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Effective ESG Takes Skill: Competencies Needed for Effective ESG Leaders

Effective ESG Takes Skill: Competencies Needed for Effective ESG Leaders

June 2023


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Environmental, Social, and Governance, or ESG, is no longer a nice-to-have element of business activity. It is becoming a requirement amongst several key stakeholder groups.

As the next wave of ESG initiatives officially rolls out, corporations are putting momentum behind years of conceptual development. They are looking for strong ESG leaders to execute the goals and initiatives companies have stated to their employees, customers, shareholders, communities, and investors.

As this takes place, it is causing many leaders, boards, and executive search consultants to ask the question: “What kind of professional can oversee a well-executed ESG initiative?”

Let’s explore the leadership competencies needed in an innovative ESG leader.

Competencies Required for Good ESG

The first question is what competencies HR should look for in a potential candidate who will shoulder ESG responsibilities. As with any position, there are several top priorities to focus on.

Speaking to HRZone, Dr. Muel Kaptein listed his top seven attributes. Kaptein, who is an Equity Partner at KPMG and speaker at the ESG Innovation Institute, listed the following as key traits to look for in an ESG officer:

  • Compassion
  • Curiosity
  • Commitment
  • Creativity
  • Courage
  • Cooperation
  • Consistency

“ESG leaders,” Kaptein adds, “should ensure their actions are guided by a strong moral compass which roots their decisions in core values that align with ESG objectives. This allows for a passionate and compassionate approach to leadership.” (CIE) adds several more competencies for consideration. For example, the site’s list of competencies includes analytical skills, financial acumen, adaptability, and interpersonal skills. Together, these traits create the image of a resourceful, empathetic, and engaged individual who can provide a steady hand while trying to execute on ESG goals.

Hiring With ESG in Mind

Combining the right competencies with the right technical skills and experience requires masterful coordination. HR and executive search consultants must work together to identify the right individuals that will fill skill gaps and be able to take on key responsibilities and drive ESG initiatives. Once you understand specific ESG team needs, your organization will be poised to attract candidates who positively contribute to its ESG team.

“Once you understand specific ESG team needs, your organization will be poised to attract candidates who positively contribute to its ESG team.”

Each company handles its ESG efforts differently. You might hire a Head of ESG. A CSO or CFO could collaborate on ESG initiatives. Various mid-level executives can share that same responsibility, as well. Regardless, it’s important to understand the core competencies required to successfully execute an ESG strategy.

At Stanton Chase, we have thorough experience helping brands address ESG. We have the knowledge to identify shortcomings in current efforts and the resources, techniques, and networks to find the right individuals to meet each of those needs.

If you feel your organization needs to approach ESG with more purpose and vision, contact us. We can help you create the team necessary to execute your ESG initiatives and improve your environment, communities, and company in the process.

About the Author

Heidi Tieslau is a Director at Stanton Chase Nashville. She is also the North American Regional Practice Leader for ESG.

Serving the industrial and consumer products and services markets, Heidi prides herself on fostering an excellent client and candidate experience through outstanding search execution and transparent communication. With decades of experience in corporate and nonprofit organizations, she understands what it takes to be an executive leader and is dedicated to translating her clients’ needs into an actionable strategy to find them the best-fit candidate.

Executive Search
Executive Assessment
Sustainability and ESG

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