By Roy Snell

The key to getting others motivated about ESG is to understand what motivates them. Some of us know our leadership so well that we will have a good idea of what ESG motivating factor to emphasize. The rest of us will have to make an effort to figure it out on a leader-by-leader basis. I would consider bringing up some of the motivating factors below, watch their face and listen to what they say. Some of these only apply to publicly traded companies… most apply to any organization. Reach into the soul of leadership and find out what triggers them.

ESG Motivating Factors
1. Reducing enforcement risks
2. Death by the cancel culture folks on social media
3. Investors leaning toward companies that care about ESG
4. Wining favor with the board
5. Appeasing ESG conscious customers
6. Attracting business partners because you support ESG
7. Recruiting and retaining employees by building a better company culture
8. External and internal auditors adding ESG to their annual critique of the company
9. Companies putting ESG related questions in their RFPs and contracts
10. Making the world a better place
11. Improving your score with ESG Ratings agencies
12. Using the ESG program to prevent an overreaction to ESG that could cause financial harm or loss of the company’s focus.(see my last blog).

In a way you need to find out who a specific leader is the most concerned about. For some it will be compliance, others care more about the board’s perspective and for some… it may be the customer. Every leader will have a different combination of 2-3 key reasons. Motivating factors can be used in combination to trigger a stronger positive reaction. We have a tendency to use reasons “we think” should trigger support. If you focus on what you think is the best reason to support ESG… you will convince yourself. If you find a motivating factor that triggers leadership support, then you will improve leadership support. This is not about what should be true, this is an exercise to determine what is true.

Consider this a fishing exercise to find and nurture supporters. Constantly try new bait, they will all care about ESG for different reasons. Constantly try new fishing locations (different leaders.) Don’t get hung up on one leader such as the CEO, work your way up over time. If you can trigger interest and support for ESG from mid-level leadership they will directly and indirectly help you improve top leadership support. Simply getting the naysayers to stop naysaying so much is a plus. And don’t forget to spend time nurturing strong ESG supporters to be an even stronger supporter. Some days I would go see strong supporters just for mental health reasons.

Another approach would be to present this whole list very quickly to leadership in a meeting and ask them to comment on the ones they think are weak or strong reasons. They may ask for clarification of an item or two on the list. They may express doubt about one or more of the motivating factors, don’t take it personally, its actually good news because you have learned what they don’t want to hear. Your job is to create any kind of discussion about the pros and cons of ESG. Make notes on who says what and then go back to them individually to nurture their individual and specific ESG interests.

Some ESG types (especially activists) constantly complain about leaderships lack of support and do nothing to make it better. In fact, their negative attitude and confrontational vibe will dig a bigger hole for ESG in their organization. Don’t be that guy. Be the person that takes action to make it better. You will win and the finger pointing complainers will lose every time. This isn’t about changing their minds overnight or having a big win. This is about improving a little every day over time. This is a long-term play.

Good luck.

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