Walking the talk in ESG communications

It’s hard to have overlooked the emphasis of ESG this last year. But, while corporates might think they are getting comfortable with the conversation, many are still struggling to hit the right note with their communications – particularly with investors.

Following on from our ESG: Closing the Gap report, our latest webinar saw Bladonmore Managing Partner, Richard Carpenter, joined by a panel of experienced practitioners from both sides of the equation to tackle the issue.

On the panel:

  • Julie Hudson, Global Head of ESG Research, UBS
  • Karoliina Loikkanen, Head of Sustainability, Nokia
  • Simon Messenger, Senior Advisor, Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB)

Here’s a look back at what was discussed:

ESG might have come to the fore over the last year, but it’s by no means new on the block…

“ESG is the sleeping beauty that has been waking up in 2020, accelerated by Covid-19, human rights challenges, challenges around minorities and diversity and inclusion…but the foundations have been there for years.” – Karoliina Loikkanen, Nokia


Where we have seen the biggest change is in the levels of interest and understanding around the subject.

“ESG is not just a matter for ESG specialists any longer. Knowledge is really expanding in the financial services community at large. That’s an important point for companies communicating out to the sell-side.” – Julie Hudson, UBS


But we still need to be patient when it comes to perfecting our reporting frameworks….  

“Think of ESG as an emerging market. We are going through a process of discovery – it’s important not to shut that down too soon, even though the complexity is frustrating.” – Julie Hudson, UBS

“Today, non-financial information disclosure is where financial reporting was decades ago. What really helped to deliver comparability, accountability, efficiency in the latter was a foundational layer of global standards.” – Simon Messenger, SASB


Do these frameworks themselves risk ESG becoming a simple box-ticking exercise? In short, no. And those who think that way are likely to miss a trick…

“The danger of operating on a checklist is that markets are dynamic. If you stick to the usual list of say, a dozen factors, you might just miss something.” – Julie Hudson, UBS


What is needed is a much more focused approach to the way corporates are communicating their ESG stories…

“When it comes to ESG, you need to walk the talk. It starts with identifying the topics that are material for your business – and for society. At Nokia, we do this through the framework of the UN SDGs – which ones can we actually impact?” – Karoliina Loikkanen, Nokia


And focus starts with a clear and considered purpose.

“To cut through the chaos and complexity of ESG, think in terms of purpose – what is your company trying to achieve over the medium term? That will make it much clearer which aspects of ESG you need to report on.” – Julie Hudson, UBS


Looking to the future, how will COVID-19 impact the way companies view ESG?

“Covid-19 will reinforce the demand for ESG information. Like many crises, it forces people to take a step back and think – what are we trying to achieve?” – Simon Messenger, SASB

For more information about our upcoming events or to find out how we can help you communicate your ESG story, get in touch.

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Tom Brown

Senior Consultant

Tom produces a variety of strategic content, built around clear narrative and messaging.

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