How you can build an ESG strategy for your business

Published on:
by KnowESG
Image of light bulb with backing of business idea drawings
Image by jannoon028 on Freepik

Companies of all sizes are now expected to consider factors related to the environment, society, and governance (ESG) as crucial. Investors, customers, and employees are all calling for businesses to take responsibility for their impact on the planet and society. To stay competitive while meeting these expectations, having a solid ESG strategy can offer significant advantages for your business.

Related: Top ESG Investment Strategies For Your Portfolio

How An ESG Strategy Benefits Your Business

Having a well planned ESG strategy can assist in retaining and attracting investors and customers. Nowadays, investors place significant significance on ESG performance when making investment decisions. By showcasing your dedication towards sustainability and ethical business practices, you can attract investors and customers who prioritise ethically conscious considerations.

In addition, adopting an ESG strategy can decrease the probability of risk. By recognising and dealing with environmental and social risks, such as adhering to regulations, addressing supply chain weaknesses, and managing their reputation, companies can prevent potential risks that could damage their functions or financial position. This approach to risk management enhances the company's long-term ability to withstand challenges.

Implementing an ESG strategy can boost employee morale and productivity through active engagement of the workforce. Present-day employees, especially younger generations, prefer to work for companies that uphold their values and emphasise sustainability. By incorporating ESG principles into your business practices, you can augment employee involvement and contentment, resulting in higher productivity and retention of talented workers.

Moreover, an effective ESG strategy can improve your . Showing a strong dedication to ESG principles can have a positive effect on your brand image and establish trust among stakeholders. Being open about your ESG goals and achievements can help you build credibility and distinguish your business from rivals. As a result, you may attract more clients, investors, and collaborators who share your values.

Featured Article: The Top 3 Visible Benefits Of ESG Investing

Building An Effective ESG Strategy For Your Business

To create a successful ESG strategy for your company, you must plan and execute with due consideration so that it is relevant for your own particular needs. There is no single strategy that works for all companies, and this is the essential reason why ESG can work for each and every business. Below is a more comprehensive description of the involved steps.

Understand The ESG Landscape

To begin, pinpoint the most important environmental, social, and governance concerns that apply to your company. These could involve factors such as greenhouse gas emissions, water consumption, labour policies, equal opportunities, board makeup, procurement tactics, and corporate leadership. Gather information, talk to specialists in your field, and refer to appropriate guidelines and benchmarks (for example, the Global Reporting Initiative or the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board) to acquire a thorough comprehension of the ESG sphere.

Make sure to understand the expectations of your stakeholders such as investors, customers, employees, regulatory bodies, and local communities. This will help you ensure that your strategy is in line with their priorities.

Featured Article: Improving Diversity, Equality and Inclusion In Your Workplace

Assess Your Current ESG Performance

Once you have defined your specific concerns, evaluate your organisation's current practices and performance in those areas. Collect data and information related to your environmental impact, social initiatives, and governance practices. Here is a clear yet comprehensive walkthrough on how to approach it. 

Identify both strengths and weaknesses, analyse compliance gaps with regulations and standards, and benchmark your performance with industry peers. This assessment will help you establish realistic and meaningful ESG goals by providing a baseline. Again, your metrics will likely differ from other companies, but the point here is to start understanding how to make a truthful assessment for your own needs. Remember, the more data you have, the more you understand.

Featured Article: More Data Means More Transparency

Set Measurable ESG Goals

Set SMART ESG goals that are aligned with your business objectives and address the identified ESG issues. These goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. For instance, you may consider reducing your greenhouse gas emissions by a certain percentage, increasing the diversity of your workforce or board, or enhancing your community engagement initiatives. Having clear goals will help you to focus on your ESG strategy and monitor progress effectively.

Featured Article: SDGs for SMEs - The Importance of UN Goals for your Business

Develop An Action Plan

To achieve your goals, create a detailed action plan that includes specific activities, timelines, and resources. Break down each goal into actionable steps and assign responsibilities to individuals or teams in your organisation. Use key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure progress and establish monitoring and reporting mechanisms. Anticipate potential challenges and include strategies for risk mitigation. Look for opportunities to collaborate with external stakeholders.

