There is a growing concern over the effects of global warming, air and water pollution, and how these environmental issues affect our quality of life. Businesses that understand how these ecological concerns impact their operational procedures and profitability have begun to embrace various corporate sustainability programs, from landfill diversion to other waste solutions. For this reason, many companies choose to implement ESG initiatives.
ESG initiatives not only help the environment, but they also can help corporations appeal to investors, stakeholders, and customers by significantly improving their brand image.
What is ESG?
ESG stands for Environmental, Social, and Governance. It is a combined approach that encompasses sustainability and other environmental concerns.
Environmental- Focuses on sustainability, waste management, recycling, and other green programs that affect the planet.
Social - Focuses on the operational aspect of your company and the impact on your employees, vendors, customers, and the local community. Social factors include fair wages, diversity, employee satisfaction, retention programs, and adherence to workplace health and safety standards. It also includes your company's philanthropic efforts and community volunteerism.
Governance - Focuses on how your company is managed regarding adhering to local, state, and federal regulations for your industry. It also influences your fiscal responsibility to investors and stakeholders.
Why Brand Image Matters
From a big box retail store to a construction and building contractor, your success and profits depend on how potential customers, employees, and investors perceive your business. In other words, your brand image.
Who you are and what you value matters. A business's brand image is more than a mission statement or tagline.
It's true what they say:
"People will do business with people they know, like, trust, and value." - Ty Bennett
Since ESG encompasses several company-wide programs, it will also serve as a guide for corporate sustainability and other green initiatives along with one's overall marketing strategy.
How ESG Reporting Impacts Your Brand Image
How you execute your ESG program, and the results you achieve can directly impact how your company is perceived in the marketplace. The ability to track, collect accurate data, and compile reports about your business's environmental footprint is vital to comply with specific governmental regulations. It is also required to meet the criteria of investors and LEED certification. And it will positively influence your brand image by:
- Enhancing your ability to attract top-notch talent, even in a tight job market.
- Improving employee job satisfaction and retention, reducing your turnover rate.
- Impressing corporate stakeholders and attracting potential investors who support ESG principles.
- Appealing to current and potential customers interested in environmental issues who prefer spending their money with like-minded companies.
Let's go more in-depth into how that works...
Attracting Top Talent
As of October 2022, the US unemployment rate is 3.7%, making finding, attracting, and hiring the best employees more challenging. In addition to salary, health insurance, and other company benefits, jobseekers want to work for companies that share their ethics and that exhibit and have an environmentally responsible image.
This is especially true of Millennials and Gen-Xers, who prefer to work for companies with ESG policies that align with their values and fit into the work-life balance lifestyle they desire.
Improving Job Satisfaction & Retention
Companies that uphold their values and follow through with their ESG initiatives are more likely to retain employees because employees want to be proud of where they work. It's no secret that happy and fulfilled people are more productive and more inclined to be long-term employees.
Impressing Stakeholders & Potential Investors
Consumers are not the only ones concerned with your business's values. Investors are also taking a greater interest in companies that have ESG programs. According to CNBC, investments in ESG more than doubled to $51.1 billion.
In the next few years, financial advisory and consulting firm Deloitte estimates that ESG-mandated assets will total $35 trillion - about half of all professionally managed investments. Obtaining LEED certification makes commercial real estate properties especially attractive to potential investors. Some criteria for LEED certification are energy efficiency, controlling landscaping water usage, and sustainable waste diversion. These criteria can also be closely aligned with aspects of an ESG program and assure investors that your company is committed to achieving its ESG goals.
"Funds that use so called ESG principles may... invest in energy firms that aren't reliant on fossil fuels or in companies that promote racial and gender diversity... In 2019, investors funneled roughly $21 billion into funds that apply environmental, social, and governance principles." - CNBC
Appealing to Customers
People concerned about sustainability issues may want to lease office space in a LEED-certified office building. And environmentally conscious consumers prefer to buy from businesses that align with them on environmental issues.
An article on Forbes.com talks about The 5 Biggest Business Trends In 2023 Everyone Must Get Ready For Now, stating:
"...investors and consumers prefer businesses with the right environmental and social credentials, and buying trends are increasingly being driven by conscious consumers - those among us who prioritize factors such as ecological impact and sustainability when choosing who to buy from or do business with. In 2023, companies need to make sure that their environmental, social, and governance (ESG) processes are moved to the center of their strategy. This should start with measuring the impact any business is having on society and the environment and then move to increasing transparency, reporting, and accountability..." - Forbes
A Word About Greenwashing
Some companies want to exhibit an environmentally responsible brand image, so much so that they include false data in their ESG reporting or publish misinformation about their environmental efforts and results. For example, in 2015, Volkswagen experienced a PR and legal nightmare when it was discovered that the car company had intentionally installed software in their 2009-2015 diesel cars to bypass the EPA's emissions standards, thereby falsely reporting emission data.
The EPA issued a Notice of Violation of the Clean Air Act to Volkswagen. Volkswagen is not the only company guilty of making false and misleading sustainability claims. While they may experience a boost in their company's image or increased sales, once consumers find out they have been lied to, it is extremely difficult for these companies to regain their reputation and customer trust.
How to Improve Brand Image Through ESG Initiatives
Corporate sustainability and ESG initiatives play a key role across all sectors of your business and can significantly improve your brand image. But it will involve much more than setting up a recycling program or participating in Earth Day events. Fully investing in a comprehensive ESG program requires everyone's commitment, from the management team, employees, vendors, and even the marketing department will need to play a role.
1. Find What Aspects Of Your Business Have the Greatest Opportunity for Improvement
Start by conducting a thorough inspection and assessment of your current practices and processes related to the environmental, social, and governance components of ESG. Meet with the management team and other department heads to get feedback and establish your current situation.
