Daily CSR
Daily CSR

Daily CSR
Daily news about corporate social responsibility, ethics and sustainability

ESG and the fundamental value of community


ESG leaders take on the importance of Community.

Listening in on conversations between multiple ESG leaders reveals the fundamental value of community.

Sharing ideas, best practices, challenges, and strategies is immeasurable in the world of ESG, which still feels uncharted in some ways even after all these years. Unanswered questions about ESG frameworks and global requirements are sufficient reason to seek peer support. When the impacts of one company can easily affect those of another along a supply chain or value chain, the ESG journey should not be undertaken alone.

I was fortunate enough to be present when the Workiva ESG Customer Advisory Board (CAB) convened for their first meeting. It happened during Sustainability Week US, an Economist Impact event that brings together thousands of ESG experts in Washington, D.C. Members of the ESG CAB come from a wide range of industries, including finance, entertainment, energy, manufacturing, travel, and technology. They have expertise in sustainability, law, SEC reporting, investing, and strategy. According to my colleague Mandi McReynolds, head of ESG at Workiva and host of the podcast ESG Talk, CAB members all gravitate toward complex work, are collaborative, and have the C-trust. suite's.

The deadline for the public to comment on the SEC's climate disclosure proposal was approaching when we met. CAB members discussed their concerns and questions, as well as what has worked well for them in terms of data sharing between ESG and SEC teams, reporting, and providing some level of assurance.

If you have the chance to join a global community of ESG leaders and practitioners in these early years of mandated ESG reporting, take it. It's an opportunity to network, hear what your peers think, and play a key role in shaping the future of ESG.

What I heard at the ESG CAB meeting helped me rethink the space's challenges. My team will bring CAB members' perspectives back to Workiva so that we can continue to improve our platform to meet the needs of all customers.

One key takeaway is that the more streamlined and focused ESG reporting is, the more time teams can devote to ESG work. In other words, they can devote more time to integrating ESG into corporate strategy, identifying risks and competitive advantages, and, most importantly, taking meaningful action toward ESG objectives.

“Our report is data heavy, but I don’t know if it’s information rich,” said a CAB member from a leading oil services firm said. “Creating a meaningful story and action plan based on that data is more difficult.”

“I’m driving my team to do less reporting, not more,” said the global sustainability principal for a multinational design and manufacturing company. “We can’t do everything. We’ve got to do less because there’s too much noise.”
“It isn’t easy to be thrown into such a quickly changing environment that is also very visible. It's important to stay in touch with your peers.”

An ESG manager for an energy company noted the importance of data integrity for public disclosures and for internal decision-making on matters like targets for greenhouse gas emissions. “To determine a good target, you have to get a good handle on the data you have and have management be confident in the data, so that if you set targets, you can be confident in them,” he said.

Finding your community
A new community for ESG leaders and practitioners is forming outside of Workiva. The SEC Professionals Group has formed a new ESG Professionals Group, which is open to anyone involved in ESG work. Workiva is the national sponsor, but the site is intended to be a grassroots ESG community free of salespeople, media, and trolls, where people doing the work can dig in and have genuine conversations with others in the field.

Members of the ESG Pro Group, like the SEC Pro Group, have access to exclusive events, members-only resources such as blogs and forums, and leadership opportunities. Some of our ESG CAB members, I know, are also involved in industry-specific ESG communities or local groups with ties to a city or region.

 “It isn’t easy to be thrown into such a quickly changing environment that is also very visible,” said an associate director of ESG for an IT company told my team at Workiva.

“Everyone is watching, and yet there aren't really any guideposts leading you to the right path. It's important to stay in touch, particularly with your peers, to make sure you’re all aligned.”