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Five Reasons Why You Should Aim for High ESG Performance

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Investors and consumers are increasingly employing environmental, social and governance, otherwise known as the ESG criteria, to evaluate the ethical standing of businesses. This standard goes past your typical financial analysis models to assess businesses with a focus on the environment, contributions to social well-being and their internal governance mechanisms. This article explores the growing significance of ESG criteria, providing five reasons why businesses in New Zealand should actively strive for high ESG performance. 

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Why is ESG Relevant?

ESG is an acronym for environmental, social, and governance values. It serves as a metric to gauge a company’s alignment with the ESG principles, using various criteria to evaluate its performance across these three areas, which are as follows: 

  1. environmental: evaluates your company’s energy consumption, waste discharge, resource usage, and associated environmental impacts. These contributions to the environment can be both positive and negative;
  2. social: addresses your company’s relationships and the reputation it builds with individuals and institutions; and
  3. governance: the governance of internal company practices, controls and procedures implemented to ensure legal compliance, meet the requirements of external stakeholders, and govern its operations.

The above elements are intertwined and can overlap, such as when human rights laws need to be followed with ties to both social and governmental systems. 

A few examples of ESG criteria involve looking into the following: 

Environmental + carbon footprint and decarbonisation 
+ energy sources 
+ water and land use 
+ waste and pollution management 
+ sustainability and climate change 
Social + workforce labour practices 
+ human rights 
+ community engagement 
+ diversity and inclusion 
+ ethical supply chain operations
Governance + management practices 
+ leadership diversity 
+ company behaviour, such as the treatment of bullying and harassment claims 
+ company decisions 
+ internal governance and measures 
+ engagement with public officials 

These areas are typically excluded from traditional financial reports. However, by prioritising them, your business will likely gain a more comprehensive understanding of its longevity and future financial performance.

The Increasing Importance of ESG Criteria

In New Zealand, the increase of socially conscious investors underscores the growing significance of ESG criteria in business strategies. Investors now seek financial returns and positive societal impact, while consumers increasingly favour socially responsible businesses. Recognising the benefits, companies integrate ESG considerations into core strategies and pricing, aligning with a socially and environmentally conscious model. 

Notably, corporate social responsibility (CSR) precedes ESG, emphasising positive steps to address economic, social, and environmental impacts, focusing on external initiatives. However, the CSR model lacks quantifiability. In contrast, ESG assesses the business’ core social responsibility and offers quantifiable metrics for meaningful business comparisons.

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Five Reasons to Prioritise High ESG Performance

1. Enhances company valuation and increases investing appeal As investors seek impactful, long-term opportunities, companies prioritising ESG factors and acting on them are gaining appeal. Potential shareholders, drawn to ethical and socially responsible businesses, are increasingly attracted to such firms.

Taking proactive and transparent measures on ESG issues further improves company valuations. 
2. Better regulatory adherence and strategic flexibility Adhering to ESG disclosures for better alignment with global regulatory trends and policies mitigates risks of legal disputes, fines and reputational harm, which are outcomes of prioritising high ESG performance. This is crucial for maintaining ethical business practices and meeting societal expectations.

Therefore, prioritising high ESG performance grants companies greater strategic flexibility as they can better equip themselves for evolving market conditions and regulatory landscapes through ESG adherence.  
3. Satisfy shareholders and attract customersImplementing sustainable practices satisfies socially responsible shareholders and maintains long-lasting customer loyalty and appeal. The power of purpose in ESG initiatives contributes to shareholder satisfaction and can offer a competitive advantage in the market. 

For example, implementing sustainable business practices to differentiate may attract customers who prioritise ethical considerations. 
4. Helps guide and underpin effective risk management Integrating ESG factors into corporate decisions is crucial for risk management and mitigation to address potential risks before they escalate. 

Furthermore, investing in ESG capabilities aids data collection, preventing various risks, and ESG reporting tools enhance overall practice efficiency.
5. Corporate citizenshipCorporate citizenship refers to your company’s responsibility to contribute positively to society and the environment beyond its primary economic objectives. 

Engaging in corporate citizenship by acting on your ESG initiatives further enhances your company’s reputation. This further fosters better social credibility and enables your business to be a leading positive force in the industry. 

Key Takeaways 

Companies prioritising ESG in their decision-making will be strategically positioned to address growing risks and capitalise on opportunities across the entire spectrum of ESG concerns. ESG criteria hold significant importance for socially responsible investors and consumers. They complement financial analysis by realistically depicting a business to its internal and external stakeholders, consumers, and investors.

If you need assistance navigating ESGs and optimising their implementation for your company, LegalVision’s experienced business lawyers can assist as part of our LegalVision membership. For a low monthly fee, you will have unlimited access to lawyers to answer your questions and draft and review your documents. Call us today at 0800 005 570 or visit our membership page.

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