In investment, just as in corporate communications more broadly, however, companies need to ensure they have a salient ESG strategy in how they operate internally, and how they communicate externally to have their voices heard – and just as importantly – not get caught up in an ESG backlash.
To this extent, identifying and discussing core tenets to your company’s commitment to ESG aims that it is actively delivering on is crucial. This may be highlighting how a company is making it easier for SMEs to chart their ESG performance, or through tying the news agenda in with the fundamentally responsible investment strategy of a leading asset management firm.
While authenticity is key, so too are relevant discussion points. It is imperative companies keep up with the ESG agenda and reflect that it is not a stationary issue. The story of the early pandemic was understandably how robustly ESG stocks were performing amid broader market disarray elsewhere, but such a narrative errs towards wearisome when used now a year later (and especially in the face of counter-arguments that challenge such statements, such as the drolly titled ‘Honey I shrank the ESG Alpha’ from Scientific Beta).
Instead, companies would be well served to see how their ESG strategies play into the stories defining the latter half of 2021. The sharp rise of stranded assets (ESG non-compliant assets that are having to be written down or even off given their negative environmental impact) and how that affects investment or operating strategies. Or what the corporate world is doing to keep pace with public sector initiatives from governments globally to decarbonise (and indeed from a private sector position, what more universal governmental regulation could assist this change). Or even broader musings on how economically we may sustain progress towards sustainability – perhaps by discussing carbon offsets and their effectiveness or even carbon quantitative easing. On the social and governance side, firms need to look internally and extrapolate the broader data that comes to us with alarming frequency about unbalanced boardrooms and pay sheets onto their own dynamics and communicate what they’ve got right and, where necessary, where they can improve.
In conclusion, progress made and progress still to make on stemming environmental damage, addressing social exclusion and acting on governance issues has had to be and if successful will continue to be creative – so communications around such topics must be too in order to stand out and engage an audience that already has so many suitors for their attention.