Saturday Sitdown: MovePlan’s EMEA chief on rethinking ESG as working policies are being rewired
Over the last few years, ESG has become integral in any business strategy, and rightly so. It’s a deal-breaker not just for investors but also for those considering new roles.
In fact, City A.M. recently reported how businesses with poor ESG credentials are struggling to attract talent, a sure sign of the importance of substantive ESG policies for job-seekers.
The rise in hybrid or flexible working, as a result of the pandemic, made existing ESG policies outdated overnight.
The bigger question to ask is: should businesses draft policies around a physical space, or the office, when all their staff are at home or elsewhere consuming separate energy?
While most of the larger conglomerates have set targets to reach net-zero by a certain date, do we now need to rethink these policies to extend beyond the office for the new era of the workplace?
“ESG has been of great concern to businesses for a number of years. Not only for their own conscious but also as a way of securing investment and attracting talent,” said Siobhan Byrnes, workplace specialist and regional director for EMEA at MovePlan.
Byrnes told City A.M.: “To begin with, many organisations focused on making changes around the office space such as how the buildings they operated in were disposing of waste or consuming water.”
“This worked when we were all in the office five days a week but now that we’re working in a hybrid manner these policies no longer go far enough.”
There are many ways businesses can rethink their sustainability policies to be inclusive of our new ways of working to empower staff to be responsible wherever they are.
According to Byrnes, ESG is going to continue to remain front of mind for business leaders.
While before the pandemic, a lot of the focus on achieving ESG goals was centred around the office – moving forwards, there will be a bigger emphasis on cultivating sustainable workstyles in the hybrid world.
For this, business leaders are going to be critical in the transition.
To begin with, employees should be encouraged to think twice about their travel plans, Byrnes argued. She calls on workers to question whether or not they need to attend events in person, particularly when overseas, if there is a capacity to attend virtually.
Likewise, to build a responsible workforce, Byrnes suggests business leaders encourage their workforce to take public transport to client meetings, where appropriate, rather than driving or taking a taxi.
But communication is vital and needs to be done carefully, Byrnes warned.
“Often employees are presented with complex data in corporate jargon which they don’t respond well to. It’s far more impactful to translate this into easily understandable examples,” she added.
“Employers need to empower their staff to make sustainable choices for themselves.”Siobhan Byrnes
“So rather than listing out the carbon costs of taking a private taxi to a meeting, employers could explain what could be run on this extra energy should their employees take public transport instead.”
“As well as making helpful suggestions, they should also communicate on these issues in language that is easily digestible. This way employers can ensure that efforts towards sustainability are communicated effectively and celebrated by their employees, rather than being seen as a chore,” Byrnes continued.
With employees now choosing to work from where they feel most productive, sustainability efforts clearly need to be reconsidered.
“As organisations navigate the post-pandemic reappraisal around ways of working, it is the perfect moment to build ESG into their cultures, giving equal weight and importance to ESG targets as commercial ones.”
“It is more important than ever to nurture working environments that make this possible. Sustainable working policies are good for business.”Siobhan Byrnes
“Building a sustainable business is a lot of work. It requires significant investment and resources, and will need to be prioritised.”
But ultimately, “it is what will define their tenures in leadership roles, and their work will be measured against the commitment and the positive impact they make not only on the business but on the society-at-large,” she concluded.