These are momentous times. Who would have guessed that women speaking out on sexual harassment would trigger such a sweeping denouncement of the abuse of power? That the Norwegian central bank would call for Norway’s sovereign wealth funds to go fossil fuel-free? That our government would be rocked by so much turbulence? Sit tight.
Our society is going through a massive transition in three particular areas: environmental, social, and governance (ESG). Interestingly, these are the same three areas companies are being asked by investors to report on and make improvements in. For companies, ESG started with compliance and reporting, and is now becoming business opportunity and strategy. On the environmental front, big companies must cut carbon emissions and avoid deforestation, and we have exciting innovations popping up, led by the likes of Tesla. On the social front, companies are looking to uphold human rights in their supply chains, combating such horrors as human trafficking and child labor. Diversity and inclusion are a big part of modern human resources practices. And investors evaluate companies on their governance.
ESG is the way forward for big business, given that society expects business, as much as government, to solve global problems like poverty, disease, and climate change. Indeed, businesses are embracing the UN Sustainable Development Goals en masse, and offering up their own targets for delivery on human rights and environmental issues.
This Thanksgiving, I am grateful for the forward momentum. One day we will look back and say: “that was the Great Transition. We handled it well (or not).” Sure, there will be backlash. The pendulum will swing one way, then back the other way. Civil rights and equality will make life better for all.
There is much work to be done, by companies, investors, civil society, everyone.
Thanksgiving is a time to be grateful, to look at where we are headed, to affirm our identity. Can we commit to creating a better world for our children?