ESG Results: Turning Data into Action

An exercise to define key priorities and move mountains (of big data)
ESG Results: Turning Data into Action
Publ. date 15 May 2019
More than ever, companies are asked by stakeholders to share their performance on a variety of ESG related topics. Whereas in the past companies were good to go with a story-telling approach, today a data-driven approach is needed to fulfill stakeholders’ expectations in the best possible way. As the field of ESG information is immensely broad, ranging from detailed information on governance practices, to energy reduction activities, and health and safety initiatives, companies are advised to focus on what matters most to their type of business and organizational culture.

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To help companies in determining a right path, Finch & Beak has designed the ESG Program Canvas, a tool to turn ESG results into concrete actions and to keep up with the rising requests for ESG information. In a workshop with about four to eight participants, the canvas aims to determine how the current ESG rating outcomes relate to your company’s sustainability approach and determine effective interventions and actions.

The ESG Program Canvas - workshop instructions

Time required: 2½ hours

As groundwork for the workshop, the facilitator prepares an analysis to summarize the existing company’s ESG scoring on the provided criteria such as climate change strategy, labor conditions or governance. Typically, this is accomplished by creating a simple heatmap that exhibits the company’s backlog on the individual criteria to the industry sustainability leaders. In the exceptional case that the industry leader’s score is not readily available, the relative score level can be estimated by developing a rough industry ceiling from the annual reports and sustainability programs of selected competitors.  

1. The workshop itself starts by filling in the sustainability strategy checklist (refer to the table) in a plenary brainstorming format.

2. Once the checklist has been completed, the results can be compared against the heatmap score of the industry sustainability leaders and the ESG criteria that are emerging as weak spots can be determined. This two-way mapping process uncovers the main ESG performance gaps from both data analysis as well as team experience.

3. To start planning for improvement, identify possible causes of the ratings outcome from the sustainability strategy checklist in groups of two to four participants and ask the groups to come up with ideas for improvement. In a plenary format, all interventions and actions can be shared and then clustered and mapped in the Interventions & Actions section by jointly estimating their impact and feasibility. In some cases, the group was able to reach a consensus on the priorities, so only a few interventions were required, One illustration is that of a company in the building materials sector where, during the application of the ESG Program Canvas, the team decided to bundle their efforts on improving the structure of health and safety reporting in their industry and on the impact measurement of their business.

4. After the workshop, a summary of the most appropriate interventions is prepared including the ownership of the action points and timing.

Want to turn your ESG results into concrete actions?

The ESG Program Canvas, as well as many other tools can be found in Winning Sustainability Strategies (Palgrave 2018, Leleux and Van der Kaaij) which presents numerous award-winning cases from IMD business school and examples from companies such as Unilever, Torres, Patagonia, Tumi, DSM and Umicore alongside original ideas based upon 20 years of consulting experience.   

About Bas Nuijten

Sustainability professional aiming to help organizations to continuously improve their sustainability strategies. | 
bas@finchandbeak.com

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