Takeaways from the ‘Strengthening the ‘S’ in ESG’ report launch 

I am very pleased to announce the launch of the Strengthening the ‘S’ in ESG’ report at SBC’s inaugural Thriving People networking event, hosted on 18 October at Fonterra’s offices. And what a hugely insightful, engaging and inspiring kōrero it was too!  

More than 75 business leaders joined the SBC team, our project delivery partner Deloitte, and our ten SBC member sponsors (Chorus, Christchurch Airport, DB Breweries, DLA Piper, Fonterra, Genesis, NZ Post, SkyCity, Southern Cross and Westpac) at the launch event as we discussed the urgent need to strengthen the ‘S’ in ESG.   

It was great to hear Adithi Pandit (Deloitte) outline critical insights into why the ‘S’ is lagging, as well as the report’s recommendations for how SBC and its members can strengthen the ‘S’. A huge thank you to Claire Walker (Genesis), Anthony Thomspon (SkyCity) and Shaheen Junge (Fonterra) for sharing their thoughts and reflections on what this means for their businesses and the wider business community during the panel discussion. 

Here are my four takeaways from the report launch.  

  1. We need to raise the floor of the ‘S’ and push the ceiling. Mike Burrell, SBC Executive Director, highlighted how urgent it is we get businesses up to speed with the changes coming in the ‘S’ space (think: new Modern Slavery regulations, GRI standards, likely mandatory social-related financial disclosures), as well as empowering our members already leading out in this space to push the ceiling further, particularly in the employment area.  
  1. Let’s learn from our strengths in employment. While the ‘S’ is lagging, relative maturity and focus is most developed in the employment domain (i.e. Inclusion, Diversity and equity, wellbeing), which in itself is a critical accelerator to delivering positive social outcomes for communities. To support members to build comparability, consistency and transparency in the employment domain, we will be seeking to develop a core set of shared issues and benchmarks to define two levels of impact (as defined in the report). 
  1. We need to ensure no one is left behind. To quote Rod Carr at the Climate Change & Business Conference, “A just transition delayed is a just transition denied.” It was really exciting to hear this strong message from the report come through loudly in the event launch kōrero. Not only is there growing recognition of the urgency for action, there is passion for making a difference. We have an opportunity to set an aspiration to progress social equity, using business’ existing strength in the employment space, and by taking new action around community investment and supply chains. Arguably the biggest opportunity for impact lies in building new capabilities and leadership in these two areas: building and valuing relationships with communities to respond to their needs, and applying due diligence for human rights and preparing for new modern slavery regulation as a catalyst for positive social impact. This will be the focus of next steps. 
  1. This work needs to be done through the lens of te ao Māori. SBC, like many of our members, is on a journey to build its understanding of mātauranga Māori through developing our knowledge in te reo and tikanga Māori. It was super inspiring to hear SkyCity’s Anthony Thompson reflect on the value of te ao Māori, which incorporates fundamental concepts of relationships, connection between people and land, and an intergenerational focus as a lens for social impact in Aotearoa. So I am really pleased to see the report establishes the basis for defining social sustainability using the principles and worldview of te ao Māori. 

Next steps – get involved 

This is a critical milestone for SBC, as the report will provide our reference for everything we’ll be doing in the social space for the next 2-3 years. I encourage you to lean in and get involved with implementation.   

As businesses are still relatively new to the ‘S’, the report provides practical tools and actions members can take to improve positive social impact, including a maturity assessment matrix. Wherever you are in your leadership journey, I strongly recommend you use this practical tool to understand your current organisational maturity and create an internal benchmark to track action against, as well as to start conversations with internal stakeholders on building capability, accountability and transparency.   

I am convening small groups of interested members to workshop practical ideas and priority actions to build momentum and action in the three focus areas identified in the report (employment, supply chains and community investment & impact). Please email me if you would like more information or to get involved. 

Finally, in continuing to build a community of practice and learning, we would like to share members’ good practices (based on reciprocity) to connect other members with initiatives they can adopt and adapt to accelerate action and scale impact. If you have an awesome initiative you have implemented to drive positive social impact in employment, supply chains or community impact that other SBC members can ‘cut and paste’ or adapt to apply to their own challenges, drop me an email with the project title, one sentence descriptor, and the point of contact. 

Keep an eye out for details of upcoming webinars and networking events in Pānui and on our website. 

Read the full report here, or check out SBC’s summary document if you’re short on time. 

Robert Perry (Manager Thriving People) 

19 Oct, 2023

Related Posts