ESG Inquiry

Critical questions for a more sustainable future

As builders and operators of the future, how do you ensure you are developing a resilient company that will benefit society? The ESG Inquiry tool supports founders, leaders and teams to integrate Environmental, Social, and Governance considerations into core business practices.

1. Consider where your company is on the ESG journey (Foundation, Integration, or Activation)

2. Choose the appropriate question set, and share the phase-specific* survey with employees,

    board members, and investors to further prioritize relevant questions

3. Bring the most relevant questions to your next board meeting or team workshop, and       

    incorporate new inquiries as you progress

 

and always keep asking.

*Which ESG phase is your company in?

Foundation

Forming the bedrock of ESG-aligned business practices.

Integration

Building on Foundational questions, and integrating ESG efforts into every aspect of our business.

Activation

Growing our competency in evaluating our ESG-aligned performance over time.

Select question set

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Foundation
1

Framing ESG

What does our company do for profit that makes a positive difference for a broad group of stakeholders - people and the planet? How do our vision, mission and values become more alive every day?

Who are our stakeholders? How do we balance trade-offs between goals of shareholders and a broader group of stakeholders? How do we engage with stakeholders from the communities we impact and who influence our decisions?

How should we define and share what sustainability means for our organization? How can good ESG practices drive long-term performance?

Who is responsible for our sustainability efforts? How does the C-suite manage and communicate about ESG topics? How do we ensure mechanisms for addressing performance issues?

How do we identify positive and negative E, S, or G impacts across our value chain, and integrate ESG considerations into decision making practices?

How does our business model align with achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals or other sustainable development frameworks and standards?

Environmental

What are the most significant environmental impacts of our products, operations and goals, and how do we actively steward natural resources (energy, water, waste)?

What risks posed by climate change do we face, and how will our business manage the transition to a net-zero carbon economy?

Social

How are our operations, products, and voice actively contributing to gender, racial and ethnic justice, and challenging inequality? How does our business reflect the knowledge and needs of communities who experience systemic inequities?

How do we create a fair and inclusive company and incorporate diversity, equity and inclusion into our culture, hiring, pay structure and career advancement practices? How do we evaluate diversity at the staff, executive and board levels? How do we create company routines that authentically acknowledge and celebrate diversity and human rights?

How do we create a healthy and engaging workplace and empower our employees (e.g. educational opportunities)?

Governance

How do we enable board oversight of ESG performance, strategy and risk (e.g. independent and impartial board members)? Are our executive compensation and remuneration policies aligned with long-term performance? Do we tie corporate pay to ESG performance?

Key ESG topics for all stages

ENVIRONMENTAL

Air pollution
Carbon footprint
Climate change
Cloud sustainability
Electronic waste
Resource efficiency
Environmental justice
Habitat / biodiversity
Product lifecycle management
Supplier assessments
Sustainable materials and packaging
Waste production and recycling
Water usage 

SOCIAL

Animal welfare
Community health and safety
Consumer protection
Diversity, equity, justice and inclusion
Data protection and privacy
Ethical technology
Ethical supply chain
Health and wellness
Human rights
Occupational health and safety
Stakeholder engagement
Job quality
Labor practices
Pay equity

GOVERNANCE

Accountability mechanisms
Anti-bribery and anti-corruption
Board oversight
Climate change
Culture
Diversity, equity, justice and inclusion

Ethics
Executive pay
Non-discrimination
Purpose
Transparency

Definitions

ENVIRONMENTAL, SOCIAL, GOVERNANCE (ESG)

Sustainability standards used by companies and investors to evaluate risks and opportunities, set goals, and measure performance across three dimensions, (E) Performance related to topics such as natural resource use, climate risks, and waste, (S) Performance related to treatment of individuals, organizations, communities and society, and (G) Performance related to fair, accountable and transparent corporate practices and actions. 

ETHICAL TECHNOLOGY

Considering the potential effects of technology on people, the planet, and humanity. Assessing the values and morals that guide technology production, and the impacts of technology use. 

MATERIALITY AND MATERIAL TOPICS

A lens for understanding the relevance of specific issues or topics for a business and its impacts in society. “Material topics” are prioritized sustainability impact areas (e.g. carbon emissions, diversity and inclusion). A “materiality analysis” reveals topics that both, 1) influence stakeholder assessments of a company and 2) the company significantly impacts. Material topics can be financially relevant now or in the future. Materiality assessments guide what ESG topics a company will focus and report on (see SASB, GRI, etc.)

PURPOSE STATEMENT

A purpose statement articulates what a company does for profit that benefits a broader group of stakeholders, including humanity and the planet.

REPORTING FRAMEWORKS

Standards bodies serve the purpose of providing resources and third-party frameworks for assessing and reporting on material topics. Two major reporting frameworks related to ESG for companies are the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) and the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). SASB focuses on an investor audience while GRI focuses on a broader group of stakeholders. SASB and GRI can be helpful references to identify material topics and support sustainability reporting and communications. TCFD provides guidance on climate related disclosures.

STAKEHOLDERS

People or entities who are impacted by a business and its products, or who significantly influence the company’s operations. Examples of stakeholders include employees, customers, capital providers, governments, and local communities.

In 2015 the United Nations General Assembly established seventeen UN Sustainable Development Goals intended to be achieved by 2030. These are interrelated global goals focused on building a more sustainable and equitable future for everyone.

What is ESG? Environmental, Social and Governance standards used by companies and investors to evaluate risks and opportunities, set goals, and measure performance across three dimensions, (E) Performance related to topics such as natural resource use, climate risks, and waste, (S) Performance related to treatment of individuals, organizations, communities and society, and (G) Performance related to company leadership and fair, accountable and transparent corporate practices and actions. 

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