10 Steps To Get Your ESG Program Started
21 March 2023 - Catryna Jackson
With an ever-growing global focus on ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) reporting, many companies are looking at how to move beyond environmental compliance and toward reporting of their sustainability and ESG performance, as this is critical to meeting future demands of customers, staff and other stakeholders.
What is ESG?
First, what is ESG? ESG is a framework that helps an organization manage risks, opportunities and material topics as related to environmental, social and governance criteria. This framework measures the sustainability of a company in these three different areas to show the positive impact they are making on their environment.
Many EHS professionals are being appointed to oversee the creation of their organization’s first ESG program. If that’s you, here are 10 steps to get your ESG program started:
1. Define Your Values, Mission and Vision
Defining your values, mission and vision will aid in defining your ESG goals and help you refine your ESG strategy. In addition, looking at the values your company has already established will illuminate the areas of the business that will provide early opportunities for successful sustainability initiative adoption.
2. Create a ‘Green Team’
Make every effort to include a diverse and engaged group of relevant stakeholders and commit to casting a wide net for collaborators. It’s important to evaluate a wide range of perspectives across the business. This ‘Green Team’ will help identify your risks and material topics in a way that is transparent and reflective of your business.
3. Prioritize Your Goals
Materiality is an assessment tool used to identify and prioritize your ESG goals that are most critical to the organization. In this step, you will want to determine which sustainability indicators you’d like to measure. This is the time to research available frameworks that may aid you in this discovery. These frameworks include Global Reporting Initiatives (GRI), the Task Force On Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) or others that may help you develop your reporting criteria.
4. Benchmark Your Current Position
Analyze your identified risks or materiality by creating a baseline of your current performance. From this analysis, consider ranking your risks by the priorities illuminated during this process.
5. Set Goals
Setting goals, or targets, gives your business a roadmap to achieve its ESG objectives. Ideally, these will be both measurable and achievable objectives, but it’s also important to be realistic. If measurable is not achievable, then begin with specific goals. Collecting this data will be a tremendous help when you are eventually ready to create more metric-based goals.
6. Create a Plan
Create an implementation plan that defines a systematic approach for educating, training and sharing your ESG program. Your plan should include sharing ESG initiatives and programs, encouraging stakeholder engagement, training employees on new processes and consistently communicating progress.
7. Implement the Plan
Now is the fun part! It’s time to execute your ESG initiatives and programs. Make sure to evaluate the relevancy of each opportunity and adjust as needed. Check in with your ESG team and offer support as they implement their sustainability programs. Take note of any issues or new information that may arise during your implementation. This is valuable information that will aid in refining and growing your ESG program overall.
8. Track Progress
Review all the data that is now available to you in order to monitor your ESG performance. Regularly track and report your ESG performance and progress against your goals and targets. As you are tracking progress, refer to your targets. Are they obtainable within the timelines that you have established for your organization? This is a great time to revisit your success criteria and adjust as needed.
9. Analyze Results
Analyze your ESG program results. What story does the data tell? Is it an accurate story that paints a picture of the health of your organization as it pertains to the pillars of your ESG program? Even after you have received final data points, monitor your performance to make continuous improvements and evaluate your risks to make changes as needed.
10. Report and Promote
Always include a plan to promote your ESG program’s awareness, education and engagement throughout your organization. Additionally, make a focused effort to work with other sustainability organizations and stakeholders to drive ESG progress and maintain best practices. Lastly, don’t forget to let your network know of your successes and improvements! Let everyone know of the good work being done to reduce your impact on your shared environment.
While the thought of establishing your first ESG program can be daunting, these steps are meant to help you prioritize your efforts and begin a program that will provide long-term benefits for your organization. To learn more about the growing importance of implementing an ESG program, check out our blog: 3 Reasons Why Businesses Should Care About ESG.
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