Taking ESG from PR gloss to differentiator

News that Goldman Sachs is setting gender and ethnic hiring targets caused a ripple of surprise, but perhaps it shouldn’t have. Over the past year it’s hard to remember a media or presentation coaching session in which we have not dealt with environmental, social and governance (ESG) questions. 

And while in the past clients approached these questions as problems to deal with, today they are messages to deliver with conviction – on issues from executive pay to gender equality and company culture. Witness how leading global fund managers such as BlackRockVanguard and State Street have been sending out very public messages of their intention to hold companies they hold shares in to account.

This has left corporate executives, boards and investor relations teams eager to frame their ESG credentials and we are seeing a new boldness around their communication on ESG.

Goldman’s announcement opened the debate around explicit commitments to hiring quotas for women and ethnic minorities. A few years ago this matter was, for many, out of bounds for a media interview.

Companies are under pressure to showcase their culture – with famed management consultant Peter Drucker’s great quote “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”, becoming an increasingly repeated mantra. As we work with corporates, banks and asset managers to help them embed ESG into their narrative, we have our own mantra. Speak in examples. Show that it’s real, not a PR gloss. Prove you’re serious.

  • Look for opportunities to assertively communicate what you are doing in ESG. Don’t wait for the right question to come up
  • Describe what you have done in the past 12 months to address any ESG matter from promoting and recruiting more diversely to addressing cultural questions
  • Set a clear vision for the future – be prepared to share new initiatives 

Real life examples do more than give journalists a colourful story – they are precisely what convinces investors and even regulators.