What are the benefits of ESG?

Climate change poses serious risks to companies and not just those with asset-heavy supply chains. Even the most flexible, digital professional services companies may be vulnerable.

Thus, all companies need to understand the risks posed by climate change – as well as the opportunities. Companies that prioritise climate risk management will be better positioned to withstand its effects and capitalise on new opportunities.

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What does an ESG committee do?

Companies around the world are beginning to recognise the importance of having Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) policies in place. These policies not only benefit society and the planet but can also lead to financial benefits for companies. From reducing carbon emissions to promoting diversity and inclusion, ESG policies are becoming a key part of any company’s strategy.

What is an ESG policy?

An ESG policy documents how a company is addressing the three pillars of ESG – environmental, social, and governance. This formalised document outlines the company’s ESG commitments, guiding vision on ESG issues, how the business is involved in these issues, and how ESG activities are monitored and reported.

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Engaging today’s employees and attracting tomorrow’s talent – the importance of ESG

Looking around, we see evidence of companies responding to growing environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues everywhere. Whether it is announcing net-zero emissions targets, closing the ethnicity pay gap, or reducing plastic in packaging.

These efforts are often undertaken to satisfy investor expectations or consumer demand. But another critical stakeholder group mutually benefits with ESG – employees. The key to ESG success, employees are on the frontlines of implementation. What’s more, employees want to work for companies that share their values, making ESG table stakes for talent attraction and retention.

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What does an ESG committee do?

As ESG – environmental, social, and governance – criteria become more important for regulators, investors, and customers, many managers are facing an ESG imperative – to measure ESG risks and track progress. ESG may seem like a fundamental shift in business practices, and in some cases, it may be. Fortunately, however, ESG can be integrated into many familiar business processes, such as the annual cycle of financial reporting. ESG can then be matured through annual iterations to achieve more ambitious targets.

This article outlines the key procedures that businesses need to respond to the ESG imperative, addressing stakeholder needs while creating value:

  1. The materiality assessment
  2. Goal setting and gap analysis
  3. Data collection
  4. Reporting
  5. Assurance
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What are the benefits of ESG?

Over the last decade, ESG (environmental, social, and governance) has become increasingly relevant for investors. Today, more than 300 institutional investors representing over $80 trillion assets-under-management use ESG standards to inform their decision making. ESG issues surged to the forefront with the COVID-19 pandemic, which drew attention to the fact that these risks are becoming reality. Whether pandemics, social movements, or extreme weather from climate change, these trends pose both risks and opportunities for investors. By communicating how these risks are managed, companies can show investors how they are successfully navigating a changing world.

Why is ESG information relevant for investors?

ESG complements financial information for a more holistic view of the company, and the risks and opportunities it faces. ESG risks vary widely, but all are becoming more relevant, such as physical risk from climate change (“E”), reputational risk from social injustice (“S”), and regulatory risk from corruption (“G”). These risks can impact a company’s financial performance and are thus of interest to many investors.

But ESG can also reveal opportunities. For example, net zero transition plans will require new business models and services. In his 2022 letter to CEOs, BlackRock chairman Larry Fink wrote, “Every company and every industry will be transformed by the transition to a net zero world. The question is, will you lead, or will you be led?” Investors may look to ESG information to identify those leaders.

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How can law firms demonstrate ESG commitments? 

Although ESG has been steadily gaining traction in the corporate world and becoming a top priority for many businesses, many law firms are lagging behind. 

This may be because ESG has developed outside of a regulatory landscape. But legislation is beginning to catch up and law firms, as key corporate service providers, are being expected to consult and strategize on ESG for their clients. Companies are relying on their lawyers’ skills to implement internal ESG goals.

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Since the UK Modern Slavery Act came into force, it is estimated that the number of people trapped in forced labour or forced marriages has actually increased, with the number now believed to have reached over 50 million. A mixture of armed conflict, climate change and the global pandemic has made modern slavery a growing challenge, despite an increase in regulations in many countries.

With the UK and other countries set to strengthen their regulations, in this webinar, we look at whether businesses are doing enough to eradicate modern slavery.

The webinar covered:

  • What businesses are currently doing well and how they can improve
  • MSA best practice
  • How modern slavery compliance can enhance your ESG programme
  • Guidance on producing annual modern slavery statements
  • Processes and tools to help you stay on top of your supply chains

Watch now

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How businesses can demonstrate avoided emissions

Reducing carbon emissions is something every business needs to take into account. Whether because of regulation, ESG, upcoming legislation, being a listed business or just good corporate citizenship, reducing emissions will help businesses become more sustainable, and tackle the climate crisis.

Measuring and understanding those emissions can be tricky, particularly if a business is new to this. Some companies, particularly office based professional services firms, might not consider they have a large amount of emissions to be reduced, beyond more sustainable electricity and reducing business travel.

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Symbol of corporate social responsibility

Gone are the days when businesses were only expected to generate profits and it was up to non-profits to solve society’s problems. Today, businesses are also expected to have a positive impact on society and the environment. One way companies are filling this new role is through the B Corp certification.

What is a B Corp?

A certified B corporation, or B Corp, is a designation for companies that meet high standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability. These companies have demonstrated commitment to the triple bottom line: people, planet, and profit.

There are three key aspects of a B Corp:

  1. The company has demonstrated high social and environmental performance through the B Impact Assessment, which covers the company’s impact on its workers, community, environment, and customers
  2. The company has made a legal commitment to be accountable to all stakeholders, not just shareholders. Traditional corporations are legally obliged to serve the financial interests of shareholders or company owners. However, B Corps must also create value for all stakeholders, meaning those impacted by business decisions such as customers, employees, and community members
  3. The company exhibits transparency by publishing its performance and impact assessment on the B Lab website

Today, many companies are choosing to demonstrate their social and environmental values with the B Corp certification. Globally, there are nearly 6,000 B Corps in 85 countries covering 158 industries.

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Environmental, social and governance strategies for professional services

VinciWorks is pleased to publish a new guide, free to download, focusing on what professional services, and in particular the legal sector, should be considering when it comes to ESG.

In this guide, we look at how firms can successfully demonstrate their ESG commitments, what ESG means in particular for the legal industry, and different strategies and ideas for environmental, social and governance initiatives.

The guide also features an analysis on how to help clients consider ESG, how other firms are spearheading ESG, the so-called ‘Carbon Brainprint,’ also known as Scope 4 or ‘avoided’ emissions, and some key legal cases concerning ESG, and the risk of doing nothing.

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