Understanding the Pivot to ESG

Last week, CGB’s Dr. Deirdre Mendez interviewed Shannon Trilli Kempner, Vice President of Corporate Responsibility and Diversity & Inclusion at Catalent Pharma Solution, and Aldor Lanctot, Executive Director of Lenovo. Together, they discussed the novelty and significance of ESG (environmental, social, and governance) standards in global businesses and identified the exponential increase in pressure on companies to embrace their ESG strategies. Here are some key takeaways from Shannon and Al’s perspectives on this strategic orientation:

Background of ESG in Global Businesses

  • ESG strategies serve as “proof points” for how companies operate in alignment with the values and behaviors they have set as standards for themselves.
  • Contemporary environmental issues (ex. global warming and environmental degradation) and social movements (ex. #MeToo and Black Lives Matter) have placed a greater emphasis on disclosing corporate ESG strategies.
  • With ESG stocks performing well in 2020 and 2021, ESG criteria has become an increasingly popular way for stakeholders to evaluate companies.

Workplace Transformations in Response to ESG

  • Transparency can turn a challenge into an opportunity for sustainability. With ESG reports publicly available, companies are prompted to evaluate and/or re-evaluate their procedures in managing current events.
  • “Uncomfortable” conversations encourage ESG mindfulness in the decision-making process and investment analysis at different levels of leadership. By actively addressing and discussing gaps in an organization’s ESG strategies, corporate leaders can set the tone to create a safe community for employees to talk about their experiences.

Insights from ESG Strategies

  • Companies should strive to measure themselves against the hardest standard because eventually it will become the normative standard internationally.
  • “Diversity without inclusion is a missed opportunity.” Acknowledging that the definition of diversity differs around the world, Shannon and Al reminded us not to export one certain view exclusively and that taking the opportunity to hear from employee grassroot voices is extremely important.
  • The growing issue of employee burnout appears to be a matter that needs to be promptly assessed through the revision of existing ESG functions or the creation of new ESG strategies.

Advice to Students

  • Do research on the company’s broader mission. By investigating the company’s actions and worldview, one can not only better understand the impact it is trying to have on the world but also determine whether it is an organization you see yourself in.
  • Listen for the company’s values during interviews. Since job interviews are mutual exchanges of information, the company should also introduce itself with their values, and give you examples of what they do to support those values.

Having gone through job recruitment myself, my understanding of the nerves surrounding this process enhanced my appreciation for Shannon and Al’s advice. I think the insights on a company’s ESG strategies can be extremely useful in the job search process. By understanding how an organization’s ESG strategies can impact the world, students are better able to formulate their own opinions and judgments on the companies at which they are thinking about working. Especially because there is a greater emphasis on ESG mindfulness in our society, I believe conducting additional research and listening for details regarding ESG during interviews can help students determine where they want to work and/or confirm their career decisions.

Like many others, I hope to work in a company that is proactive about current issues. Since ESG strategies show a company’s collective conscientiousness for environmental and social issues, its public disclosure indicates a commitment to the society and promise to take action. Specifically, a company’s dedication to solving social justice issues can imply how much an organization values diversity and inclusion. And, with that, indicates how that company would treat its employees. With this in mind, I noticed how important it is to be fully conscious of what a company is revealing about itself in interviews. As suggested by Shannon, companies that openly address social justice issues and speak about their ESG strategies are ones to look for in the workforce.

Additionally, I also recognize the necessity to assess my values continuously as a way to improve the career decisions I am making. This talk has encouraged me to be more self-aware and conscious of organizational behaviors when searching for jobs in the future.

You can watch the talk here:

Written by Juolin Tsai, Intern at the Center for Global Business



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