From story to action: ESG metrics that matter


ESG metrics that matter: using data to move from story to action

Sarah Hersey

10 March, 2023

ESG, and communications in general, can be seen as fluffy and ineffective if you fail to establish clear goals designed to measure your progress. Working in a rigorous way not only ensures you avoid greenwashing but also gives you the data needed to provide you with credibility.  
The steps to implementation boil down to the following:

  1. Creating clear goals
  2. Communicating those goals
  3. Measuring against these goals
  4. Future planning based on measurement

 Once you’ve mastered these things, you’ll have a set of rock-solid ESG principles that can be used to enhance your company – as opposed to meaningless corporate messages with no basis to enact change.

1. Set clear ESG goals

At the offset of any ESG programme, it is crucial you have a clear idea of what your goals are and how you’ll be implementing processes to reach these. For example, suppose you’re keen to work towards a net-zero carbon emissions target. In that case, the first step is to establish the key areas in which you’re contributing to emissions and the programmes, training, recycling schemes, etc., which you’re planning on bringing into your organisation to reduce your output.
Once these steps have been coordinated, you’ll be able to align specific targets that you can measure to accompany your goals—for example, a particular target to hit for reducing emissions.
Establishing firm targets to accompany your goal will give you the structure needed as you not only work to achieve these goals but convey them to stakeholders, clients, and team members.


2. Communicating your ESG values

Communication is vital in ESG. But, without a firm understanding of how you’re adding to meaningful conversations, you’ll never be able to reach your audience and show them your company’s true values.
However, if you want to be truly successful, you need to move beyond a storyline and display real action. This is where communicating your goals is essential.
A good example of a company successfully conveying its ESG initiatives is Salesforce. By building its entire climate action plan around limiting global warming to 1.5°C, Salesforce is able to tie into a broader narrative surrounding climate change whilst connecting into a motivating global goal. This key message features 13 times in the plan, and every action and purpose comes back to this message.
To further build credibility, the plan includes transparent graphs depicting Salesforces’ current emissions and the predicted impact that their new plans will have on their future emissions. The key takeaways for readers are that Salesforce has a firm understanding of global issues, has a clear goal they’re working towards, and is taking tangible and measurable actions to get there.
By building a powerful message into their ESG and centring their goals around this, clients, team members and stakeholders have a crystal clear image of what each ESG principle is designed to achieve and believe that Salesforce is committed to making their goals a reality. This is the strength of their ESG.
Remember that without your processes qualifying your intentions and a roadmap for your company to get there, your ESG will never extend beyond just an idea. It risks looking like meaningless commentary without the data to make you a credible actor making a difference.

3. Hitting your ESG metrics and measuring your progress

As we move further into a data-centric world, it’s key you bring measurement practices into your organisation – and ESG is an excellent way to trial schemes.
Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve seen the FCA clamp down on greenwashing campaigns – vigorously refuting claims by organisations to be emission-free, or the like, and banning adverts and campaigns from going live if they fail to measure up.
To avoid a similar fate, providing transparency and accountability in your ESG principles and reporting your progress will be key.


4. Future planning based on measurement

We’ve previously expanded on the value of ESG for organisations; however, overlooking data risks your promises appearing flimsy. Failing to measure progress with the metrics that give you the data to make your pledges concrete reverses all the benefits of ESG and risks positioning your organisation as suspicious, untrustworthy, and awash with false advertising.
In today’s society, companies that are taking responsibility and using data analytics to break down their impacts, whether environmental or social, and showing their clients and teams they’re incorporating this information into day-to-day decision-making will come out on top. These will be the companies that can create a brand with an impact and has the tools to show the wider community how they are changing lives for the better.
If you want to use data to elevate your brand to the next level, get in touch today to find out how we can help guide you and use your ESG values to generate results.