By Roy Snell

When I got involved in Environmental, Social and Governance programs I was very excited and ran around telling everyone about it.  I am more excited now, but I have to admit I have run into some ESG resistance. A couple of the people who rained on my ESG parade were very smart, and I respect their opinion.  I was dumbfounded. As is often the case, this reminds me of the early days of compliance and ethics programs. The haters of compliance and ethics either converted or went away, but their wish that compliance and ethics would go away … died off.  Compliance and ethics programs were implemented, it didn’t drive companies out of business, and the world is a better place.  Mark my words people… the same will be true with ESG.

One of the problems that ESG haters see is that some ESG activists and the occasional ESG anarchists, have gone a little too far.  The ESG haters are concerned that ESG will interfere with their business or worse yet, put them out of businesses.  The haters would be correct, but they are missing a HUGE ELEMENT of all this.  ESG Professionals are not only effective at helping make the world a better place by improving their company’s ESG metrics, but they will also protect their company from ESG extremism.

Frankly the reason why I would implement an effective ESG program, headed up by a talented ESG professional, is to help prevent ESG activities in your company from going too far, and consuming resources to the point the company is no longer competitive.  You will have ESG activities, the question is will they be effectively managed? My ESG hater friends have not studied ESG long enough to know that the ESG Officer helps the company select a MANAGEABLE number of material ESG issues and metrics and explains why every ESG issue and metric can’t be worked on simultaneously.  With no effective ESG program in place, some companies are holding uncontrollable town hall meetings to appease ESG activist employees who are screaming for too much, too fast and too soon.  You cannot possibly support every cause the entire workforce wants you to support because it will drive the company out of business.  You must manage the number of ESG metrics and then moderate ESG discussion so people are understanding and support your ESG program.  Hating on ESG is not going to work.  Trying to avoid ESG is not going to work.  And the more you resist, the bigger mess you will create.

Here is the irony for ESG haters.  They hate it so much they don’t want to start an ESG program.  Then the haters try to deal with all the ESG activists inside and outside their company without a plan, a program or an ESG professional.  The haters create a totally negative ESG environment because they can’t possibly do everything the activist employees want. They have no process to help bring the activists along in a peaceful thoughtful and effective manner.  The irony is that HATERS create an ESG environment everyone HATES.  I tell my ESG hater friends that ESG programs are the solution to your ESG frustration.  I tell them…. “If you want to prevent your company from being ruined by ESG you have to manage ESG rather than distance yourself from it.”

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