Our Blog: The Podium
By Ian Rhoades, Senior Associate
By David Calusdian, President
An effective program for Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) management and communication can fundamentally make an organization stronger, more resilient and more attractive to investors and other key stakeholders, while helping to mitigate long-term risks.
In today’s blog we talk to Evan Zall about how to incorporate public relations into an ESG program. Zall is President of Longview Strategies, a strategic marketing and communications firm with an emphasis on sustainability and finance. With more than 20 years in strategic marketing, Evan believes that strong communications can resolve a great number of complex challenges in the world – and clarifying connections between sustainability and profit is one of those challenges. Evan has been a speaker at national and regional sustainable investing forums, is a founding member of PR Masterminds, and is a contributor to the upcoming book, “Aligning Hearts, Minds, Wallets: A Collective Experience (Reshaping Capitalism for the Greater Global Good).”
By Maureen Wolff, Chief Executive Officer
With a record $20 billion+ flowing into ESG oriented funds in 2019 in the US alone there is no denying that a compelling Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) platform has become a critical component of investor relations programs and overall communications for corporations of all sizes. Investors, proxy advisory firms and debt rating agencies are demanding it. And, other stakeholders including employees, customers, strategic M&A suitors and suppliers are increasingly considering ESG practices in deciding where to work and with whom to conduct business.
ESG can fundamentally make an organization stronger, more resilient and more attractive to key stakeholders, while helping to mitigate long-term risks. At the same time, the lack of an ESG strategy and sustainability narrative can leave a company exposed and at risk on several fronts.
ESG data is being used on every public company today, whether the companies have released ESG information or not. As BlackRock CEO Larry Fink stated in his 2019 Letter to CEOs, “In the absence of robust disclosures, investors, including BlackRock, will increasingly conclude that companies are not adequately managing risk.” Additionally, BlackRock along with State Street and other institutions have committed to vote against directors at companies that do not demonstrate a commitment to ESG.
The events of recent months -- including the global COVID-19 pandemic and the racial justice movement -- have further amplified the need for greater corporate focus on a range of ESG initiatives, including risk oversight, supply chain security, IT infrastructure, employee safety, talent management and diversity and inclusion.
While doing nothing on the ESG front is clearly no longer a viable option, implementing an ESG program can seem overwhelming -- particularly if publishing a full-scale sustainability report that meets GRI or other standards would not be feasible for your company right now.
The good news is that ESG is a journey, not a sprint. By taking a few strategic first steps to put a stake in the ground, you can establish a strong ESG foundation to build upon over time and earn tremendous credit from investors, employees, customers and the society at large.
We’ve guided many companies through this “walk before you run” approach. Here is where we suggest you start:
Strategic Messaging, Corporate Governance, Investor Meetings, Presentation Training, Crisis Communications, IRO, Financial Communication, Shareholder Communications, Investor Relations, Investor Relations Firm, IR Trends, Investor Relations Trends, Corporate Communications, Investor Relations Websites, IR Recommendations, ESG
(to the tune of "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer")
You know earnings and roadshows and bus tours are needed
And a conference list full of one-on-one meetings
But have you realized…
What investors now have top of mind?
This year’s main theme in IR
Are three letters we all know
And if you dare ignore them
Shareholders will say “Oh no!”
Social cause proposals too
Good governance required
ESG is here for good!
Then when you go out to sell
Your company stock
You’ll be in great shape to show
The bottom line will surely grow!
So now you know for next year
Aim for sustainability
And to attract investors
Make a plan for ESG!
Dora Gonzalez is a Senior Associate at Sharon Merrill. She has extensive communications experience and works with clients on investor relations and public relations issues, including analyst and investor targeting, conference and investor day planning, internal communications, media relations planning and execution, digital communications, social media campaign strategies and corporate messaging.