• Thomas Doorley III & Robert Kueppers

The E in ESG

Updated: Apr 13

ESG has a problem: It is a well-intentioned goal that is disconnected from behavior

ESG sits at the top of C-Suite and Board of Directors’ priorities. However, for ESG to become fully deployed ESG principles need to be embedded in the behavior of consumers; the rest of us’ must live day-day with whatever costs and changes ESG initiatives trigger. Therein lies the disconnect. The 'rest of us' are not yet in concert with the priorities.

Working with consumer behavior and intentions research provided by Prosper Insights and Analytics (a monthly survey of 7,500 respondents scientifically balanced to represent the population of the US), we can document this disconnect. In January 2009 21% of consumers said they have become "More environmentally responsible in their daily lives." By January 2022 only 9% agreed. Further, when asked if they would change brands if an environmental scandal hit one of their favored corporations, only 51.6% said it would cause them to switch --a very narrow margin and a shocking result.

This Morning Consult/Politico survey reinforces Prosper's findings. They note that 72% of respondents support more drilling. While gas prices are spiking, it is a direct contradiction of climate change programs and underscores that environmental behavior and opinion are not as embedded as we might hope.

If we want to create a more environmentally friendly world, we need to accept this dichotomy. Others can explore why it exists. Our role here is to identify the problem and trigger a dialogue around what to do to address it. Accepting the existence of a problem is step one. When an organization is embarking on a major shift in strategy, introducing important initiatives that are not understood or embraced broadly, they build a substantive change management process to move the organization from the present to the desired state. Something similar is needed on the national scale. If the lack of support at the grassroots level is not reversed ESG initiatives will become yet another example of a top-down mantra with little impact. What can leaders do? Stay tuned…

This is the second of our notes digging into ESG. In future notes, we’ll consider the ‘S’ of ESG and will then explore what we as leaders can do to connect the messaging with behavior—how to make the G of ESG work.

[First in the series: ESG and the Board of Directors]

Sage Partners Thomas L. Doorley, III and Robert J. Kueppers contributed this Sage Advice

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