Communicate Your ESG Strategy

It is important to communicate transparently to establish trust and credibility with stakeholders. This can be done by sharing your ESG strategy, goals, and progress through different channels such as sustainability reports, website sections, social media, and direct engagement with stakeholders. 

You need to clearly explain the reasons behind your ESG initiatives, their benefits, and how they align with your organisation's values and long-term vision. Regularly updating stakeholders on your progress, successes, and any changes made to your strategy is crucial. Initiate conversations with stakeholders to collect their opinions, resolve any concerns they may have, and cultivate a feeling of mutual accountability. 

As Sustainalytics points out, be ‘’always on” and transparent when it comes to ESG. This is not a shiny ‘add-on’, rather a core premise of your company’s operating approach. Act like it to your stakeholders.

Measure Your Progress

Create a tracking system to monitor your progress toward achieving your ESG goals and KPIs. Gather data on factors like energy usage, waste output, employee diversity, community impact, and governance practices to evaluate your performance. Regularly analyse and report on this data to determine the success of your efforts, pinpoint areas for development, and make well-informed choices. Periodically assess how well your actions align with your goals, and revise your strategies as necessary.

These steps will help your business develop an ESG strategy that deals with important environmental, social, and governance matters, shows dedication to sustainability, and helps create long-term value for your company and society in general.

Regulatory Compliance: Framework For ESG Strategy

To ensure compliance, identify the ESG-related regulations and reporting standards that apply to your business and plan accordingly. You can use various frameworks to create your ESG strategy.

  • The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) consist of 17 objectives that aim to promote peace and prosperity for both the planet and its inhabitants. These goals can serve as a useful reference for your company's actions. Here are several ways you can simply integrate the SDGs into your business.

  • The SASB Standards identify ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) issues that are specifically important to 77 different industries. The SASB Materiality Map is a helpful tool for understanding the financial significance of these ESG issues. By using this tool, you can work towards achieving financial sustainability while simultaneously making positive ESG impacts. Additionally, it can help you get the support of others in your organisation and plan effectively.

  • The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights provide assistance to companies in preventing and addressing human rights violations in their business operations. By identifying key areas, your company can quickly identify where to focus its attention and demonstrate compliance. This may require making changes to your business operations in order to effect real change.

Featured Article: How Companies Can Implement ESG Into Their Operations

5 Tips for building ESG strategy for your business

Remember, building an ESG strategy is an ongoing process. Here are additional tips to enhance your strategy:

Gain Buy-in From Senior Leadership

Your organisation needs to prioritise ESG and have the backing of senior leadership. Involving these executives and gaining their support is essential for allocating resources, setting goals, and driving the required changes. When ESG becomes a priority for senior leaders, it sends a clear message throughout the organisation that sustainability and responsible practices are fundamental to the business strategy. 

With the right ESG-focused mindset, reinforced by genuinely supportive leadership, a strong ESG-centric culture can emerge throughout the organisation that then reinforces positive behaviour towards the sustainability transition. 

Engage With Stakeholders

To build an effective ESG strategy, it is crucial to engage with stakeholders. This involves obtaining inputs from employees, customers, investors, and other stakeholders, which provides diverse perspectives and valuable insights into their expectations and concerns. Various methods of engagement can be employed such as surveys, focus groups, town hall meetings, or stakeholder advisory panels. Involving stakeholders in the decision-making process ensures that the strategy aligns with their values and addresses their key concerns. This increases the possibility of receiving support and collaboration.

Be Transparent

ESG is based on transparency as a key principle. When you openly communicate about your ESG goals, advancements, and obstacles, you establish trust and reliability with stakeholders. Such transparency assists stakeholders in knowing your dedication to sustainability and ethical practices and holding you responsible for your conduct. Regular sustainability report updates, website information, social media posts, and other communication channels can demonstrate your development, achievements, and continuous efforts to correct any discovered inadequacies.

