By Roy Snell

There are so many intersections between integrity and ESG that we are going to need to build a roundabout. But the intersections between ESG and integrity that I am sharing with you in this post… may surprise you.  I wrote a book called Integrity Works, which has four main pillars of integrity… bias, critical thinking, authenticity, and civil debate.  They all apply to personal integrity and… to the implementation of corporate ESG and sustainability programs.


Bias is one of the most significant impediments to gathering facts and data necessary to get to the truth.  The truth is an essential element of integrity.  One of the greatest biases negatively impacting the corporate ESG and sustainability movement is the “negative impact on profit.”  Patagonia and other companies have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that sustainability and profit are not mutually exclusive.  A good first step in making progress in corporate ESG efforts is to address this and other ESG related biases that are negatively impacting the implementation of an effective corporate ESG program.

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is simply a systematic process for conducting effective research to get to THE truth, rather than conducting biased research to get to MY truth.  The critical thinking process involves systematically seeking out experts and gathering relevant information.  A commitment to a critical thinking process is the soul of all effective leadership.  Any corporate ESG and sustainability effort would benefit from taking leadership through the ESG process via a critical thinking process.  I would study the key steps to critical thinking and assure leadership that you have used a critical thinking process to arrive at your ESG program recommendations.  You would be amazed how many times leadership is asked to spend a great deal of money with no sign of a critical thinking process.  We must be more effective.


Your organizational culture occasionally asks you to conform to norms that can interfere with the implementation of an ESG program.  The culture can limit what employees can and cannot say and thereby limit authenticity.  Integrity is the strict adherence to your moral principles, and it is impossible to follow your morals if you cannot be authentic.  Being authentic is a key personal trait of those who are the most effective in helping advance their organization’s environmental, social, and governance efforts.  However, being authentic and “getting away with it” requires a strong commitment to the 4th pillar of integrity…. Civil Debate.

Civil Debate

Getting to the truth (having integrity) requires civil debate. Uncivil debate interferes with learning and learning is essential to getting to the truth.  It is my humble opinion that everyone debating the ESG and Sustainability movement would benefit from further study of and the implementation of the core principles of civil debate.  Some of the most effective influencers I know have wicked civil debate skills that they obtained through constant study and practice.

Corporate environmental, social, governance, and sustainability programs are deeply rooted in integrity. Those of us that are more effective at critical thinking, managing bias, being authentic and civil debate is going to help our commitment to both our own and our organization’s integrity.

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