As the climate change emergency becomes graver, organisations everywhere are levelling up their environmental, social and governance (ESG) agenda to play their part in saving the planet.
We’re making good progress, with a 2022 study by the Net Zero Tracker finding that more than one-third of the world’s largest publicly traded companies already have net zero targets in place. But it’s not all good news — the same research also found that 65% of these companies still don’t actually meet the minimum ESG reporting standards.
So, there’s still a gap between strategy and delivery that needs to be closed. As change makers, we'll no doubt help drive that delivery, but even as we do that, our working practices directly contribute to the ESG agenda too. If you want to become part of the solution, here are three ways you can implement ESG practices into your project’s ways of working that not only help you get the job done, but support long-lasting positive change.
1. Environmental: offset Your carbon footprint
As project professionals, we naturally take on leadership positions that provide a unique opportunity to set an example for those around us. If we want to make a positive environmental impact, it starts by simply being mindful of our own impact and our project’s carbon footprint.
It would be too easy to suggest stopping all travel and keeping meetings remote to eliminate your emissions. After all, if the pandemic taught us anything, it’s the unrivalled power and value of in-person collaboration. Instead, when you and your team decide to co-locate, think about how to balance your travel impact with a carbon offsetting scheme. This isn’t just about planting trees, there are a range of green energy and anti-pollution to choose from.
To get started, check out platforms like Ecologi that make carbon offsetting easy, fun and collaborative for business teams to make a difference — just remember to factor in a little extra budget to your project estimates!
2. Social: focus on your supply chain
While many organisations are doing a fantastic job getting their own houses in order, they often forget about their supply chain. This is a big mistake, as research from Deloitte found that for many companies 70% of their environmental impact comes from their external value chain.
Outside of the environmental impact, your supply chain also holds some of your biggest risk areas, such as modern slavery, labour pay inequality and poverty-enabling work standards. This is especially true if you outsource to regions such as Africa, Asia or South America.
The best place to mitigate this and drive positive social impact is to tighten up your project’s procurement process. Ultimately, you get to choose who you work with so ensure you hold your supply chain to the same standards as you operate internally.
During your next project procurement activity, try only selecting suppliers that:
- Have their own ESG policy (or will agree to align with yours).
- Have publicly declared net zero targets.
- Have modern slavery controls in place (e.g. a modern slavery statement).
- Don’t use forced or underpaid labour.
- Are ISO-14001
If you need some help, platforms like Kaleida make it easy to work with suppliers that are not only socially responsible, but are born out of diverse and inclusive backgrounds.
3. Governance: make ESG part of your project’s DNA
Like all things in project management, lasting and effective change is underpinned by good governance. Without updating your project governance to support ESG improvements, you’re unlikely to move the dial very far. Given the highly controlled, structured and detail-oriented nature of project management, installing good ESG governance is actually pretty easy.
If you want some inspiration, here are five things you can do straight away to begin making a difference:
- Mandate that each project business case includes ‘ESG Positive’ scope.
- Include ESG initiatives in your project team’s charter.
- Ensure equal pay structures within your project team/change department.
- Provide a ring-fenced budget for project team volunteering opportunities.
- Regularly audit projects to ensure honesty, transparency and accountability.
Good governance should be the safety net that ensures your project does the right things, at the right time, from start to finish.
While the environmental pillar of ESG takes most of the headlines, businesses everywhere are transforming their operating practices to ensure they create a positive impact across the board. While, as project professionals, delivering results will always be our number one objective, we can also generate long-lasting environmental, social and governance-enabled change by making just a few minor tweaks.
If you're looking for some more inspiration, why not check out the Association for Project Management’s approach, by reading their Corporate Social Responsibility page here?
You may also be interested in:
The APM podcast: How to put sustainability at the heart of your work
Our resource page with: What is sustainability in project management
- Check out our Scotland conference on Net Zero and Sustainability