Authentically Weaving Your ESG Journey Into Your Brand

By Marisa Long
April 25, 2022

At Inspire, we gravitate toward brands that think beyond their bottom line and focus on the greater good. While Earth Month in April is certainly an opportunity to recognize why this work is important, we’re facing unprecendented global climate challenges that need to be prioritized every day.

Inspire works across energy, agriculture and food, non-profit, education, real estate, infrastructure, government agencies and other sectors to help organization and business leaders navigate their sustainability journey. Authentically, we weave their ESG – environmental, social and governance – practices into who they are and what they do.

ESG might sound like the latest “buzz term,” and each path will vary in scale and impact, but the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s most recent report outlines a “dire warning about the consequences of inaction,” making it clear that strong corporate ESG commitments and planning must continue to be pushed for by business leaders, investors and consumers. Global investors like Blackrock— whose CEO Carl Fink’s annual letter to CEOs called on businesses to lead the energy transition to a net zero future—and corporations, like Amazon and Walmart, are initiating ESG goals all the way down food and product supply chains.

Business leaders who don’t focus on ESG will undoubtedly be left behind. How can you prioritize a thoughtful and authentic approach to planning for and communicating ESG goals?

1. Align your messaging

Brands that incorporate ESG impact into the core of their business and lean into their values show authenticity, which creates trust. We recommend developing a cohesive ESG/sustainability message framework that ties into brand goals. Your organization’s mission, vision and values should include how and why these commitments are important. Putting this on paper and getting buy-in ensures that your team and stakeholders are rowing in the same direction.

2. Quantify impact

Many of our clients are already, in one way or another, tracking their ESG/sustainability efforts, or they are working on creating a strategy for doing so. Across food and agriculture, for example, we’ve seen more and more leaders emerge with impressive tracking systems and efforts to reduce carbon emissions, food, animal and supply chain waste, and water and energy usage.

Whether communicating to a Board of Directors, customers, vendors, or other audiences, compiling a public ESG/sustainability impact report is an important way to get out information. If you aren’t tracking and measuring against goals, or can’t clearly articulate how those goals are being met, you can’t improve upon and advance them properly—or expect stakeholders to know what is being done. Look for dynamic, visual ways to share data through infographics, animated videos and other designed elements.

3. Spotlight stakeholders

Telling your own story is one thing but getting your customers and other key audiences to tell their stories – coming from real-life people and real-life situations – helps humanize your ESG impact. This is where, video, photos, Q&As and a strong social media presence will come into play.

When working with industry-leading organizations, we often recommend developing stakeholder toolkits with turnkey messaging and materials so that key audiences can amplify ESG reports, messaging, etc. to a broader audience.

4. Prioritize your employees

Employees shouldn’t be an afterthought when communicating ESG impact and goals, and they can be incredible advocates. Also, during the “great resignation” we’ve experienced over the past year, health and wellness initiatives are important to employee retention and a focus on actual people has become intrinsically linked with ESG planning and outcomes.

5. Tie into today’s news

ESG strategies address many of today’s pressing issues surrounding climate crisis, social inequality/impact and economic impact, and there may be an opportunity for your brand to share accomplishments. Understanding what’s happening in other industries, and how each sector is addressing ESG, will help you figure out where your business fits into the narrative.