Then talk to janitorial, waste management, and maintenance vendors to learn how they could impact your goals and what changes must be made.
2. Collect and Analyze Data
Now, you should clearly understand your situation. Next, collect all relevant reports and data for your waste stream solutions, safety and accident reports, and account payable invoices for related expenses. Vendors and contractors should be able to provide you with the data needed to use in this step. Analyze what factors need improvement and what should be replaced with a better option.
- Is your janitorial able to use environmentally safe cleaning products?
- How much corrugated cardboard is in your compactor, and how often is it hauled away?
- What are your waste steam solutions? Do you know how much of your waste is sent to a landfill and how much is recycled? Or does your trash end up floating in the ocean or shipped overseas?
- How are your current operations contributing to Scope 3 emissions, and how can you develop efficiencies to reduce these emissions?
3. Develop Your ESG Initiatives
The results of the data analysis and the answers to these questions are essential in helping you determine how you will structure your company's ESG program.
- Do you want to achieve zero waste to landfill as part of your waste steam solution?
- What social ESG programs can be implemented? Which ones will have the optimal effect on the workplace and your employees? And are they within your budget?
- What is needed to bring your company into compliance with governmental and environmental regulations?
4. Choose Your Team
Overseeing an ESG program requires time, attention to detail, a team capable of collaborating with multiple vendors, and an understanding of the reams of data required for reporting.
- Do you have enough people on your staff to create a team dedicated to running a program like this?
- Can your waste management vendor help you achieve that goal, and can they help improve your landfill diversion rate or reduce your Scope 3 emissions?
- Can your other vendors provide you with the auditable data you need?
In-House vs. Hiring Experts
As you can see, implementing a comprehensive set of ESG initiatives can be labor intensive and time-consuming. In addition, reports and other documentation can fall through the cracks when you are short-handed or seasonal business drastically increases. Consider the pros and cons of handling all sustainability programs in-house using your employees or hiring a team of experienced experts.
5. Execute Your Plan
With your ESG initiatives established and a team in place to execute your plan, you are all set to achieve your goals.
6. Share Your Progress
Employees, customers, vendors, and even other businesses in your industry will be interested in your ESG initiatives and the program's success. Without sharing your progress, your company will not reap the rewards of your efforts. Don't waste an opportunity to improve your brand image.
How to Improve Brand Image Through ESG Initiatives
Now it's time to tell your story! Use content marketing best practices, social media tools, and email marketing to share your ESG initiatives and environmental programs. Tell a compelling story about what your company is doing to implement each aspect of ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) and how you will achieve these goals.
Sharing on Social Media
A well-thought-out editorial calendar that outlines themes, topics, and upcoming events for the entire year can be a valuable asset. It will allow you to stay focused on what and when you should be sharing on social, your website, or via email blasts. A successful social media strategy requires regular posting. While it can vary based on your industry and what you hope to accomplish, you should aim to post daily. Of course, this should include engaging with your followers through comments and answering relevant questions.
- Make it a habit to share every blog post, links to your email newsletter sign-up form, and other exciting updates or facts about your ESG program on Twitter and Facebook.
- Share photos and videos of employee retention events and when you participate in community philanthropic projects on Instagram and YouTube.
- Create simple but attractive graphics to share recycling data (i.e., pounds of paper recycled during a specific period or the date of your next e-cycling event) on Instagram and Facebook.
- Company news, such as a press release about your new ESG program, can be shared on Linkedin. Since it is aimed at business professionals, Linkedin is the perfect place to post job openings and announce new hires, primarily if they are related to ESG or your sustainability programs.
- Stay current on industry news, new regulations, and other information that could affect your ESG initiatives. Share a few carefully curated points across your social media profiles and in an email blast.
- Consider joint-marketing efforts on social media with your ESG-minded partners. Teaming up to tackle an ESG initiative can be great publicity and help you reach a larger audience.
Send Regular Emails
Sending regular emails and newsletters effectively reach out to employees, vendors, and current and potential customers.
Because everyone has 24/7 access to emails via their mobile devices, you can reach them regardless of their location, nationwide or even globally. A regular email informing them of progress on your ongoing ESG initiatives will keep your company front of mind.
Most professional email marketing services will allow you to segment subscribers into categories. It enables you to send different emails to a group of subscribers based on the relevant topic. You could email janitorial and maintenance-related vendors regarding changes in your ESG initiatives and thank them for helping you reach specific goals.
You might also add an email newsletter to your employees. It can help keep employees at other physical locations updated on the progress of the company's recycling goals or new safety protocols.
Keep Your Website Updated
Your company's website is a round-the-clock 'member' of your sales team. Therefore, regularly publishing fresh, engaging topic-focused content is an excellent way to share your ESG initiatives.
Blog: Create an editorial calendar that includes publishing weekly or monthly blog posts. Well-written and search-engine-optimized (SEO) blog posts are the anchor point of any good marketing and branding strategy. The blog posts can also be shared on social media, included in emails, and linked to other pages on your website.
Career Page: Show that these issues are essential to your company by sharing your ESG initiatives and goals on your website's career page and job postings.
Along with job qualifications and employment benefits like salary, health insurance, and flexible work schedules, why not emphasize the SOCIAL aspects of your ESG initiatives? Also include information about your commitment to diversity and inclusion in the workplace and charitable efforts that positively affect the local community.
Reach Out To Keter To Meet Your ESG Goals
ESG is more than a marketing tool; it is important to incorporate elements of your program as part of your overall marketing strategy and image branding.
Keter's team has expertise in recycling, waste management, and sustainability programs to help you meet your goals. Contact us to find out how we can help!
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