CSR News

The Next Era of CSR is ESG

We had a conversation with two ESG and sustainability leaders about how ESG is helping businesses become more resilient to financial and operational risk while also creating quantifiable opportunities to enhance their public brand image.
By
Vanessa Poulson
|
1.11.2023
Lorem ipsum sit dolor et sua vous.
CSR News

The Next Era of CSR is ESG

We had a conversation with two ESG and sustainability leaders about how ESG is helping businesses become more resilient to financial and operational risk while also creating quantifiable opportunities to enhance their public brand image.
By
Vanessa Poulson
|
16.11.2022
Lorem ipsum sit dolor et sua vous.

CSR and social impact have changed business to include impact within daily operations. Environmental Social Governance (ESG) specifically is becoming a more influential factor in helping organizations create long-term business strategies. 

We had a conversation with two ESG and sustainability leaders about how ESG is helping businesses become more resilient to financial and operational risk while also creating quantifiable opportunities to enhance their public brand image. 

Dave-Inder Comar - Managing Partner at Comar Mollé LLP

Dave-Inder Comar is the Managing Partner at Comar Mollé LLP, a tech law firm with offices in San Francisco and New York, and the Executive Director of Just Atonement Inc. ("JAI"), a human rights law non-profit that trains new human rights defenders to address threats to human rights, a livable planet, and the international rule of law. He holds a law degree from the New York University School of Law, a Master of Arts degree from Stanford University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Stanford University. He is currently a PhD candidate at Leiden University researching the intersection of climate change and the right to self-determination of peoples.

How do you think the corporate role in promoting sustainability is changing?

Today there is increasing recognition that business and finance can strengthen and promote sustainability, particularly for reducing emissions and protecting biodiversity. At the 2022 UNFCCC COP27 climate talks in Sharm el-Sheikh as well as the COP15 biodiversity talks in Montreal, business and finance groups were invited to meaningfully participate in positive efforts to achieve the aims of both treaties. From the human rights side, in July 2022, the UN General Assembly recognized the right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment by an overwhelming vote of 161 votes in favor (including the United States) and zero against, with eight abstentions. Similarly, in November 2021, the State of New York adopted the right to a healthful environment into its State constitution. These developments mean that businesses could find themselves subject to litigation for infringing a right to a healthy environment, perhaps in a domestic court or even internationally in other jurisdictions where this right is also judicially recognized. Corporate board members that are well-versed and apprised of these trends are likely to push for greater corporate participation in promoting sustainability to ensure that their businesses are engaged in best practices as the legal terrain evolves to respond to the growing environmental and planetary challenges of our time.

What level of responsibility do you think organizations have in meeting the need for an ESG-forward future? 

As part of their duty of care, corporate boards have a responsibility to assess whether implementing ESG-based controls or policies are warranted in order to prevent damages, liabilities, or losses to the business. Members of corporate boards who ignore warning signs about liability to the business because of pollution (E), a toxic workplace culture (S), or a lack of financial controls in the business (G), could face legal exposure related to allegations of breach of their duty of care. Investors, stockholders, and consumers have increasingly heightened expectations about appropriate corporate conduct in light of growing environmental crises, and they also worry about the interrelationship of business actors with threats to democracy and human rights. We thus expect a continuation and strengthening of ongoing ESG trends and an increasing role of ESG in decision making by corporate boards.

Do you have any advice for industry leaders looking to make ESG-centered initiatives part of their long term goals? 

Industry leaders that are possibly overwhelmed with ESG could try focusing on a specific aspect of ESG that their organization can highlight as part of larger industry challenges. Creating a more sustainable workplace (E), tackling discrimination in employment (S), and providing more transparent and equitable compensation within the organization (G) are areas that can be tackled one-at-a-time or on a thematic basis, depending on current industry practice, consumer expectations, and an organization’s unique set of values. 

Mahak Agrawal - M.Plan, M.P.A, Recognized Global Expert in Urban Planning, Corporate Sustainability and Carbon Management

Mahak Agrawal is an urban planner and a former United Nations fellow. She is a recognized expert in the field of ESG reporting and corporate carbon management, urban sustainability, and public policy. Mahak currently works as an Advisor with the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery and leads urban adaptation projects with the Switzerland-based International Tunnelling and Underground Space Association’s Committee on Underground Spaces (ITACUS). Mahak has served twice as an expert reviewer for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has authored numerous scientific publications on climate change and sustainable development, worked across North America, Asia and Europe, and has presented her works globally, including at the United Nations.

