With Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) becoming increasingly relevant in the business landscape, many are feeling the pressure to take action. ESG disclosures are being tallied more now than ever – with stakeholders searching for company ESG commitments through public disclosure of information on corporate websites, sustainability reports, annual reports, or third-party rating agencies. There are many benefits to improving your ESG performance including meeting stakeholder expectations, attracting new customers, making operations lean, reducing risk, and more.
As a business leader, it's clear that the time to act on your ESG strategy is now. What’s not so clear is how to get started.
While the concepts of ESG are not necessarily new, the rapidly evolving practice of creating ESG strategies and frameworks can feel overwhelming. If you’re ready to take action to improve your ESG performance but don’t know where or how to start, an ESG Action Plan can help.
What Is an ESG Action Plan?
Putting together a comprehensive action plan will help get the ball rolling on your ESG goals and drive progress on your initiatives. From clearly outlining your aspirations, to identifying relevant stakeholders, to communicating the value of the work, an ESG Action Plan will help you set up the right framework to succeed.
An ESG Action Plan lays out the critical areas of focus that will help you go from identifying key ESG topics to taking action and making progress. An action plan will include the following information:
- What ESG topic to focus on
- Who needs to be involved
- Why it will drive business value
- When it will be completed
- How to do it
Download Your Guide to Creating an ESG Action Plan
Download our ESG Action Plan guide to see examples of completed action plans as well as a blank template to help you organize your own action plan.
Putting Together Your ESG Action Plan
- What: Start your action plan by clearly outlining what you wish to accomplish. This is the most important step as it will inform all the steps that follow. Ex. Understand organizational water use to map out risk, identify efficiencies, and drive growth through ESG messaging.
- Who: Once you have a clear vision for what you would like to accomplish, determine whether or not you have the resources to accomplish that goal. Which stakeholders need to be involved – both internal and external? If you don’t have the resources, what positions need to be created or partners need to be brought in to achieve your ESG goals?
- Why: The “why” is your business case. Use this step to clearly show the value of investing in the ESG initiative, and outline any barriers you may face, to help secure internal buy-in. Whether it’s stakeholder demand, risk management, improving image, reducing operating costs, etc., use this step to show why investing in ESG by implementing an action plan is a good business decision.
- When: A key piece of your ESG Action Plan is the timeline. Many organizations start ESG initiatives with good intentions but don’t have the structure in place to make real progress. Setting milestones in your plan helps create accountability and drive progress towards your goals. Whether your timeline is weeks, months, or years – setting a timeline will help guide your actions to achieve your goal.
- How: The final step is the most detailed and perhaps the most complicated. At this stage, you are ready to take all the information outlined in your action plan and build out a step-by-step set of actions to meet your goal – the “what. "These steps should create an easy-to-follow guide that can be distributed to everyone involved in the project. It should outline the responsibilities of all those involved and the expected outcomes.
Evolving Your ESG Action Plan
Your ESG Action Plan should be an organic document, ready to update and adjust as you make progress towards your goals and the organization’s ESG needs evolve.
ESG isn’t just a passing phase or trend, concerns around sustainability in business aren't going anywhere. Public and investor interest in how companies conduct business is only going to grow and be placed under heavier scrutiny.