Eric Bigelsen, Global Head of Industry Engagement and Senior Advisor for ESG, EDM Council, speaks with Robert Lutton, Vice President, Sandhill Consultants, about the role of ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) in making sustainability-focused decisions and the talent required for it.
According to Bigelsen, companies today have recognized that ESG is important for their business, their organization, and the industry. “Some companies are really adopting ESG or sustainable culture and it’s not entirely about what the regulators want. There are many other stakeholders that are part of the ecosystem as well — the investors, the asset owners, customers, and employees,” he says.
He mentions that companies that have developed sustainable cultures and want to do things that are good and positive for the environment tend to develop very good governance structures for their business.
Regarding the role of governments in enacting ESG standards, Bigelsen says that while there are organizations like the International Sustainability Standards Board and the new European Sustainable Standard Board, governments also have significant initiatives around ESG to make sure that their respective countries and companies are in line. Most countries across Europe (including the U.K.), as well as Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, the Republic of Singapore, Canada, and the United States, are driving toward more transparency.
Bigelsen also mentions that companies, too, are stepping away from simply greenwashing, and are doing their part to achieve the net-zero requirements by 2050.
Speaking on the talent side of ESG and the need for a sustainability-specific workforce, he says that while there are professionals in the field, there is an inadequate number of them to meet the current demand across organizations.
“There are going to be opportunities for folks on the technical side from a measurement standpoint, but then there are going to be a lot of people involved with data management, data governance. They could be involved with audit and assurance to make sure that when data is collected, that data is high quality and it’s gone through some degree of audit missions,” he adds.
He also adds that while COVID has made things virtual, it has also increased the awareness around sustainability and the environmental impact of our actions.
“This is raising the bar at a very interesting time when, in fact, many are focused on the climate-related issues associated with ESG on the environmental side. There’s definitely a lot more to be said about public health, sharing of information. Information is much more fluid and people can make better decisions. It has really affected us in many profound ways,” he concludes.