PRmoment Leaders PA Mediapoint PA Assignments PRCA PRmoment Awards Winners North Creative Moment Awards 2024 PR Masterclass: AI in PR

The ESG News Review: With COP26 looming, it’s time for the S factor

We are now just - as everyone who works in corporate communications or has an ESG focus doubtless already knows - less than 10 weeks from the start of COP26 in Glasgow.

It will dominate headlines around the colossal threats of climate change, and action required to tackle it, like never before.

But while the environment will rightly be the focus, the need to understand how important social factors are to long-term sustainable change and ESG-led value remains. And with so much attention at the moment on the E in ESG, we need to make sure we’re giving appropriate attention to the S factors too.

The case for social was outlined in this opinion piece in Forbes a few weeks ago. Having worked on several reputation data analysis assignments over the past year, one consistent theme is that while rightly having climate change-related environmental drivers high on the agenda of ESG materiality, businesses often didn’t give enough prominence to social ones, or had a less connected approach to them.

And while the stark realities of our changing climate have become ever-more apparent, social factors have undoubtedly been brought forward by COVID-19 too, as the impact of the pandemic on society has been laid bare, and businesses have grappled with employee engagement issues that have also come to the fore. Expect these and other priorities to be discussed at PRMoment’s event on good ESG reports next week.

While the degree to which each social factor has a bearing on reputation - and stakeholder value - of course varies by sector and by company, many are gaining ground in the public eye:

  • Employee health and safety: a topic dominated by discussion and decisions about when and how employers set policies and timelines around increases in office-based working, with CNBC covering how many businesses have informed their workers of their plans, and again Forbes highlighting how approaches vary widely
  • Diversity of senior leadership: Harvard Business Review this week urging genuine diversity rather than tokenism after a US Stock Exchange ruling
  • Affordability: while this week’s news focus has been housing, with pieces in the likes of Reuters and The Independent, an issue that runs to food, clothing, healthcare, online services and much more
  • Human rights: a factor many corporate ESG agendas have prioritised, but that evolves at pace, with a draft United Nations treaty revealed this week
  • Data security: always an arms race, but with the added complexity of a planned overhaul of UK data protection rules post-Brexit

In light of COP26, companies will invariably and rightly be looking long and hard at their commitments and goals around climate change, and be asking very tough questions of themselves. But social factors should be questioned too, and kept under regular review to understand their impact on business, and the impact business can have on them.

The ESG News Review is written by Steve Earl, a Partner at BOLDT.

If you haven't heard, PRmoment has launched The ESG Awards, with categories linked to the UN's 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

This is a new weekly ESG column on PRmoment. The column will review the biggest ESG stories of the week, from a communications perspective. Please subscribe by completing the form below.

Sign up to our weekly ESG related stories by completing the form below.

* All fields are required

Important: Once completing the form we will send you a confirmation link which you will need to click on to confirm your subscription. If you do not receive this email within a couple of minutes please check your spam folder.

Please be assured that we will treat your details with care. We will never sell your details to any third parties and we will never bombard you with unnecessary email alerts.

By signing up to alerts you consent to us sending you twice weekly subscriber emails. You may manage your preferences at any time by emailing or clicking the "manage preferences" link within every newsletter.