Use Data For Tracking Progress

Using data is crucial to measure and monitor your company's ESG performance effectively. To do this, you should define relevant key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics to track your progress toward your set goals. Collecting and analysing data related to energy consumption, emissions, waste generation, diversity and inclusion, community engagement, and other relevant factors is essential. This way, you can identify patterns, highlight areas where you need to improve, and make data-supported decisions to enhance your ESG strategy continually.

Be Flexible

It is important to stay updated with the latest trends, industry benchmarks, and regulatory developments in the constantly evolving ESG landscape. Adapting your approach and making necessary adjustments to your ESG strategy is crucial to meet changing stakeholder expectations and remain compliant with evolving standards. To ensure the long-term effectiveness of your ESG initiatives, flexibility and agility are essential.

Keep in mind that developing such a strategy is a continuous process, and ongoing improvements are necessary to ensure that your business positively impacts the environment and society to the fullest extent possible.

Examples Of ESG Initiatives That Your Business Can Implement

Some examples of ESG initiatives that businesses can implement:

  1. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions: To address climate change, it is important to adopt energy-saving habits, switch to sustainable energy sources, and neutralise carbon emissions.

  2. Increasing energy efficiency: To reduce energy usage, consider investing in energy-saving technologies and promoting responsible energy usage in your operations.

  3. Using sustainable materials: To make your products or services more eco-friendly, use materials that are environmentally friendly such as recycled or biodegradable options. This will help to reduce your ecological footprint.

  4. Reducing waste: To reduce the amount of waste being created, explore waste management techniques such as recycling programmes and circular economy principles.

  5. Promoting diversity and inclusion: Promote equal opportunities, fair representation and inclusive policies to foster a diverse and inclusive workplace culture that welcomes individuals from all backgrounds.

  6. Providing fair wages and benefits: Make sure that your employees are fairly compensated and receive adequate benefits. Additionally, work towards creating decent working conditions, remote work if preferred, and addressing income inequality both within your organisation and throughout your supply chain.

  7. Supporting local communities: Get involved with the local communities by participating in philanthropic endeavours, volunteering, and establishing strategic partnerships that aim to enhance social well-being, education, and economic development.

  8. Advocating for environmental protection: Promote sustainability, conservation, and natural resource protection by supporting environmental causes and policies.

Featured Article: How ESG Efforts Create Value For Businesses


It's important to keep in mind that the ESG initiatives you select should be tailored to your industry, size, and location. It's crucial to align your ESG efforts with your business's goals and capabilities to make a meaningful impact on society and the planet, otherwise you could be chasing projects that have little relevance to your particular business.

Make your efforts count. Take ESG at a considered pace and get buy-in from leadership and ensure you work inclusively throughout your organisation. By implementing a comprehensive ESG strategy, your business can improve its reputation, attract stakeholders, manage risks, and achieve long-term success. Our writer team is interested in all aspects of ESG that can positively impact business success during the transition to sustainability. Browse our Featured Articles to find more topics and resources to help your company.


Featured Article Headlines

Streamline Your Emissions: Top Carbon Accounting Software Solutions for Efficient Sustainability Tracking

Streamline Your Emissions: Top Carbon Accounting Software Solutions for Efficient Sustainability Tracking

The Rise of Impact Investing: Paving the Way for Positive Social and Environmental Change

The Rise of Impact Investing: Paving the Way for Positive Social and Environmental Change

An Interview with Label Collective founder Julian Roberts on diversity, sustainability and innovation

The 0100 Europe 2024 PE & VC Conference

KnowESG Launching the Premier ESG Marketplace: Unique Place to Find Partners in Sustainability Transition

ESG Voice: Skillfulness Delivered - The Importance of ESG Education

Is Water Sustainable? Understanding the Reality and Solutions for Future Generations

Best Practices to Enhance ESG Reporting Processes and Outcomes

Thematic-ESG Mutual Funds: A Comprehensive Guide for Sustainable Investing

How EU’s Digital Markets Act Changes Big Tech