ESG metrics all communicators should know: Latest Chai Talk

The pandemic has sharpened the focus on ESG ( Environment, Social and Governance).

The latest Chai Talk in partnership with Weber Shandwick India focused on cracking ESG communication, messaging, tools and Evaluation.

The first part of Chai Talk focused on the 'metrics to identify ESG priorities for companies.

Kicking off the conversation, Rachana Panda, VP & country group head comms, PA & Sustainability (South Asia), Bayer stated, "In a company like Bayer we have three businesses crop sciences, pharma and consumer health. So with regard to nutrition and health, clear metrics have been drawn out. There are sustainability targets for the company globally. 

For example, we will reach out to 100 million women in different small and medium, low and medium-income countries in terms of modern contraception. Similarly, even for, you know, self-care and health, access to health. So these targets are clearly defined. And we all have these compensations linked to these targets. So it's as simple as that top management compensation is linked to the sustainability targets. It has to flow from the top and it has to be part of the business strategy, and everybody has to drive it, it is as simple as that."

Financial and ESG compliance merging 

Matt Peacock, partner -Blurred (UK) & international ESG expert pointed out that flowing from the decision taken last year at COP 26, ISSG or the International Sustainability Standards Board is bringing together for the first time the reporting of financial data alongside the reporting of ESG data with the same level of rigour, analytic skill and scrutiny. 

Peacock added, "So whereas companies have got used to this idea that you have the annual report and accounts. And then you've got this thing called the sustainability report or the CSR report, which is often a separate publication that has lots of stock images of rain forests and happy children and has nice case studies, and may have some numbers in it. But it's a different thing to the annual report, it has a much lower level of management scrutiny because it's just CSR, right? 

Those days are over there over. Because the ISSB has come into being to ensure that ESG communications are as rigorously constructed and scrutinised as financial communications. And that has massive implications for communicators. has massive implications for companies and  has massive implications for sustainability professionals."

Agreeing, Marianne L, executive vice president of Sustainability & Social Impact APAC at Weber Shandwick, stated, " What we're talking about is the convergence of finances, sustainability around all these metrics that we're talking about, which happened actually, after the Paris accord you saw CFOs getting closer to the sustainability function.  There is a convergence of sustainability, finance and PR and communications. Now it's all coming together. But, it's there's a fine line where you have the greenwashing and then on the other side, you have the green hushing."

Marianne added, "You have many, many stakeholders, and this is what the PR, PR function is about, is really to have the 360 view over all the stakeholders not leaving anyone aside, So what are the expectations of the stakeholders? How do we establish channels of communication with people who are affected, for instance, by our industrial operations? 

What types of consultations with communities with mechanisms to prevent or resolve conflicts? How do we partner in a transparent and mutually beneficial way with NGOs? How much are we in line with customers' need for transparency for sustainability? And are our employees on board? And increasingly of crucial importance is what are our policies with regards to suppliers?  How do we engage with suppliers who commit to reducing their co2 footprint? How do we assist them in this endeavour? So the scope is really really wide and large and it's getting larger by the day."

Deepti Ganapathy, chair, of the centre for management communication, IIMB shared that top-ranking management institutions such as IIMB s also beginning to take stock of ESG  and communication because of the fact that, "if communication is brought in very early if it is measured in terms of the objective setting, then you can have really clear outcomes and it's something that can be easily quantifiable."

Ganapathy added, "We just launched this programme for executives on ESG management reporting and communication, and what is interesting to see is the participants who are in this programme are coming with experience of 15 years having worked in the sector, as well as mid-career professionals who are you know, completely trying to switch and see how they could, you know, contribute to this aspect that organisations are wanting them to kind of bring forth to the table."

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