How do you think the corporate role in promoting sustainability is changing?

Climate change, carbon management and sustainability, in general, are increasingly becoming a material concern for corporations around the world. Public companies are increasingly adopting one or more reporting frameworks to disclose their commitments and associated progress on various sustainability concerns. One key change is that companies are now trying to bridge the gap between intent and action when it comes to sustainable business practices in response to the increasing demands of multiple internal and external stakeholders.

What level of responsibility do you think organizations have in meeting the need for an ESG-forward future?

Organizations play a key role in meeting the needs for an ESG-forward future, particularly towards the environmental dimension as much of the environmental degradation and deterioration is linked to the value chains of organizations and associated economic activities. At the same time, organizations can play a big role in meeting the needs of an ESG-forward future because of the financial and technical resource base they have and their expansive value chains. In response, ESG initiatives and reporting by organizations are increasingly becoming a norm - irrespective of industry, the scale of operations, and the portfolio of products and services. Investors are prioritizing ESG metrics to guide their investment decisions. 

Do you have any advice for industry leaders looking to make ESG-centered initiatives part of their long-term goals?

A lot is going on in this space at the moment. A lot is changing every other day and it's often tough to keep track of all the regulatory and market changes happening in the ESG space. But, one aspect that will remain crucial for industry leaders in the long term is the focus on ESG-centered initiatives and investing in sustainable initiatives. The term ESG might lose its hype in a few years and a new term may come in, but the need for aligning business strategies and operations in line with environmental, social and governance dimensions will not diminish. One piece of advice I would give to industry leaders to make ESG-centered initiatives part of their long-term goals - is to not just invest in initiatives or announce big, bold commitments via some glossy and well-illustrated publication, but also focus on monitoring returns on these investments.

Apart from the quantitative returns, industry leaders should emphasize monitoring, measurement, and reporting the quality of returns and impact. Mapping and monitoring these investments and their corresponding returns will help industry leaders and companies realistically and systematically achieve, iterate, improvise, and implement their ESG initiatives across geographies and operations as well as value chains and supply chains.

Discover a New Way to Create Social Impact

To learn about how you can differentiate your CSR initiatives and enhance your employee brand by engaging historically excluded communities through CSR programs with Paragon One, talk to us.

‍‍Subscribe to our newsletter to receive updates on the latest in CSR, ESG, social responsibility, and corporate leadership news and events.

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CSR News

The Next Era of CSR is ESG

We had a conversation with two ESG and sustainability leaders about how ESG is helping businesses become more resilient to financial and operational risk while also creating quantifiable opportunities to enhance their public brand image.

Vanessa Poulson
January 11, 2023

CSR and social impact have changed business to include impact within daily operations. Environmental Social Governance (ESG) specifically is becoming a more influential factor in helping organizations create long-term business strategies. 

We had a conversation with two ESG and sustainability leaders about how ESG is helping businesses become more resilient to financial and operational risk while also creating quantifiable opportunities to enhance their public brand image. 

Dave-Inder Comar - Managing Partner at Comar Mollé LLP

Dave-Inder Comar is the Managing Partner at Comar Mollé LLP, a tech law firm with offices in San Francisco and New York, and the Executive Director of Just Atonement Inc. ("JAI"), a human rights law non-profit that trains new human rights defenders to address threats to human rights, a livable planet, and the international rule of law. He holds a law degree from the New York University School of Law, a Master of Arts degree from Stanford University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Stanford University. He is currently a PhD candidate at Leiden University researching the intersection of climate change and the right to self-determination of peoples.

How do you think the corporate role in promoting sustainability is changing?

Today there is increasing recognition that business and finance can strengthen and promote sustainability, particularly for reducing emissions and protecting biodiversity. At the 2022 UNFCCC COP27 climate talks in Sharm el-Sheikh as well as the COP15 biodiversity talks in Montreal, business and finance groups were invited to meaningfully participate in positive efforts to achieve the aims of both treaties. From the human rights side, in July 2022, the UN General Assembly recognized the right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment by an overwhelming vote of 161 votes in favor (including the United States) and zero against, with eight abstentions. Similarly, in November 2021, the State of New York adopted the right to a healthful environment into its State constitution. These developments mean that businesses could find themselves subject to litigation for infringing a right to a healthy environment, perhaps in a domestic court or even internationally in other jurisdictions where this right is also judicially recognized. Corporate board members that are well-versed and apprised of these trends are likely to push for greater corporate participation in promoting sustainability to ensure that their businesses are engaged in best practices as the legal terrain evolves to respond to the growing environmental and planetary challenges of our time.

