ESG Voices: Emotional Intelligence
The ‘S’ in ESG is all about many things: human relationships, interconnectedness, and how we cultivate fair treatment, by first substantiating what ‘fair’ actually means. These social elements are all, ultimately, also critical to improving business performance. When teams develop a sense of empathy and respect, for each other as well as for clients and stakeholders, then we can develop the reciprocal support that helps with decision-making, stress, and crisis management.
We spoke to Jenny Westergård, CEO at EQ Europe, to find out more about the social aspect of ESG and what it means for companies.
How would you introduce yourself?
I am, since September this year, CEO of EQ Europe, an international company that assists companies with developing an Emotional Intelligent (EQ) culture to create conditions for both personal progress both for their people and for corporate success. For the last 20 years, I have been working in the financial industry in different leading positions. My interest in people and social sustainability led to a degree in Psychology earlier this year. I am grateful for this knowledge of human behaviour based on neuroscience and I am very happy to put my working hours into this important subject to contribute to a better and more effective society, and to better business life.
What is your sustainability story?
Based on my own experience as a leader in big companies I wanted to make a difference regarding social sustainability (ESG) and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in both society at large and in companies when it comes to efficiency, growth, and well-being.
The study “Global Trends 2022” from Mercer shows staggering numbers: 81% of employees feel at risk of burnout - up from an already concerning 63% before the pandemic.
Nearly six in ten executives are concerned about high employee sickness/absence rates and remote worker fatigue, both ranking in their top five workforce concerns in 2022.
Companies that prioritise social sustainability and well-being will attract and retain high performers and have a solid competitive advantage. Studies show that managers in high positions and advisory boards know this fact and I believe most companies state it as one of their highest goals, together with financial results.But, I am not sure if they know how to reach their social sustainability goals (ESG, DEI), and this is where EQ Europe comes into the picture.
We also know from a new report from Allbright, the growth of women in high positions in Swedish companies has never been lower. How can this still be the case in 2022, knowing that a diverse team leads to both higher growth and higher well-being in organisations? Advisory boards and executive managers have a big responsibility to change this trend and I want to affect it as much as I can.
Why did you start EQ Europe?
First, the founder and owner of EQ Europe and our sister company Kandidata Asia, Margareta Sjölund, Ph.D., is a pioneer in this field and she is a fantastic inspiration for me!
Second, my long experience being a leader in companies and the conviction that “it is all about people”, together with EQ Europe's mission:
“We create social sustainability (ESG) and growth by applying Emotional Intelligence (EQ) leading to strong company cultures (DEI) and growth (ROI)”
I think this is a perfect match for our customers, both for the workplace - and personal progress.
What is the most crucial aspect of the transition to social sustainability?
First, I think managers in companies want to be responsible but one challenge is that you, as an executive and advisory board member, need to do the job yourself first - “live as you teach” - meaning that you are willing to do the job yourself first to succeed with social sustainability in your company. If you do that you can then delegate the work and methods to as an example for HR.
From my own experience as a leader, I am convinced that self-awareness and emotional intelligence are key factors if companies are going to reach their DEI and ESG goals.
Second, it is easy to measure results (ROI). It is a hard fact. Compare this to measure how people act and behave in different situations. People have different personalities, interests, communication styles, etc., meaning we have many combinations to measure it as one parameter, as we can do with financial results. We at EQ Europe simplify and make this measuring possible based on your company's persona, values, and strategies.
We transform behaviours and actions into EQ competencies based on neuroscience - how our brains work and affect how we act in different situations. For example, we become less smart under pressure and stress. On the other hand, we handle situations in a better way when we experience psychological safety, meaning that employees feel that the ceiling is high and that they can freely express themselves without being afraid of how it may be received by colleagues and leaders. EQ is a prerequisite for psychological safety.
How can we reduce the ‘noise’ in ESG?
Companies that prioritise social sustainability and well-being for their people will attract and retain high performers and have a solid competitive advantage. So the answer is easy: companies that keep a lid on ESG and DEI will, sooner or later, not survive. Caring for people and the planet will win over greed and short-term targets and goals.
One wish - what would it be?
That leaders in high positions and on advisory boards set measurable goals on social sustainability for themselves and all colleagues in the company, and followed up on each of their individual development plans. It would undoubtedly make their business more competitive!
Our team at EQ Europe will help to design, activate and measure progress!
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