Let’s Talk About ESG
If you’re looking to improve your social and environmental impact, your business should adopt more conscious business practices across all of your activities and supply chain. It can seem daunting but tackling your impacts one by one will get you walking down the path toward a more sustainable business. In fact, in a recent article by SustainableBrands, they found a survey that revealed young people craving actionable information about, not only their impact but also the companies they choose to support.
According to a Harvard Business Review study, businesses are prioritizing creating value for their customers and positively impacting the wider society and community. They are achieving these goals by having authentic environmental and social responsibility strategies and by embedding commitments into their governance structure. In the article Do You Need a Chief Sustainability Officer? Our CEO and Co-founder Denise Taschereau says “Get the mindset that this is a big thorny issue coming down the pipeline.” Here, she speaks to how businesses need to be ready for new legislation surrounding corporate sustainability. Here’s what you need to know about social responsibility and governance for your business:
Social and environmental responsibility glossary
There are several terms that describe how corporations and businesses can consider society and the environment before profits, here are a few that relate to social and environmental responsibility:
- Social Responsibility: How one acts to benefit society and the environment.
- CSR: Stands for Corporate Social Responsibility and is about your self-regulated actions and policies to make a positive influence on the world.
- ESG: Stands for Environmental, Social, and Governance.
- Environmental – How your company actively cares for or minimizes its impact on the environment.
- Social – Your reputation, including your inclusion and diversity values.
- Governance – Your internal practices that govern your business.
There are also other programs and initiatives that you may hear used as part of your social responsibility strategies:
- FSC Certified: This means the wood, or food fibers, used in the product is sourced from a sustainably managed forest. The Forest Stewardship Council has a rigorous social and environmental auditing process.
- Carbon Neutrality: Policies and actions that help our planet produce only as much CO2 greenhouse gas emissions as the planet can naturally absorb.
- Net-Zero: Like Carbon Neutrality, this is about reducing greenhouse gas emissions but applies to all greenhouse gas emissions, not just CO2.
- Upcycling: Taking something no longer useful (like an old vinyl marketing banner) and turning it into something new and useful again, rather than tossing it in the landfill.
Ideas to incorporate CSR and ESG policies for your business
If you’re new to ESG and CSR policies in your business, it may be difficult to navigate your options. Don’t feel you need to do everything at once. Do what makes sense for your business and grow from there:
- Create a code of ethics: This speaks to how you act as a company. This may include your policies around values, environmental policy, diversity, respect, and customer service.
- Create environmental goals: Commit to doing what you can to minimize your impact on the environment. This could start with changing old light bulbs to LED lights, starting a recycling and composting program at work, or replacing your aging equipment and machinery with more eco-friendly models.
- Look at your suppliers and partners: Evaluate your suppliers and business partners to learn about their ESG and CSR values. If you partner with like-minded businesses, you can work together to make the world a better place.
- Re-think your merch purchases: Your business likely doesn’t need a million different branded merch items. Be mindful of what merchandise you purchase and look for reusable ones (like drinkware, textile bags, and clothing) or products made from sustainable materials rather than one-time use (like pens, stickers, and plastic bags). Also, purchase your merch from sustainably-minded businesses.
- Don’t greenwash: Definitely share your green policies with your customers through your website or social media. To avoid being perceived as pretentious, use fair and honest marketing when you talk about your company’s environmental policy. Make sure you can “walk the walk” to avoid customer scrutiny.
- Build a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion strategy: and commit to being an anti-racist organization.
- Purchase carbon offsets: These help you “cancel” out your greenhouse gas emissions by supporting reforestation and renewable energy efforts.
- Go beyond net zero. Yes, reduce and manage your impact, but don’t stop at zero – aim further – let’s heal our planet.
- Donate to select, worthy causes: Don’t donate to a charity or organization for optics. Consider organizations that you or your staff members care about deeply. For example: If you are a bicycle manufacturer, you could donate to organizations that fix old bikes and give them to kids in need.
Social and corporate responsibility benefits
By adopting social and environmental policies in your company, you are making for happier people and a happier planet. 80% of consumers are willing to pay more for your product or service if they know you are taking a solid stance on reversing climate change. Additionally, a consumer report by SB Brands for Goods states that 96% of consumers want to engage in sustainable behaviours – and they may just need your help to achieve their goals.
It’s also great for your staff to know your social values as a business. Knowing that you will treat them honestly and ethically will make them more excited to come to work every day. It can also be an attractive business “perk” to share with prospective new team members because more and more people want to work with businesses doing good in the world.
If you are ready to take your involvement to the next level, consider applying for B Corp Certification. This certifies you as a “beneficial” company that creates value for society, meets the high standards of transparency and accountability, and that creates positive change in society and the environment.
Your new social and environmental policies will also help you:
- attract more millennial employees
- appeal to eco-savvy investors (and increased capital)
- gain social media interest by sharing these values publicly
- attract customers who value sustainable products and practices
- differentiate your brand from competitors
- increase customer loyalty
- save operational costs
- reduce waste
- save on marketing costs (when you are more purposeful of your merch spend)
How can your business meet these goals?
Writing your business’s social and sustainability goals on paper and walking away is not enough. You need to put words into action, and the best way to do that is to get your team on board.
Your first step is to evaluate where you are today. What are you doing well, and what areas could be improved or are missing? Establish metrics and goals, so you have something to measure your transformation efforts.
Share your sustainability goals with your staff and board members. You could even solicit their input and ideas too. According to the Harvard Business Review study, 84% of executives believe an organization will be more successful in its transformation efforts when it has a shared purpose.
Fairware can also partner with you to help you achieve your sustainability goals. We showcase custom merch brands that meet ESG and CSR goals. Check out our BCorp Lookbook for more about these sustainability suppliers, then contact our team, and we can help you find the best branded promotional products for your business and social/environmental values.