I've been reading about the ESG backlash and based on my experience in the corporate boardrooms that I've sat in as a comms consultant, I'm not surprised that leaders want to move back to the more vague "corporate responsibility" framework.

Here's why:

🔎 It's hard to be specific and focused and intentional. And it sucks when you realize that there's a whole pillar of progress you don't have a plan for or can't seem to get traction on. Much easier to have a big umbrella term that you can organize a few events for, throw some money at, and call it a day.

⏳ Expectations are unreasonable. ESG calls on companies to make big changes. Depending on the vertical, these may take a long time to plan/fund and require huge amounts of resources and cross-functional coordination. The pressure to produce year over year results on every initiative, packaged in some sort of investor report that takes 3 months to produce (if you're lucky), is counterproductive and can be demoralizing.

📊 The data for measuring progress, let alone to evaluate the impact on the business, is being developed alongside the actual work. So many of the projects defy tangible valuation so ESG reporting is just plan hard. It puts a strain on the sustainability, HR, product, and compliance teams who are responsible for enacting and evaluating at the same time. It's overwhelming and also very expensive.

I hope ESG sticks around and even more than that, I hope we can figure out how to iterate, tweak, and rethink mechanisms for change rather than discarding them wholesale when they fall short. The all or nothing approach is like our disposable culture: it's harmful and short-sighted.

[Images are from an ESG report Three Furies designed for JELD-WEN back in 2021.]

Three Furies is a certified woman-owned business, brand, and content strategy agency with deep experience in the legal marketing sector, including digital marketing analysis, brand and digital design, communications strategy, and advertising campaigns. We also produce bespoke wine tasting experiences for client development and employee resource groups through our sister company Tipsy.