How to effectively communicate your company’s ESG strategy and policies

During the past few years, promoting your company’s environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives has graduated from a niche investment strategy to a critical part of how a company presents itself to the world.

Your company’s impact on the environment, how it treats people and its ability to manage itself fairly are being watched closely — and by more than just socially conscious investors.

ESG is a set of criteria that began as a way for investors to evaluate and score companies on more than just a stock price.

A company might be profitable, but is it conscious of climate change? Does it treat employees well? Does it promote inclusion and diversity? Does it operate transparently and ethically? The answers have taken on more urgency in recent years as companies are being held to higher standards than just profit and loss.

This aligns with an influx of clients looking for help with communicating, and sometimes even establishing, their ESG strategies.

They aren’t asking how to communicate to their investors — they typically have that well in hand. They’re asking for ways to promote their ESG initiatives to customers, employees, partners and communities.

So how can companies tell their ESG story? First, it’s important to make sure they have a true ESG strategy. This involves evaluating their initiatives and working to understand how they relate to their business.

With a clear and effective ESG strategy in place, here are some of the ways to bring that strategy to life for their key audiences.

Focus on your biggest impact

ESG is a broad umbrella. It’s tempting to try and accomplish as much as you possibly can to maximize the impact your company can make. However, not even the biggest companies with endless resources can address every issue under the ESG umbrella.

A sound ESG strategy should be focused on the areas that are a natural fit for your company. For instance, if your company is a big user of fossil fuels, what can be done to limit or even eliminate this dependence? Or perhaps there is a glaring lack of diversity in the company’s leadership ranks, or your company is behind on its cyber security practices.

Choose to address the areas where your company can make the biggest impact.

Make it accessible

A 100-page annual report might be all that is required for investors, but that’s not going to cut it for everyone else.

Your company’s ESG initiatives should be easy to find and digest. Best-in-class companies have a section on their website detailing their ESG strategy and outlining the key initiatives and metrics behind each. This should be a section where not only investors can find all the information they need, but also where anyone can understand what your company is doing to fulfill its ESG obligations after only a few minutes.

Keep it simple

Investors are used to combing through mountains of paperwork loaded with acronyms and complicated charts. Your employees and customers likely aren’t.

Do you know the elevator pitch for your company’s ESG strategy? If you can’t sum it up in 15 seconds or less, chances are it might be too confusing. The concepts and issues that underlie the need for a robust ESG strategy might be complicated, but the story for how your company is addressing those issues should be anything but.

Keep your description brief, straightforward and action-oriented.

Socialize it

After establishing a strategy, setting objectives and pushing the website live, it’s time to get the word out. Your company’s ESG strategy offers tangible ways that your company is attempting to make the world a cleaner, fairer and more equitable place.

These efforts should be the highlight of how your company talks about itself. Don’t leave it to an annual report or a passive tactic. Bring your efforts to life for all your key audiences on a regular basis. Tell the individual stories behind these efforts and highlight specific people or teams who are making a difference.

Get your spokespeople out in the community or within your industry to show people what your company is doing.

Lastly, if you aren’t sure what your company’s ESG strategy is — or if it even has one — that’s a good sign that your company could use the help of a communication strategy. Now is the time to act.

The principles behind ESG will only increase in importance going forward. ESG isn’t just for investors anymore. Your employees, customers and everyone else wants to know what you’re doing to make the world a better place. It’s time to tell them.