The Impact of Corporate ESG Action

By Abigail Sirevaag, WELL AP, LEED AP ID+C,
Missouri Gateway Green Building Council, Board Secretary

You might have heard about “ESG” in the news lately, either in a positive or negative context. This small acronym has vast power, as Environmental, Social, and Governance issues of all types are currently dominating our world. The concept of ESG has its origins in the triple bottom line of sustainability (people, planet, and profit). It has evolved into an important platform for government action, and has been established as a market force to be addressed by corporations.

In order to find plausible solutions for the ESG issues at hand today, such as human rights violations, climate change, DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) promotion, and sustainable community development, corporations need to make progress where governments cannot through innovation and investment. The crux of ESG solutions (and where companies need to lean in) lies in the degree of impact that can be made to ensure a more safe, just, and healthy future for all.

As the surface level term of ESG becomes more controversial, companies can continue to proactively address ESG issues relevant to them by weaving action into strategic decision making. What responsibility does your company have for the wellbeing of clients and communities where you operate? Or to the environment that provides ecosystem services and natural resources to fuel your business operations? The incorporation of ESG concepts into company strategy should be authentic and reflect where a company can have significant positive impacts on people, the planet, and the economy through its operations and policies.

Companies also need to consider the current regulatory environment surrounding ESG, as there are currently over 100+ pieces of legislation in the US addressing ESG, a pending SEC (U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission) Climate Disclosure for public and privately held US companies, and the recently passed European Sustainability Reporting Standards that apply to any company doing business in Europe, to name a few. While these regulations should not be the primary reason that companies pursue ESG results, it is ideal for companies to be proactive, organized, and thoughtful in their sustainability planning and corresponding regulatory responses.

ESG might seem complex on the surface, but it is actually quite simple when considered in the context of the impact that can be made on society and the environment when a stakeholder takes responsibility for its actions. Companies have great potential to influence how ESG issues are addressed by being authentic to themselves and leading the charge towards positive societal change.

Learn more about ESG at the October 10 Missouri Gateway Green Building Council program focused on the connections between ESG and green buildings. Visit www.mogreenbuildings.org to register.