The Ever-Changing Landscape Of ESG
H & M Hennes & Mauritz AB (publ)
The recent news that Morgan Stanley Capital International (MSCI) is downgrading ESG-compliant funds in an effort to fight greenwashing has understandably generated anxiety This is because of the sudden change by the ESG index provider. Many companies are perplexed about the actions that should be taken to stabilise their ESG ratings and bring them into compliance with the new regulatory standards.
Adapting to a Shifting Paradigm
So, what can businesses do in the constantly evolving ESG environment? Adopt new regulations as soon as possible, embracing wholesale change? Or should they seek to steadily modify their processes, incorporating some regulatory measures most relevant to their particular needs?
While regulations are in the process of becoming mandatory, companies in many sectors still have an open option of how much sustainability buy-in they wish to pursue. However, mandates are coming, so how do companies prepare to address the ESG risks and opportunities that are related to them?
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Collaborate with Industry Peers
ESG measures, performance, and analysis are undergoing constant evolution as a result of regulatory changes made to stop greenwashing. The conventional method of comparing ESG data has been to report the company's ESG performance before benchmarking it to the performance of competitors.
To make the process simpler, simple ‘competition’ shouldn’t perhaps be the obvious measure of progress. This is ‘business as usual’. Yes, there can be a sense of comparative rivalry, but transparency must be the key aim for the conditions for progress to emerge. Collaboration, to some logical extent, must be key. This has been exemplified with the development of sector-specific organisations, such as in the case of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition being founded back in 2011 by key garment manufacturers such as Nike, Gap, H&M and others to identify shared opportunities for operational effectiveness. A ‘rising tide lifts all ships’ approach.
Collaboration becomes a much-required step to understanding ESG issues and working on the shortcomings within a given industry. By sharing best practices, collaborating companies can discuss ideas and predict how the new ESG regulation standards will affect the sector. This aids the sector's evolution as it moves towards long-term ESG objectives and adopts sustainable business practices.
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Stay informed about regulatory norms
Policymakers are now pushing for the creation of mandatory ESG disclosure requirements that are not only limited to large organisations but also small to medium businesses, as investors are demanding transparency regarding ESG ratings. As per the new mandatory ESG reporting requirements, all publicly traded businesses within the European Union (EU) will now be required to reveal their sustainability reports.
The new laws will facilitate accurate reporting of a company's ESG performance, which will lower reporting costs and foster greater transparency regarding the effects of the business on the environment and population at large. A business can implement ESG-based laws in its industry and reap potential benefits while adhering to long-term global net-zero goals when it is informed about new regulatory standards.
So, how can businesses realise value in change?
Leveraging Regulatory Evolution for Sustainable Gains
The benefits of reporting are many. First is to build a sense of trust with stakeholders through the demonstration of commitment to ESG. From an investor perspective, this translates as a willingness to open up, so potential investors can feel comfortable that you have nothing to hide.
This in turn attracts responsible forms of investment, namely those willing to participate in mid-to longer-term growth with their capital allocations. As this value compounds, reputation grows and, with it, the perception of brand value as associated with ESG commitment. This forward momentum effectively, and perhaps most importantly, will then generate further incentive for a given business to continue implementing ESG practices and building sustainability into the heart of operations.
This is why focus on ESG in essential, despite any intermittent pushback. It compounds and builds robust institutional growth.
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In conclusion, the ever-evolving ESG landscape necessitates a strategic approach that embraces collaboration, continuous learning, and proactive adaptation. Businesses that integrate these principles into their ESG strategies are better positioned to navigate challenges while leveraging ESG practices for long-term success.
The long and short of it is that change is usually tough, and we tend to dislike it. However, it is also usually necessary, and leads to distinct benefits in terms of growth, knowledge, development, and savings. Unless you have a single, unchallenged monopoly that dominates a sector, you face competition and the need to evolve. ESG frameworks, in evolution themselves, provide a template to adopting the change your business needs to stay ahead of the curve. Read more news and views at our Featured Articles, or track business performance at KnowESG's Company ESG Profiles.