company and every industry will be transformed by the transition to a net-zero world. The question is, will you lead, or will you be led?”

For business leaders looking to play a leadership role in the journey to a low-carbon economy, consider committing to these three simple ESG “New Year’s resolutions” to ensure your business stays ahead of the pack.

Resolution one: Lock in your ESG data management strategy.

We’ve all heard the old saying: “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” As the CEO of a data analytics platform for real estate institutions, I’ve found it happens to be true — especially when it comes to ESG. Since ESG cuts across a vast array of topics and disciplines, there are many data points to collect, analyze, evaluate and report on throughout the year. This means that it is crucial to build a strong data management plan from the outset.

What this entails will depend on your business sector and where you are in your ESG journey. For large corporations and Fortune 100s, it could mean getting a handle on Scope 3 emissions from downstream supply chains. No matter your sector, collecting and integrating quality ESG data into your business workflows requires a dedicated process and the ongoing participation of multiple business stakeholders. You must plan and resource accordingly.

With the SEC imminently expected to pass new ESG and climate disclosure rules, and a growing number of state and local regulations in the United States, there’s no time like the present to ensure that your business’s ESG data foundation is strong. If you’re just getting started, begin by assessing which areas of ESG are the highest priority for your business and identify information gaps that may hinder disclosures, reporting and action.

Resolution two: Start developing an ESG action plan.

Your ESG data and disclosure strategy is just the beginning. Many firms have declared ambitious ESG and emissions reductions goals in recent months, but some are light on details how to get there. As public attention on ESG continues to rise, it seems likely that the focus will soon shift from ESG commitments to ESG actions.

It is heartening to see so many organizations across sectors acknowledging the importance of ESG. But we’re about to enter the next stage of the journey, where businesses will be under pressure to communicate the steps that will enable them to hit their targets. In other words, they must develop concrete ESG action plans. Aspirational targets alone will no longer pass muster.

Developing an action plan is not without its challenges. Having a strong data foundation in place is a necessary and unavoidable first step. But you can’t stop there. Gathering information and disclosing ESG performance with an annual look-back — once hailed as pioneering — is table stakes in 2022. And investors will increasingly seek to insulate themselves from vague and even misleading corporate sustainability commitments as they too come under pressure from regulators and the general public.

To stay ahead of the curve, business leaders should commit to charting a clear pathway to net zero and any other ESG targets in 2022. For most businesses, this requires a combined tops-down/bottoms-up approach. Performing a climate impact and risk assessment is a good place to start; these assessments help business leaders take inventory of their holdings and identify short- and long-term strategies for managing risk and reducing their environmental footprints. The Taskforce on Climate-Related Financial Disclosure (TCFD) has put forth an authoritative set of recommendations that can help frame a climate risk and adaptation plan for your business.

Resolution three: Engage (and inspire) your people.

At the end of the day, the success of any organization’s ESG program hinges on the buy-in and engagement of its people. From gathering ESG data to disclosing ESG performance to developing and executing an ESG action plan, the ongoing business practice of ESG inevitably touches a diverse array of stakeholders. Many of these stakeholders may not be directly incentivized by existing mechanisms to make ESG a priority in their daily routines. But as a business leader, the power to change this is in your hands. You can set the tone and create the right incentives from the top down. This is a significant component of the “G” in ESG — defining how your organization approaches and practices ESG and mapping out the participants involved every step of the way.

In 2022, commit to actively engaging your people on ESG and ESG-related topics. Ask them what’s top of mind and what they care about. Invite them to brainstorm ways your organization can show leadership. And get them excited about progress you have already made and the future progress to come.

You will likely find that people are more willing to participate than you might think. According to a 2016 study from Cone Communications, 58% of job candidates consider a company’s environmental and social commitments when evaluating places to work. That number increases when looking at millennials as a cohort — 64% consider environmental and social commitments when deciding where to work, and 83% would be more loyal to a company that helps them contribute to positive social and environmental impact.

Returning to Larry Fink’s question, when it comes to the looming economic transition, “Will you lead, or will you be led?” In 2022, resolve to be an ESG leader. Your people — and your business — will thank you.


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