In-person gatherings largely went away during COVID—if they happened, they were virtual. Now, companies seem to be thinking about bringing them back, but in a hybrid fashion: in-person + virtual at the same time. PowerPoint needs, audio/video support, and messaging are on IROs’ minds while they weigh when and how to start meeting with investors again.
WHY disclose or report on ESG?
While most organizations are increasing ESG disclosures in response to pressure from investors like Blackrock and State Street, and to keep up with peers as well as ratings agencies, there is value to communicating on these issues for recruiting and retention purposes, as well as to build relationships with communities. Measuring the return on these efforts is a bit difficult, although there is more evidence that sustainable companies, on average, outperform those that don’t focus on ESG.
What are others in our space doing when it comes to ESG disclosure?
It’s a mixed bag, and not one that has a straight-forward answer. Different companies have different reasons for why they report on ESG, what they disclose, and how they disseminate it. It’s worth doing a peer review of public ESG disclosures so you have some context for what you report on. However, in the end, you need to do what feels right and authentic to your organization.
Regarding an ESG report, this is not something we need to focus on at the moment. Would we be able to revisit this later on in the year?
Obviously, we’d be happy to. However, we’ve been finding that to release an ESG report the right way, it’s typically a 6-9 month process. Many companies are having these discussions now, thinking about it every day, due to the pressure and questions they’ve been receiving from investors which have been continuously growing throughout the year. They don’t want to repeat mistakes that other organizations previously made by waiting until it’s too late in the year, when they won’t have enough time, and release a report that is ultimately unsatisfying to investors. That being said, it’s best to begin the conversation now.
We’d be happy to walk you through the process, as well as timeline, and discuss which next steps to take depending on what you want to accomplish and when you want to accomplish it. It can be a conversation about your current ESG program. Are you looking to make improvements? Are you measuring the right things? Are you reporting on non-financial metrics, as well as financial metrics? Is what you are reporting on still what your competitors are reporting on?
If you want to improve your scores, it’s crucial to make sure you’re looking through the right things and not ignoring what SASB and TCFD (as well as Larry Fink) are saying. Our strategists tackle all of this on a daily basis, and we also have writers who write the reports.
Ultimately, before you can report, you need a process in place and we can help there. Who else on your team do you think should be apart of this conversation?
How long will it take to create our first ESG/CSR report?
It is 100% dependent on your goals, your team, the work you’ve already done (or not done), how robust you want the report to be, and the format of the disclosure. The short answers are:
- It’s complex.
- It’s customized.
- It’s time-consuming.
- Figure 5 to 10 months, depending on the above.
What is the most effective way to address different stakeholders’ priorities in our reporting strategy?
While different stakeholder groups may have different priorities, a comprehensive corporate responsibility and ESG strategy will cover all of the material issues. The delivery method, however, may need to be tweaked for the different audiences. While both data and context are equally important in telling a company’s story, they may not always be presented together. In addition to a dedicated web page and a stand-alone report, it may make sense to also have individual fact sheets or indices for some of the topics that are of particular interest to stakeholders. In the end, know your audiences and what is important to them. Determine what is material, where the various information should live on your website and what the format should be to make it easy for your stakeholders to find what they are looking for.