ESG a Key Priority for More Than Half of Global Leaders

More than half of global company leaders are looking to redefine ESG goals and become more purpose-led, according to a recent survey of business leaders by HLB International.

The annual survey of business leaders found 15% of respondents said their businesses already identified as purpose-led businesses and a further 37% said they attempted to meet wider stakeholder expectations in their ESG goals.

According to HLB Mann Judd Adelaide corporate advisory partner, Katelyn Adams, this reflects the increasing need for business leaders to recognise that investors, customers and employees are demanding strong ESG principles.

“They know it is the right thing to do but they also know it can potentially put them ahead of their competitors. As an example, one survey respondent told us they want to be more aggressive on progress towards ESG because they believe it will give them a competitive advantage,” she said.

The survey was conducted during September and November 2022 and HLB International collected 575 survey responses from business leaders across 60 countries and a range of industries and sectors.

But there is still some work to be done on ESG, with 40% of respondents saying they only complete the ESG actions required by regulators, rather than treat the wider themes of sustainability as an opportunity for innovation. A further 8% do not have any established ESG goals at all.

While ESG commitments can be overlooked amid ongoing market turmoil, it is important that companies remember that sustainability and profitability aren’t mutually exclusive.

“Wider commitments to ESG practices, social welfare, and good governance can actually help leaders weather disruption and emerge stronger from it with a more sustainable and profitable business model.

“Many investors are finding companies that have strong ESG practices in place more attractive. A company that can clearly communicate its ESG objectives demonstrates a commitment to acting as a good corporate citizen.

“Presenting investors with an ESG framework outlines a company’s commitment to continuous monitoring and reporting on those objectives, something investors now expect as standard from companies and their leaders,” she said.

(Katelyn Adams)

The survey also highlighted the challenging period ahead which has been deemed the ‘permacrisis’, which identifies eight major risks facing global businesses.

Over half of the respondents now feel acutely concerned about the impacts of inflation 82 % economic uncertainty 79% geopolitical risks 74% rising resource costs 71% rising interest rates 64% access to talent 61% exchange rate volatility 60% and cybersecurity issues 60%. Climate risks and social instability were also of concern, at 58% and 49% respectively.

In terms of the technologies that will be of most importance to business over the next five years, artificial intelligence was the highest ranked at 50% followed by cloud computing at 47% and renewable energy technologies at 40%.

“A permacrisis is defined as an extended period of instability and insecurity and the next five years are certainly going to be very interesting.

“However, it’s not all doom and gloom, and companies that can get on the front foot, particularly when it comes to ESG policies and practices, are going to be those that find success during this volatility,” Adams said.