Do you believe that businesses need to choose between profitability and ESG by doing the right thing for people and the environment?
What if they didn’t need to choose?
Just as there’s been an unnecessary battle between striking a balance between work and “life”, it’s time to wake up to the fact that humanity and sustainability are interconnected and need to be treated as such.
As I’ve explored in previous blogs, effecting change calls for a revolution in how people think, behave and act, which is often a major challenge when many organisations (and people) resist breaking out of their comfort zone!
I recently invited tri-qualified lawyer and CEO of Ardea International Colleen Theron onto the Water+Air podcast. Colleen is also an author, lecturer and expert in sustainability, business and human rights, and modern-day slavery.
I was particularly keen to hear about her work with organisations because I know that the premise that you have to forego profit in order to be ethical is fundamentally flawed!
Colleen: “When we work with businesses, we are doing everything we can to make them more effective, to understand their impacts and risks, and set up processes to manage those risks. If you don’t understand that, you’re left with confusion, duplication, bureaucracy and pockets of people doing different things.
ESG is not going to be a fad and is not going to go away. In the last two years, I’ve seen a shift in company behaviour where people do want to know more about how to strengthen their operations, because their investors are asking questions and the banks won’t lend money in the same way that they used to if they can’t evidence their ESG practices.
A growing number of consumers no longer want to buy products from organisations that don’t meet their values. The millennials and Gen Z are becoming more interested in how things are made and the impact of their clothing on the environment and the people who made them.”
It fills me with hope to think that these younger people who are conscious and awake to the impact of their choices are going to be leaders in the future, not because of compliance but because they want to do good in the world.
The more that consumers make their voices heard, the more organisations will be encouraged to make a shift.
Colleen: “If you are used to selling a product to a customer who now requires you to present an effective ESG strategy, you've got to sit up or you’ll be losing your critical customers. That’s a big change that I've seen recently; businesses are being asked those questions and have to figure out how to address them effectively so that they can continue to sell into the market that they’re used to.”
There’s also an increasing demand for change when it comes to recruitment.
Colleen: “If you are looking to join an organisation but the only people on the board are white middle-class men, you as a woman or a woman of colour, or anybody else, are going to think twice about the culture of that organisation. You are going to think hard about whether you really want to be there or join another organisation that pays attention to diversity and inclusion and gender issues.
There are loads of reports about the skill shortages that exist and it seems a dichotomy when there are lots of people that have lost their jobs. Organisations are struggling to get the right people employed because they’re in demand and have the ability to choose their own salary and where they want to work.”
Potential employees are negotiating harder and smarter. They are demanding more than a good salary; they want to know if they are going to be hunted down when they’re on “holiday” and whether they can have every other Friday off because they want to pursue a leisure activity.
However, there are still many organisations and hiring partners that think the solution is to offer more money. That mindset simply isn’t acceptable any longer.
Perhaps understandably, it’s a struggle for organisations to know where to begin in order to become a more ethical business that is also profitable; there is no blueprint or role model to follow. Thankfully, Colleen has great advice.
Colleen: “All businesses are going to have to think about what their due diligence frameworks look like for both environmental and human rights, and they're going to have to think about how they connect these things. We do a gap analysis on the benchmark of their work and offer e-learning and training options; but it all starts with awareness, and without that understanding they can't really move the dial.”
Making a significant change to how you run a business, especially a large organisation, can feel overwhelming, but support is available.
Colleen: “It’s part of our work culture to develop long-standing relationships with our clients where we can offer that hand-holding, and where people are not afraid to say what their struggles are if they really want to work alongside us to take them through that process. It can be a journey of up to three years to implement change, monitor and track it.
As a business, we’ve been delivering training and developing free resources so that organisations can at least get some curated knowledge on these particular issues. They don’t need to be afraid to take that first step. You only need one or two people to believe in what you’re trying to do; be discerning, but filter out the noise of those who don’t believe in what you’re doing.”
What are your thoughts about ESG? Do your actions back up your opinions? Do you see a cultural shift within your organisation or those that you work alongside? Message me and share your thoughts.
In the meantime, if you’re eager for a personal and professional transformation, why not check out the training programmes I offer to take you and your teams further faster, without burning out?
Parul is an experienced international lawyer, demanding client, disruptive consultant and thought-provoking non-executive director and board advisor.
She's advised law firms and big global brands like Nike, Speedo and Manchester United, as well as supporting inner-city social change programmes, startups and scale-ups. Fuel+Move is born of her passion to improve interaction with the legal sector and achieve a better experience with better outcomes for its stakeholders.
Parul Patel can be found here:
Colleen Theron is a Tri qualified lawyer and CEO of Ardea International. An Expert in sustainability, business and human rights and modern slavery.
She is also an Author and lecturer who is Passionate about people reaching their potential.
Colleen Theron can be found here: