What if ESG Had a New Meaning?

Insights Jul 07, 2022

Professionals — particularly accountants — want to measure everything that moves.

And that ‘penchant’ for measuring things — EVERY thing — sometimes makes life extraordinarily challenging.

That’s the case with ESG. And just in case you’re not up to date with that acronym, it currently stands for Environment, Social, and Governance.

Here at B1G1, we think there’s a much better use of that acronym. It’s action-oriented. It’s simple. And it’s this:

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More simply it means “put doing great things in and for our world right at the core of your business.”

And that is precisely what B1G1 lets businesses — perhaps even your business — do very, very well indeed. So much so that business owners are now referring to B1G1 as their ‘Operating System for Good’.

You can see more on that now right here.

If, on the other hand, you’d like to delve into the history of ESG, where it started, why it started and where it is now ……. keep reading. And when you do, you’ll see some interesting examples of some new ways of doing things too.

THE ORIGIN OF ESG

That history starts in 2004 with the late Kofi Annan, then the UN Secretary General.

He was becoming increasingly concerned about the damage we business owners were doing to the environment and to social structures.

He wanted to find ways to integrate what we now refer to as ‘sustainability’ into capital markets (notice that: his focus was to turn it into essentially a valuation process).

The first outcome of that group was a then ground-breaking study conducted by the Swiss Government and the International Finance Corporation. And it was ground-breaking in its simple title, “Who Cares Wins”. Do pause and note that — you need to really care to make it work. And when you do you’ll see the results it brings you — you’ll see that who cares really does win.

That ground-breaking study is where the ‘ESG’ acronym was first ‘coined’.

It looked at environmental issues across the three dimensions of Environmental, Social and Governance; specifically lower energy consumption, reliance on renewable resources, reducing carbon footprint, employee welfare, relationships with all stakeholders of companies (moving beyond shareholders for the first time), and looking at how those issues could be included in a company’s accounting and financial practices.

There were four broad areas covered in the study; how companies:

  1. Respond to climate change
  2. Treat their employees
  3. Build trust and foster innovation
  4. Manage the relationships with various stakeholders

Perhaps not that surprisingly, it had limited impact given the financial climate of the time. That was a ‘climate’ that is best characterized by events like those shown in The Wolf of Wall Street movie. It was very much (until the Global Financial Crisis of 2008 hit) the ‘greed is good’ time.

Even so, some companies got the lesson early on. And what’s now known as ‘ESG Investing’ started to happen.

And that picked up pace when early studies around the 2013/14 period started to show links between a Social Impact focus and financial results. Businesses who were ‘standing up for good’ actually did good financially.

Then ESG or ‘Impact’ Investing started to take off.

ESG AND SUSTAINABILITY

From the initial cynicism we now have a position where ESG funds (Impact Investment Funds) have seen much higher inflows from investors than ‘traditional’ share market funds every year since 2013.

For example, Reuters reports that shareholders have filed a record 529 resolutions related to ESG issues for the annual meetings of publicly traded U.S. companies so far in 2022, up 22% from the same point in 2021.

In a Wall Street Journal article Jamere Jackson, the CFO of AutoZone and the audit committee chair at Eli Lilly and Company (Lilly) points out that change and ESG issues overall have become business imperatives:



My Board and CFO perspectives intersect at many points. As a CFO, I generally look at ESG through more of a shareholder value strategy lens because, done right, ESG goals and actions can help us grow the business and improve competitively―and those goals connect directly to my CFO role.

But clearly, ‘normal’ financial metrics are inadequate for measuring ESG impact because they focus primarily on monetary aspects.

Even so, ESG is rapidly becoming commonplace now. Here’s an example from Accounting and Consulting Firm BDO of just how common place it is:

At BDO, we view sustainability as an investment in the strength of our culture, the resilience of our business, and the future of our planet. We are committed to making ESG synonymous with BDO, ensuring that sustainable business practices are integrated into everything we do. We believe we have an obligation to make an impact and do our part to be a force of change— to strive for business that’s better than usual—for our people, our clients and our communities.

In May 2022 Mastercard reported that ALL employees now have ESG targets linked to their bonus pay: The payments processor is extending a compensation model previously put in place for senior executives, which links incentive pay to targets related to carbon neutrality, financial inclusion and gender pay parity. The new plan applies to all employees starting this in 2022.

