The use of ESG to evaluate companies is the cause celebre in early 2022 and while still in an early phase, primitively and ill defined, it is reaching nearly all corners of the economy at a fever pitch. The appeal of ESG is compelling. People want to save the planet while they make a profit.
But the statistically most compelling result of our recent poll among business stakeholders is that 86% of respondents believe there will be mandatory ESG disclosures and more ESG regulation within the next 12 months including that 82% of respondents are concerned about financial penalties arising from non-compliance with those new ESG regulatory requirements.
With that dichotomy between people’s expectations versus business concerns noted and with the ESG umbrella covering such a broad spectrum of subjects, we undertook a survey seeking to report on current perceptions in matters of ESG such that our clients and friends can use these results for company strategies for ESG in 2022.
As attorneys helping businesses with law and non law professional services in company ESG reporting ourselves, this poll has buttressed our belief that the market for ESG work is very strong with a growth rate in double digits.
ESG is such a new space that there are few authoritative sources of information, including that with no scholarly treatises and few if any peer reviewed published papers, blogs like this one are the best source of reliable information. Concomitantly, readers of this blog are a target rich environment for current business ESG activity and a group ripe for this modest survey effort.
The poll is not a truly statistical canvassing of people in that, after piloting a questionnaire, we curated the survey methodology, sample design, and data collection with the aim of providing essential strategies that will on a timely basis offer predictive accuracy, in the emergent and fast growing space of ESG, helping businesses better prepare themselves for now and into the future.
Here are the meaningful insights we can report:
In a compelling result over 81% of our poll respondents said that in the last 12 months they have witnessed an increased demand on their company to report ESG data.
Maybe not surprisingly 52% reported their company’s ESG priorities today were more heavily weighted on environment factors (.. which have been a priority since the first Earth Day in 1970), 37% on social and 11% on governance.
Only 39% responded that their company has a formal ESG program, but 47% plan to have a program, portending a huge growth rate for helping companies with corporate ESG reporting.
In a disappointing result, only 11% were highly confident that their company’s ESG program is sufficiently robust. Only 30% were moderately confident, 30% minimally, and 29% not at all.
12% of companies consider ESG metrics in executive compensation.
24% believe other companies will achieve their stated ESG commitments.
16% believe companies frequently overstate or exaggerate their ESG progress when disclosing data, but only 7% said such was intentional.
Interestingly 64% believe companies will face increasing litigation arising out of their stated or failure to makes ESG disclosures.
Very significantly 80% are concerned about the potential impact ESG matters may have on their brand perception or brand value.
In the second highest polling response in the survey, 82% are concerned about financial penalties resulting from non-compliance with future ESG regulatory requirements.
44% expect most companies will establish and communicate a net-zero plan in the next 12 months.
62% expect investors will reward companies that have communicated a net-zero plan with a premium.
In the most compelling response, 86% believe there will be mandatory ESG disclosures and more ESG regulation within the next 12 months.
Particularly forward thinking and looking for certainty, 62% favor mandatory ESG disclosures and more ESG regulation within the next 12 months.
51% believe law firms should be doing more to support companies with ESG matters.
Only 21% responded the law firm their company uses offers ESG capabilities to its clients.
And 78% of companies engage outside consultants and other professionals for ESG matters.
While highly informative, again be aware this poll is not a truly statistically pure survey. Including in an effort to keep true to our sample design but allowing all who are interested to participate via survey monkey, we permitted self selected stakeholders to respond to 10 key questions and to be up to 10% of the sample size.
In conclusion these results can assist companies and as they strategize to boost their ESG activities in 2022. In the highest numeric response, respondents believe there will be mandatory ESG disclosures and more ESG regulation this year and the respondents are concerned about financial penalties arising from non-compliance with those ESG laws and policies. And not to be lost among this poll data, a near similar number of respondents are concerned about the potential impact ESG matters may have on their brand perception or brand value.
In 2022 when a broad breadth of stakeholders want to save the planet and make a profit, our poll results make clear businesses need to accelerate their ESG efforts, now.
ESG has become such a large component of my law practice that I am now collaborating with a group of daring, innovative and creative attorneys in ESG Legal Solutions, LLC, a boutique ESG driven non-law and consulting firm “powering sustainability, today, for tomorrow’s business.” Nancy Hudes and I are now publishing a blog www.ESGLegalSolutions.com (.. yes, this blog will continue). This post originally appeared in that blog. If we can assist you or someone you work with in ESG strategy and solutions, from specific project implementation to fully outsourced managed services, do not hesitate to reach out to me.