ESG Creating Value for Companies

By Mr. Gautam Mohanka, CEO, Gautam Solar

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The traditional business approach, aimed at reducing material risks and increasing profitability, is waning in response to the market’s changing needs, where neglecting sustainability means jeopardising the entire universe, not only the human race. This paradigm shift pursued the policymakers to steer the world towards sustainable avenues in both commercial and social spheres. ESG, which stands for Environmental, Social, and Governance, is adopted receptively by conscious entrepreneurs and forward-thinking investors striving to embark on a healthier transition. They realise that ESG comprises benefits beyond monetary returns and leads businesses to garner inclusive growth encompassing desirable social, ethical, and environmental results.

Understanding the Value

ESG principles are crucial for corporate strategy, focusing on environment, social, and governance. This involves reducing pollution, CO2 output, and waste and fostering a diverse workforce. Thus, ESG integration is essential for creating competitive advantages, and it should be a priority for CEOs and top executives, becoming central to the firm’s culture. ESG issues matter because all humans have an obligation to behave pro-socially. Therefore, all stakeholders must prioritize ESG considerations in their strategic and operational decisions.

To understand why ESG is not just a buzzword or a fad, it is important to understand the value it creates for a company in the long run.

Revenue Expansion

A strong ESG strategy helps companies not only expand into existing markets but also tap potential new markets, as their reputation as a sustainability leader precedes them. This makes them appealing to a whole new segment of buyers. A survey found that more than 70% of consumers are willing to spend up to 5% more for a green product offering the same performance standards as a similar but non-green option. When Unilever introduced Sunlight, a brand of less water-consuming dishwashing liquid, its sales growth was 20% more than the overall category growth in several water-scarce markets.

Curtailment of Expenses

ESG can significantly reduce costs as there is a major focus on optimizing the amount of resources, like raw materials and water, being used in the operations of a company. Implementing an efficient ESG framework can help to limit operating expenses, which in turn can boost operating profits by as much as 60%, according to research conducted by a consultancy firm. For e.g., FedEx, in its bid to achieve net-zero emissions in its global operations by 2040, has set a goal of converting its 35,000-strong fleet of vehicles to electric/hybrid engines by 2030. It has already achieved 20% of this target, which has led to a decrease in fuel consumption of more than 50 million gallons.

Better Compliance, Enhanced Rapport 

A strong ESG programme enables an organisation to strictly follow the quality standards and government regulations, which results in zero penalties and having the potential to find a place in the government and industry bodies’ good books. According to an analysis by a consultancy firm, nearly one-third of corporate profits face jeopardy due to government intervention. Although it varies from industry to industry, the value at stake may be between 25% (pharmaceutical and medical sector) to as high as 60% (automotive, aerospace and defence, and tech sector), according to the firm. In the latter, government subsidies and incentives (among other forms of intervention) are common, and there are strict regulations regarding the use of renewable energy and carbon emissions.

Surge in Employee Productivity

A strong ESG approach helps a company attract and retain quality talent, enhance the drive of employees by inculcating a sense of purpose, and boost overall productivity. High employee morale is directly correlated with increased shareholder returns as a paper published by the Academy of Management, a professional body of management and organizations scholars, found that companies in Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work for” generated between 2.3% to 3.8% greater annual stock returns than their non-listed counterparts over a period of more than 25 years. On the other hand, a weak ESG approach lowers productivity, including strikes, slowdowns, and other labour actions not only within the company but across the entire supply chain. Forward-looking companies are cognizant of this, as evidenced by retail giant Walmart, which even tracks the work conditions of its suppliers, including, among others, big factories in China, according to a company scorecard.

Investment and Asset Optimization

A strong ESG approach can help companies boost Return on Investment (ROI) by allocating capital to promising and sustainable opportunities (For example, Renewables like Commercial & Industrial Solar, Waste Reduction and Scrubbers). It can also help companies steer clear of stranded investments that may not pay off in the future (like write-downs on oil tankers due to long-term environmental issues). A way to get a head start in the race for future profits is by repurposing assets right now, even if the investments may be significant, rather than waiting for the future and having to play catch up. For example, Amazon buys electricity from a solar project built on a repurposed coal mine site.

Conclusion

The discourse around ESG propositions underscores the need for businesses to embrace a long-term perspective that considers the interests of both shareholders and stakeholders. By integrating ESG considerations into decision-making, businesses can drive sustainable growth, benefiting shareholders, stakeholders, and society at large. Moreover, to promote renewable energy in industrial and corporate setups, ESG investments in solar PVs can fulfil the entire or partial power-related needs of a company. 

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