Five Ways That Leaders Can Help Their Organization Meet ESG Goals

Most readers understand the concept of ESG but for the few who are unfamiliar with the term, I’ll explain it first and then, I will discuss five ways that you, as a business leader can help your organization meet its ESG goals.

Environmental, social, and governance have become popular terms in recent years — particularly in the investment community. People looking to put money into an organization, often for common stock ownership, want to know that the company is adequately focused on environmental issues — such as climate change, social matters — such as diversity, and building a governance structure that ensures proper oversight.

But ESG goals are worthless without effective action. To improve a company’s performance, companies need to establish projects that will solve pressing needs. And ESG is just one component. You still need to sell your products or services and periodically improve your offerings. You still need to focus on hiring, management, operations, marketing, and a host of other needs.

So here are five suggestions to help you meet your ESG goals and grow your business.

1. Build a project selection process that realistically assesses what you can accomplish

It can be easy to think that you should add on a project to address every one of your ESG goals but doing them all at the same time could take your focus off other pressing concerns. In your efforts to select the appropriate projects, focus on what you can realistically do.

I recommend, when you can, that you select smaller projects that have a large benefit — rather than longer, higher risk projects. Yes, they may offer more benefits, but the risk of failing to complete a project successfully is much higher with longer projects. Select projects that you have the bandwidth to complete without sacrificing your focus on operations.

When selecting projects to meet your ESG goals, focus on what you can realistically do. #esg #esggoals #smartprojex #projectmanagement

2. Understand what is most important to your company and focus on that

Patrick Lencioni often talks and writes about how to decide on where to focus. And understanding where to focus is critical. You can’t do everything at once so identify what’s most important now and regularly reassess that assumption.

I’ll let you decide whether your organization chooses a single focus, or not. In my experience, fewer balls to focus on is typically easier, but I find it impossible to limit my focus to just one item. I have too many clients and personal projects. What I can do, and what I suggest you do, is constantly examine what is most important now. And prioritize the important, not just the urgent.

Don’t spread yourself so thinly that work is not done well. It may be that reshaping your board is the most important action you can take, or it may be that developing a new drug or increasing your sales are critical. You may have multiple key objectives but if you have too many, people will lose focus. Sometimes environmental concerns will be more critical whereas other times, social issues or governance are more critical.

Discovering that a key leader has a toxic style or has been abusive can upend a company’s focus. Equally so, finding out that a key competitor is launching a product that could make your product obsolete might be grounds for reexamining the company’s focus. ESG goals must be considered in the context of a company’s long-term survival.

Keep in mind that compliance with laws will drive your focus. For example, the US is currently trying to ratchet up reporting requirements on some ESG issues. And that is going on in other countries as well, perhaps under different names.

Understand what is most important to your company and focus on that. #esg #esggoals #smartprojex #projectmanagement

3. Stop managing projects in a vacuum

The larger the organization, the more important insights into what is happening in the larger organization become. And the harder it gets to uncover those insights. And yet, many projects are managed in a vacuum with little input from those with those critical insights.

To transition from managing projects in a vacuum to learning how to look at them in a larger context depends on your organization. Perhaps you have great enterprise software that includes project and enterprise operations work, though I have yet to find one that I love. If not, here are a few ideas:

  • Add a few well-placed subject matter experts to your list of key stakeholders who can keep you advised.
  • Include your project sponsor in communications and meetings to glean insights from someone with more visibility in the organization.
  • Build project processes that allow you to make good steady progress and remain agile. If you don’t have these types of processes in your organization, check out my 8 Lesson Crash Course text.

4. Focus on sustainability in the decisions that you make about how to accomplish all work

Regardless of what your work is, you will be faced with many decisions about how to accomplish the work. How can you factor sustainability into the decision-making progress?

Have you ever thought about how many of the resources that you use in your business come from nature, or depend heavily on nature for development? And yet, our planet continues to be at risk.

The World Economic Forum published a white paper in February, 2022 that makes the business case for making decisions that improve the planet, rather than degrading the planet.

It argues that decisions which have a positive impact on the planet are often better business decisions. It might be decisions about how you power your facilities, to the kinds of suppliers you use. How can you factor sustainability into your work decisions?

Consider that more senior leaders may need to empower mid-level managers and project leaders to make decisions that are better for the planet. I’m not suggesting that project leaders be given blank checks. They can still be held accountable for their budgets, but you should give them guidance on how to make sound business decisions that consider the impact on the planet.

5. Put strong project managers in charge of non-project work

There are many endeavors in the world of work which don’t meet the classic definition of a project. Examples include product management, financial oversight, marketing, and legal work. Much of this work may relate to your ESG goals.

If you put a trained project manager in some of these oversight roles, you might find that they are better at ensuring that work is done in the most effective and efficient way.

Great news: I have published Herding Smart Cats: Project Management Reimagined. Check it out on Amazon. It’s now available in paperback and Kindle versions.

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Suzanne S. Davenport

Writes on project management, leadership, team building, and value delivery. Imagining work management in the future. Smartprojex.com