How to Write Your First People and Planet Policies?

March 16, 2022

Companies that have strong Environmental and Social Governance (ESG) credentials are now, more than ever, attractive to the best employees and the most loyal customers. We identify ourselves with who we work for and where we shop; according to a survey by OpenText, 83% of global customers are willing to spend more on products if they can be certain they are ethically sourced

The focus on being socially and environmentally responsible is more important than ever. However, finding the companies that are really taking the action can be an absolute maelstrom of claims, impressive sounding but unattainable goals and vague statements with no action. This is where clear, focussed policy comes in. I know the word ‘policy’ can make memories of insurance small print come up for some people: so please bear with me, it’s easier than it sounds.

A clear People and Planet Policy should be no more than an A4/American Letter size and written in simple language that makes it clear to all staff, customers, and other external stakeholders what your organisation stands for and what you are willing to do to be a changemaker in this world.

Above all your People and Planet Policy should be:

  1. Easy to understand
  2. Accessible (put it on your website!)
  3. Actionable
  4. Is linked to your values

So, how do you start writing it? The first step is to examine what your organisation does and where your environmental impact is felt most now – look at the good and the bad, the areas you are already a changemaker and the areas you could improve on. Is your biggest impact in data centres (currently as much of an emitter as all worldwide flights), or do your employees travel a long way to get to work? Are there national or international meetings that could happen virtually, or do you already recycle most of your organisation’s waste? Your impacts will be as unique as your company, as well as the degree to which you can change them.

If you’re about to start writing your ESG policy and need help, book a FREE discovery call with our founder Gihan Hyde and she will walk you through how we did it with our clients.

At this stage in the process, it is important to remember that your employees are a wealth of ideas – ask them about changes they would like to see in the business and then take the suggestions on board. As well as helping you come up with ideas, being more involved in the process makes it more likely that your employees will be more excited about these changes and dedicated to hitting targets – involvement in practical change can also help stave off eco-anxiety.

If you’re looking for some inspiration, some influential leaders in ESG Policy are Bank of New York Mellon, whose have reliably diverted 68-73% of all their waste since 2017, and Microsoft, who have committed to using 100% renewable energy in all buildings and datacentres by 2025 and are regularly tracking and publishing their progress towards this goal. Although it might be a while before datacentres are all being built underwater this is the perfect example of listening to your employees, whatever outside the box wild ideas they might have – those ideas might well be the future.

Now that you have your areas for improvement and some ideas about changes you can make, it’s time to get writing. Here is what your People and Planet Policy should:

  1. Start with an outline of your objectives, what you want to achieve, and areas your company can make the most change in
  2. Make clear your commitment to complying with legislation as a minimum
  3. Outline the changes you are committing to and the impact this will have
  4. Promise to continually monitor your progress – with 6 monthly and then yearly reviews
  5. Commit to monitor and continuously improve environmental performance

It is important to keep these promises and make them actionable and achievable. Once your policy is written – tell everyone! Put it on your website, send it out as part of your newsletter – don’t be afraid to show off. You’re a changemaker now!

This blog orginally appeared on our bi-monthly ESG communication column in Fintech Futures

For more information on what ESG is visit our newsletter archival page ESG Explained. You can also get the latest updates about the ESG world by subscribing to our newsletter.


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