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‘An important issue’: ESG is fast-growing and ever-evolving

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Director of impact? Global head of human rights? A decade ago, most professionals wouldn’t have dreamed they could incorporate this type of ‘position with purpose’ into a corporate career.

But as commercial organisations are increasingly being judged by both customers and shareholders on their approach to corporate social responsibility, these types of jobs are becoming increasingly common.

Grouped under the term ESG – which means environmental, social and governance, but is referred to almost exclusively by the acronym – the field offers plenty of diversity. While most large businesses have had a compliance and risk focus for decades, the ‘environmental’ and ‘social’ elements of the ESG profession are becoming increasingly visible, particularly within Australia’s largest organisations.

Robert Poole, national lead partner at KPMG.Credit:Wayne Taylor

“From the perspective of boards and from the perspective of our workforce, it’s an important issue,” says Robert Poole, leader of ESG strategy at KPMG Australia.

An organisation’s first ESG manager is usually focused solely on strategy; setting up processes for the company’s ESG approach to be heard, often up to the board level.

Once a company has had an ESG manager for a while, the role evolves.

“Most companies now have put their cards on the table. They’ve written their first sustainability report. Now, they are moving the actions of ESG into operations,” says Poole.

Poole believes ESG responsibilities will eventually become the responsibility of most employees, in the same way we now approach workplace health and safety at work. Sure, overall responsibility lies with the professionals, but each individual in an organisation factors it into their day-to-day thinking.

“More and more [ESG] will become part of everyone’s job,” Poole says.

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