How education plays a key role in embedding an ESG mindset
Getting stakeholders – employees, investors or customers – on board with an environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategy all starts with understanding the environmental and social challenges we face.
Without that understanding, we will have individuals following protocol and paying lip service. If we want stakeholders who are as fired up as us, who are loyal to us because they understand our purpose, they need to know why we have that purpose in the first place and why we desperately need to move towards a more people and planet-focused society.
It is well established that development towards a more sustainable society must begin with education. When education is done right, it not only teaches people about the science of climate change and inequality and the reasons we must take action, it also engages, empowers and promotes a more environmentally friendly, community-based way of life.
Financial literacy can also benefit economies – people make better choices when they understand what their money is doing. Education for clients of fintechs should focus not only on the ESG aspect but also on financial literacy – this will impact the bottom line, but just as significantly, it will also positively impact your clients’ lives.
I recently spoke with Richard Dickson, co-founder and head of engagement at environmental services start-up Play It Green, about how the firm approaches climate-based education. I admire the way Play It Green approaches business – tree-planting is a primary part of the business and impacts the environment and society, and this is embedded into who they are.
Richard told me that the company is part of the Better Business Act Coalition and is signed up to the Good Business Charter – this keeps the firm accountable for treating its people equitably and working towards a cleaner and more fair society. The company also invests 50% of its profits into sustainable start-ups.
Richard also recognises that whilst planting trees is essential, more is needed. He told me that Play It Green has a three-step solution to climate change:
- It helps people reduce their carbon footprints by drip-feeding education, tips and access to discounted sustainable products and services.
- It repairs the planet and rebalances carbon footprints by planting trees.
- It gives 10% of its revenue to good causes of its members’ choice.
This focus on not overwhelming people, creating a community and encouraging collaboration between members is what will ultimately get your stakeholders on board. Overwhelmed people are often unable to take the action you want them to take – if all people see are huge problems which seem insurmountable, they will struggle to act. Play It Green educates in a way that empowers people – drip-feeding solutions rather than providing mind-boggling problems, encouraging people to act and choose where they donate. This self-reliance enables them to do the right thing, to keep thinking creatively and maybe come up with more solutions.
Doing the right thing when it comes to the environment triggers the brain’s internal reward system and provides people with a hit of dopamine, which reduces anxiety and makes a person feel more positive about their actions.
This in turn reinforces the positive behaviour change and makes it ‘sticky’ rather than just being a fad. Repeat this enough times and you create culture change, which is what we all need!
How could your business use this model of education for action? If tangible, understandable and solutions-focused education is what gets people excited about making changes, how can you teach your stakeholders about the importance of your ESG strategy? And where else could you take this education method? How will you gently be guiding your clients towards making better financial, social and climate-based choices that positively impact your society, climate and business?
The critical takeaway from everything that Richard does with Play It Green is to keep everything manageable, bite-size and based on solutions. Whatever you decide to teach your stakeholders, don’t overwhelm them. You want them active, participating, feeling creative and ready to take action.
Just remember, education doesn’t always mean the formal type of knowledge sharing. It can be informal conversations, observing your surroundings, having a growth mindset or just having a friendly conversation.
I have delivered more than 100 ESG webinars and training sessions and my team tells me that 40% of the attendees have now started speaking about how they plan to play their role in saving people and planet. It’s necessary, and the time to start learning is now.
About the author
Gihan Hyde is the award-winning communication specialist and founder of CommUnique, an ESG communication start-up.
She has been implementing ESG campaigns in eight sectors, across six countries over the past 20 years.
Her campaigns have positively impacted over 150,000 employees and 200,000 customers and have closed over £300m in investment deals. Some of the clients she has advised include The World Health Organisation (WHO), HSBC, Barclays, M&S, SUEZ, Grundfos, Philip Morris, USAID, and the Saudi Government.
Get in touch with Gihan through LinkedIn or Twitter @gehanam.