As we entered the new decade, businesses were already grappling with new challenges to their license to operate: What did it mean to be a good corporate citizen in the context of the climate emergency and continuing social inequality? Consumer and employee activism and political pressure at both the global and national levels were combining to force ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) issues to the top of the board’s and management’s agenda. Having a clear corporate purpose was becoming essential.
In August 2019 the US Business Roundtable published its statement on the purpose of the corporation where it sought to accommodate a broader group of stakeholders, in the UK we are beginning to see companies report theirs. 172 practices and globally companies (and governments) are adopting TCFD disclosures as best practice; Blackrock’s January statement was clear to indicate that it was making sustainability integral to the way it approached its investments. The pandemic has simply reinforced these aspirations and it is fair to say that we are now firmly in the age of “stakeholder capitalism.”
Since then, our lives have changed fundamentally, in ways that few of us could ever have imagined. But what will COVID-19 and its after-effects mean for ESG? Evidence is building that those businesses that embrace ESG values as an integral part of their COVID decision making will be better placed to survive and, ultimately, thrive in a post-COVID world.
Few question that with COVID-19 our lives have changed fundamentally, in ways that few of us could ever have imagined. The pandemic will have been with us for at least a year before we begin to think about returning to “normal” and we know that “normal” will be different from what it was in March 2020. How can we learn from our lives during COVID-19 and position our stakeholder governance agendas to prepare us for a post-COVID world? We have seen clear evidence building that those businesses that embrace ESG values as an integral part of their decision making will be better placed to survive and, ultimately, thrive in a post-COVID world.
This series of ESG-focused thought leadership webinars will share insights and practical guidance for businesses considering what ESG means for them in the context of the current crisis and beyond.
Date: 15 April 2021
Topic: ESG and Litigation Risks