What role does PR & Comms play in bringing the ESG story to life?

Weddings… they are the coming together of a couple’s dreams and hopes and thousands of frantic strands of logistics coming together.  Arguably one of the most exciting aspects of the wedding reception is the big “cake reveal”.  The slice, the bite and the kiss to seal the deal.  In many ways, communicating Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) principals is like the presentation of that wedding cake.  We all hope the cake will be beautifully designed and delicious but it needs the right table to present it, a sturdy platter with elaborate designs to set it out on and maybe even a high energy master of ceremonies to announce its reveal with a bit of fanfare.

Public Relations & Communications serve these precise purposes.

Let’s examine how:

The ESG framework and principles is derived from the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  We can thank the Stockholm Resilience Centre for the wedding cake analogy which helps us look at how the SDGs are interconnected rather than on an individual basis.

The Environment as the first layer of the cake, serves as the foundation, supporting society – Social, the second layer – which supports the economy and how the economy is run is determined by governance.  This simultaneous grouping and segmentation provides a unique opportunity for the comms professionals tasked with spreading and promoting this message. As the disciplines in the industry become more divided and specialized, the grouping of the SDGS under the ESG umbrella gives professionals the opportunity to tailor their messages to increasingly discerning audiences.  Whether business to business or business to consumer, PR & comms stratified along the lines of these groupings creates an opportunity to both craft and lead the ESG narrative.

Who is going to cut the cake, who is going to eat the cake, who is going to present the cake?

ESG is arguably an organisation issue, so the current climate applies a pressure to overtly declare how businesses approach it all.  Even more pressure is now placed on communicators to plot a path through such considerations because not only do they facilitate, but are probably more aware of the risks of doing it badly.  What is more, the demands for transparency reveal the interconnectivity of the disciplines covered by the ESG umbrella.  This puts pressure on those tasked with communicating the issues in the Public Relations industry.  However, at variance with the view that ESG should sit with PR & Comms, there is still the argument that once the commitment is made to adhering to those values in the C-suite, PR should then grab the baton and run with it.

Thus there remains a wide scope for communicators to shift their focus or level up their skillset to grow with the need for ESG to be a basic consideration in the way corporations do their business.

More specifically the opportunity for PR is alerting the people in organizations who have to make decisions in the handling of broader range of risks that have to be considered.

PR and comms can manage the reputational aspects of the Larger tasks for business, which they are aware of and currently grappling with.  It is worth noting that with the new focus on new kind of stakeholder capitalism, which places new demands on management, PR should not lead the ESG journey but certainly play a critical role in stakeholder, customer and pipeline delivery engagement

Organizations will still have to be run to respond to a wider range of interests.  PR has been saying this for years: pay attention to interests of other stakeholders. With management and the C-suite engaged and on board, PR and Comms can provide a vital function at all levels where joined up messaging is concerned.

With this combined effort this wedding cake of ESG can be well presented; delicious and suitable for the audience.

Communique specialises in communicating Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) strategies. Our work has impacted 150K employees, 200k customers and resulted in £300M investment deals completed. If you need help gaining buy-in from your leadership team or designing your ESG communication strategy get in touch

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Gihan Hyde
Gihan Hyde is an award winning corporate communication expert with a deep passion for internal communication. Her roles spanned different organisations including HSBC, Barclays, M&S, and Department for International Trade, and the Riyadh Metro Project.
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