And on Earth Day, April 22, 2022, Tien Zuo (Founder of Zuora) wrote an excellent piece on how we need to look at the ripple effect of all of this. He writes:


ESG principles aren’t just important for our investors, of course. They’re also important for our employees, our customers, our kids, our fellow living animals, and ourselves. Clearly, sustainability is not a “nice to have” anymore. It’s a fundamental corporate priority.

MAKING ESG EASY AND TANGIBLE

At B1G1, we naturally agree with that.

But again, we want to suggest that ESG as it currently stands is making doing it overly complex. And because of that, things don’t get done. It’s the “simple scales; complex fails” paradox in action.

What B1G1 does is make ESG easy.

AND, perhaps most importantly, B1G1 lets you make making an IMPACT an integral part of what you do. Better yet, because B1G1 does all of the work for you, you can — quite literally — start today. Now.

And when you do it, your impact becomes:

  • measurable
  • trackable and traceable
  • inspiring
  • connecting

Again, B1G1 lets you directly integrate impact into the very core of your business — it turns the potentially complex ESG into the very simple definition we gave you at the start of this post:

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It’s a unique and powerful way to ‘ESG’ — Embed Social Good.

Here’s a brilliant example from one of the many thousands of B1G1 Members from around the world — this one from Australian-based Pivot, Advisors in the Financial Planning space:

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You can see instantly how B1G1 lets Pivot (and you, of course) Embed Social Good.

Best of all, it is so brilliantly simple to do.

You can do it in an ad-hoc way (people also refer to B1G1 as ‘Amazon for Good’ or ‘Amazon for Kindness’ inasmuch as it’s just like shopping online) or you can do it like most people do by creating wonderful Giving Stories — stories that you literally can build directly in to the core of your business (and actually automate if you want to).

Here’s an example taken directly from the IMPACT page (come to think of it, it could be their ESG page but we think ‘impact’ is more powerful) of the website of Lynn and Brown, a firm of forward-looking lawyers.

B1G1: ESG IN ACTION

With our commitment to B1G1, we have set a series of ‘triggers’ or company goals across various business functions and departments here at Lynn & Brown Lawyers.
Each month, as we achieve our goals we give to causes close to our hearts such as providing an e-Learning hub for Aboriginal communities in Australia, feeding a child in crisis in Vietnam, or giving clean water to a school in Zambia.

Some of the ‘triggers’ which result in us giving are:

  • Each time we receive a positive Google review or Testimonial we give 20 cups of rice to children in crisis.
  • When a lawyer gives an external presentation, we provide 20 days of computer education to children in need.
  • When a client returns to Lynn & Brown Lawyers, we give 10 days of clean water to students in Zambia.
  • When an initial appointment is attended, we give 20 days of clean water to students in Zambia.
  • When the Lynn & Brown Lawyers website receives 4 visits, we give 1 day of clean water to a student in Zambia.
  • When a guest attends one of our seminars or networking events, we give 10 cups of rice to children in crisis.
  • When a client purchases a complete Wills package, we give 5 cups of rice to children in crisis.
  • When a staff member has a birthday, we provide 10 days of computer education to children in need.
  • When a client engages for the L&B Exclusive package, we give 30 cups of rice to children in crisis.
  • Plus many other internal triggers!

You get the idea. And you see just how powerful it is. And when you realize that every single one of those ‘triggers’ is put in place by the team (not just the partners) at Lynn and Brown, you see how profoundly important B1G1 is to maximize engagement and meaning.

On top of that, B1G1 lets you connect not just with your internal team but also with customers too.

That is amazingly powerful. And if you’d like to see how it impacts your business, you might want to try the new Business for Good Score. It’s free for you right here . And it’s eye-popping too.

So … not only does B1G1 make ESG simple, it makes it so much more powerful in every sense. That’s why increasingly many, many businesses refer to B1G1 as their Operating System for Good.

Again, B1G1 is a unique and powerful way to ‘ESG’ — to Embed Social Good. You can make it yours too — and you can start right here.



Paul Dunn

Paul is the chairman and biggest supporter of B1G1. A 4-times TEDx speaker, he frequently travels around the world inspiring businesses with B1G1 and his amazing business insights.

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