5 Strategies for success and simplicity
5 Strategies for success and simplicity

ESG: 5 Strategies for success and simplicity

You are already doing more on Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) than you realise and you know much more about ESG than you think. When you know that you have taken a huge step in using the ESG framework to drive career and business success.


Like many things, so-called ‘ESG experts’ would like to have you think that you need help to understand what the ESG framework is and how you can use it. That is simply not the case.  

That isn’t to say that there isn’t a role for “ESG Experts”, but simply to point out that there is a lot you are doing and can do, without the need for engaging consultants and experts.

Here are five strategies for success, where you can make a difference today, starting from where you are at.

1.) Understand why finance has embraced ESG

Finance has embraced ESG and made it a de-facto requirement because of risk management. It is all about producing stronger and more consistent returns.

That isn’t to say that fund managers don’t care about sustainability and climate. It is simply to say that they recognise that companies that are not addressing ESG issues carry increased risk. Risk with regulators, markets, employee recruitment & retention, etc.  

Sustainability has become one of the most important investor issues over the past decade. If companies are not explicitly addressing sustainability, they not only carry an increased risk, but they also raise flags about what other strategic issues management might be missing.

2.) Understand what you are already doing

I guarantee you are already doing more than you realise. Start by making a simple table and simply list what you are already doing. Make a simple bullet list. You can get more complicated and fancier later, with sub-categories and metrics.

But, start simple. Simply start. Once you get your first list you can start to add more detail and expand on it. And, you will realise other things you are doing.

Involve teammates and colleagues. They will help you, you will help them and it will be great team building.

If you have data, add it in. If you don’t, make notes where you think data would be helpful and where you would get the data.

3.) Don’t overcomplicate it

You are already doing more and know more than you realise. There are many guidelines and explainers – most of them far more complex than you need to start your journey.

Look at #2 above.

There are many expert guides and guidelines on ESG. They aren’t useless, but your common sense on this isn’t useless either. ESG stands for Environment, Social and Governance.

You know what these mean.

You know where you are addressing these issues, where you are maybe missing them and what you might do to improve. Start there. Don’t let complex guidelines immobilise you.

4.) Make ESG work for you

Never forget that your own self-interest should drive your embrace of the ESG framework. Make it work for you.

Before starting on anything, a project, ESG reporting, anything, be very clear about your internal value proposition. How will doing (whatever you are planning) be good for your organisation and your career?

If you don’t know, then ask yourself why you are doing it. Never forget, that a successful ESG journey is a self-interested ESG journey.

This is not to downplay the inherent importance of improved ESG performance. It is simply to say that you need to find the alignment and synergy between your own ESG journey and the greater good promised by ESG performance. If you don’t find that alignment, your own journey is not sustainable.

5.) Begin ESG reporting

Don’t throw away the complex, multi-page booklets and reports you see on ESG Reporting Frameworks and Guidelines. But, don’t use them either – not at this point. Not unless you are in advanced ESG Reporting stages. This isn’t to say that they aren’t useful, just that in most cases they aren’t, because they overcomplicate it.

Get started with a simple report and build from there. Go to #2 above – you have already started to sketch out a simple ESG report. If you want to integrate SDG Impact reporting into your ESG Report, note the SDGs that each of your ESG points impact.


It really is that simple. Sure, you can, and probably should over time, make it more complex. Make sure you are covering all material actions and issues. But, don’t let the fear of imperfection prevent you from taking those important first steps.

It is far better to start, improve and keep improving than to be immobilised because you want to start with perfection.

Closing thoughts

ESG is incredibly important and will become even more important in the months and years ahead. There are many aspects of it that are necessarily complex. That is OK.

But, never forget that your ESG journey should only embrace the complexity necessary to achieve the realistic ESG goals you set.


ESG should serve your interests. It must serve them if it is to be sustainable and serve the greater good over time.

In most cases, complexity is optional. In many cases, complexity is debilitating. Start simple, take small steps and grow with the journey. Keep self-interest front and centre – that is the only way you can sustainably serve the larger interests.

Enjoy the journey. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

ESG, Sustainability & CSR should be as much a business value driver as they are a social and environmental value driver. If it gets out of balance, it creates risk and makes the sustainability and indeed, even the business itself, potentially less sustainable.


Business is about creating value. CSR, ESG and Sustainability are also about creating value; value for society, the environment and shareholders.

The writer is the President & Founder, CSR Training Institute

He is an award-winning global sustainability expert with extensive teaching, writing, lecturing and advisory service experience. He is supported by an extensive faculty and advisory team.

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