A world out of balance – are Purpose and ESG the answer?

If Purpose and ESG are the solutions to our broken system you might expect them to be well know concepts, but the average person probably wouldn’t know what we’re talking about!

In the rush for ESG data we often miss the bigger picture. Namely is my product or service socially and environmentally positive or negative? Why are we here and what are we doing beyond just making money? If our company didn’t exist would the world miss us or be better off?

How could we approach ESG and purpose differently? Here’s a few ideas. 

1. The E, S and G are intrinsically interconnected. ESG can’t just be broken down and solved in isolation or by a dedicated department. Explore a systems thinking approach.

2. Listen to your employees and give people agency. Your people are best placed to identify barriers to change and give you authentic feedback on the lived experience and culture within your organisation. Build trust by encouraging vulnerability and collaboration to share and tackle problems and develop new solutions and products. No one likes being told what to do by people who claim to have all the answers!

3. Embrace diverse perspectives. Look for creative ideas outside of the corporate world. Group-think often makes businesses unaware of the opportunities and impacts beyond their bubble.  

4. Close the “say-do gap”. If purpose statements aren’t lived they can be seriously de-motivating and do more harm than good. Many organisations talk a good game but employees day-to-day experience and the work they do doesn’t feel purposeful.

5. Get uncomfortable and be bold. Real transformation and progress feels uncomfortable. If it’s not then it’s likely you’re not really changing things. In the rush to embrace purpose and ESG (and make money from these things) companies are often unwilling to explore barriers to living their purpose and making a positive impact in the world. If the most successful companies today don’t move beyond old ways of working, new ones will render them obsolete.

6. Give people time. Time to think about how your purpose and ESG strategies relate to their work or part of the business, but equally importantly time away from emails and meetings. Making time for rest and self-care drives creativity, ideas, and innovation.