By Roy Snell
As is often the case with a new high-level and complex role such as the Environmental, Social, and Governance Officer, the job description is often inconsistently defined. One of the things we can do to help make things clearer is recognizing that the ESG Officer job description will be different depending on where they work. For example, an ESG Officer in an investment firm might focus on assessing issuers ESG ratings for investment purposes. On the other hand, ESG Officers working in a more typical organization might focus on collecting ESG metrics relevant to their industry and reporting that information at least annually. I will be focusing on the role of the ESG officer who manages their organization’s ESG program in this post.
More advanced ESG Officers will go beyond just collecting/reporting data to working with various department heads to improve their overall ESG rating. For those who work with department heads to facilitate change, the next important question will be… “Who does the ESG Officer report to and how much authority will they have?” If the ESG Officer does not report high enough in the organization, their ability to motivate department heads will be limited. Like any change agent, someone from the C-suite must stand behind them, telling all employees that ESG is important and that dismissing the ESG Officer’s suggestions for improvement without a compelling argument is not an option.
The ultimate question is, “What is the ESG Officers relationship with the governing body?” If you really want to have an effective ESG program you must have ESG burned into the culture and mission from the very top of the organization. ESG Officers relationship with the governing body will grow over time. Some may eventually report to the governing body.
The ESG Officers role will continue to evolve. The changes over time will be significant in my humble opinion. We are just now getting the attention of the CEO and governing body regarding ESG. With new regulations and continued outcry for strong organizational ESG programs growing everywhere, leadership’s support of the ESG Officer will increase over time. Leadership will value the ESG Officers role, support it, give them the necessary resources, and demand more. ESG Officers will go well beyond data collection and reporting into facilitating material change in their organization, and the world will become a better place.