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The Critical Role of Cross-Collaboration in ESG

The Critical Role of Cross-Collaboration in ESG

October 2023


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ESG isn’t a compartmentalized activity. It’s a company-wide one. It is about putting promises into action on a comprehensive scale.  

ESG focuses on transforming a company’s culture and creating impactful strategies that create a better future and a more sustainable organization. With that in mind, here are a few thoughts on how important cross-collaboration is in successful ESG initiatives. 

Start By Building a Comprehensive ESG Culture

To begin, make sure you’re putting in the effort to unify and equip your team members to effectively execute your ESG initiatives. This starts with aligning everyone toward the same benchmarks and KPIs. 

When it comes to ESG, these can vary across a wide spectrum of initiatives. The UN has outlined 17 global sustainability goals that span from clean water and zero hunger to quality education, clean energy, and good health and well-being. 

Clarify the ESG goals, initiatives, and tactics that you are embracing as a company. Hone your current team. Expand that team to include every area of your organization, establish strong leadership, and recruit new members from outside when needed. 

If you can set the stage in this way, you can create a foundation for your brand’s ESG activity that can deliver on your company’s environmental, social, and governance commitments both now and in the future. 

There can be no siloing in ESG. It must be widespread across an entire organization. Real ESG change comes from a culture shift. It must become intertwined into the organic fabric of an organization and adopted on every level if it’s going to bear fruit. 

This starts at the top. Leaders must embrace ESG. Obviously, this starts with ESG executives, who must learn to juggle long-term value creation and short-term financial pressures. They must actively balance countless crises, threats, concerns, and opportunities, from adapting to changing supply chains to following ever-evolving regulations to executing both social and environmental strategic sustainability initiatives. 

While ESG leaders may own the development of the ESG strategy, the implementation and wide-ranging aspects of ESG make it a pursuit that impacts every area of business. 

For example, ESG leaders must work with CHROs from a diversity, well-being, and social perspective. They must work with operations officers to reduce carbon footprints and develop an emissions reduction plan. Supply chain and legal HODs should also be part of the cross-collaboration team that supports ESG efforts. 

CFOs are starting to take a leading role in many companies’ ESG reporting efforts. Newer requirements are creating the need for CFOs to familiarize themselves with things like carbon accounting and sustainability metrics. 

This naturally means it requires investment, energy, and input from each of these areas, too, starting with their leadership. Truly effective ESG execution comes from fostering a group of leaders who are able to cross-collaborate as they put clear ESG strategies into motion and work toward specific end goals. Once this mindset is adopted across the entire C-suite, it can begin to effectively trickle down to other parts of an organization. 

Add and Develop Existing Talent Where Needed

As you realize the ESG competency gaps in your current team, look for new members you can add to your team and ways to develop existing leaders. Find a strong executive who can breathe life into your company’s ESG initiatives and help sustain your long-term vision. Good ESG leaders must be able to see the big picture and balance both short- and long-term corporate success with environmental, social, and governance needs. 

Good ESG leaders must be able to see the big picture and balance both short- and long-term corporate success with environmental, social, and governance needs.

As an executive search and leadership advisory consultant at Stanton Chase, I have observed the importance of recruiting and developing ESG-focused members of the C-suite. As an element of business that is becoming increasingly expected and regulated, it isn’t something you want to treat lightly.  

At the same time, to properly implement ESG as part of your company, it cannot come solely from a single individual, department, team, or initiative. It must be a holistic endeavor. Yes, an ESG executive can help guide this process, but they shouldn’t be alone.  

ESG should be intertwined into the operations of a business at every level. It will look different in each area of an organization, but it should be a present priority nonetheless.   

Once you have leadership in place that is invested in ESG, you can emphasize it across your entire organization, keeping it at the forefront of your corporate evolution as a way to equip your company for a relevant, impactful, and ultimately brighter future. 

About the Author

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

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