What level of responsibility do you think organizations have in meeting the need for an ESG-forward future? 

As part of their duty of care, corporate boards have a responsibility to assess whether implementing ESG-based controls or policies are warranted in order to prevent damages, liabilities, or losses to the business. Members of corporate boards who ignore warning signs about liability to the business because of pollution (E), a toxic workplace culture (S), or a lack of financial controls in the business (G), could face legal exposure related to allegations of breach of their duty of care. Investors, stockholders, and consumers have increasingly heightened expectations about appropriate corporate conduct in light of growing environmental crises, and they also worry about the interrelationship of business actors with threats to democracy and human rights. We thus expect a continuation and strengthening of ongoing ESG trends and an increasing role of ESG in decision making by corporate boards.

Do you have any advice for industry leaders looking to make ESG-centered initiatives part of their long term goals? 

Industry leaders that are possibly overwhelmed with ESG could try focusing on a specific aspect of ESG that their organization can highlight as part of larger industry challenges. Creating a more sustainable workplace (E), tackling discrimination in employment (S), and providing more transparent and equitable compensation within the organization (G) are areas that can be tackled one-at-a-time or on a thematic basis, depending on current industry practice, consumer expectations, and an organization’s unique set of values. 

Mahak Agrawal - M.Plan, M.P.A, Recognized Global Expert in Urban Planning, Corporate Sustainability and Carbon Management

Mahak Agrawal is an urban planner and a former United Nations fellow. She is a recognized expert in the field of ESG reporting and corporate carbon management, urban sustainability, and public policy. Mahak currently works as an Advisor with the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery and leads urban adaptation projects with the Switzerland-based International Tunnelling and Underground Space Association’s Committee on Underground Spaces (ITACUS). Mahak has served twice as an expert reviewer for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has authored numerous scientific publications on climate change and sustainable development, worked across North America, Asia and Europe, and has presented her works globally, including at the United Nations.

How do you think the corporate role in promoting sustainability is changing?

Climate change, carbon management and sustainability, in general, are increasingly becoming a material concern for corporations around the world. Public companies are increasingly adopting one or more reporting frameworks to disclose their commitments and associated progress on various sustainability concerns. One key change is that companies are now trying to bridge the gap between intent and action when it comes to sustainable business practices in response to the increasing demands of multiple internal and external stakeholders.

What level of responsibility do you think organizations have in meeting the need for an ESG-forward future?

Organizations play a key role in meeting the needs for an ESG-forward future, particularly towards the environmental dimension as much of the environmental degradation and deterioration is linked to the value chains of organizations and associated economic activities. At the same time, organizations can play a big role in meeting the needs of an ESG-forward future because of the financial and technical resource base they have and their expansive value chains. In response, ESG initiatives and reporting by organizations are increasingly becoming a norm - irrespective of industry, the scale of operations, and the portfolio of products and services. Investors are prioritizing ESG metrics to guide their investment decisions. 

Do you have any advice for industry leaders looking to make ESG-centered initiatives part of their long-term goals?

A lot is going on in this space at the moment. A lot is changing every other day and it's often tough to keep track of all the regulatory and market changes happening in the ESG space. But, one aspect that will remain crucial for industry leaders in the long term is the focus on ESG-centered initiatives and investing in sustainable initiatives. The term ESG might lose its hype in a few years and a new term may come in, but the need for aligning business strategies and operations in line with environmental, social and governance dimensions will not diminish. One piece of advice I would give to industry leaders to make ESG-centered initiatives part of their long-term goals - is to not just invest in initiatives or announce big, bold commitments via some glossy and well-illustrated publication, but also focus on monitoring returns on these investments.

Apart from the quantitative returns, industry leaders should emphasize monitoring, measurement, and reporting the quality of returns and impact. Mapping and monitoring these investments and their corresponding returns will help industry leaders and companies realistically and systematically achieve, iterate, improvise, and implement their ESG initiatives across geographies and operations as well as value chains and supply chains.

Discover a New Way to Create Social Impact

To learn about how you can differentiate your CSR initiatives and enhance your employee brand by engaging historically excluded communities through CSR programs with Paragon One, talk to us.

‍‍Subscribe to our newsletter to receive updates on the latest in CSR, ESG, social responsibility, and corporate leadership news and events.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Vanessa Poulson

As lead of The Impact Report, Poulson focuses on developing Paragon One’s industry insight into the expanding world of CSR, ESG, and social impact.

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