Putting sustainability into action: CHROs driving ESG in the workplace

Joanne Flinn, Chairwoman of the ESG Institute, discusses how CHROs can play a practical and strategic role in driving sustainability.
By: | July 19, 2023

Joanne Flinn, Chairwoman of the ESG Institute, conducted an engaging ESG Workshop at the recently concluded HR Tech Festival Asia 2023, and examined the role of the CHRO in addressing the twin challenges of sustainability and staff retention, motivation, and performance.

Striving to create business value that will support long-term growth, a growing number of organisations are increasingly looking to integrate sustainability into their corporate strategies. In the ASEAN region, sustainability and the transition to a low-carbon economy as a strategic imperative for the wellbeing of people is beginning to gain pace, said Joanne Flinn, Chairwoman of the ESG Institute.

She told HRM Asia, “Going into the second half of 2023, as business plans and budgets for 2024 come together, more and more leaders are integrating sustainability into their strategy and organisational DNA.”

Adding brand value will also be a priority, as consumers look for sustainability and Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) credentials in the organisations they conduct business with, who in turn must adhere to increased regulation.

To help organisations in ASEAN respond to the needs of this transition, the ESG Institute has established an ESG Maturity Model Standard for businesses and is working with the Institute of Directors so that boards can deepen their insights into sustainability and what it means for their business strategically.

Additionally, the release of the ESG123 certification for key roles such as management, finance, procurement, and HR aims to provide the confidence for business executives to understand the latest developments in the fast-moving space of sustainability.

Having conducted an engaging ESG Workshop as part of HR Tech Festival Asia 2023, which examined the role of the CHRO in addressing the twin challenges of sustainability and staff retention, motivation, and performance, Flinn was also keen to continue the conversation around how CHROs can take to play a more proactive and influential role in driving sustainability within their organisations.

She declared, “There is no better time than today for CHROs to take a more proactive and influential role in driving sustainability within their organisations. As a leader of change, CHROs can take a practical role in driving sustainability through the organisation with three actions.”

Firstly, get employees on the sustainability and ESG competency ladders so that they can understand core concepts and make better decisions. Then, focus on sustainability engagement as a programme that touches on all stages of the employee lifecycle and lastly, integrate sustainability and ESG into key organisational metrics and reward processes to accelerate action.

The work, however, does not end there for CHROs, who can also take a strategic role in driving sustainability by engaging the rest of the C-suite.

Flinn said, “Ask them if your organisation is ready for a seismic shift in consumer demands for ESG. What happens if key customers make ESG credentials necessary for us to stay on our supply lists?”

In Singapore, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) have issued consultation papers for ESG and sustainability reporting for large, private organisations. Are they ready for the regulations that are rapidly coming, asked Flinn.

She continued, “Are we able to respond rapidly enough to retain our place in the market? As CHROs, you’ll have a strong appreciation that the mindset shift required for sustainability and building human competency takes time. If you can answer these questions, your employees and potential employees will value your leadership.”

Taking ESG beyond the workplace

While Flinn’s ESG Workshop at HR Tech Festival Asia 2023 focused largely on importance of ESG skills and capacities for organisations, attendees were also keen to understand how they can help employees in their organisation make smart choices beyond work to support sustainability.

Walk the talk at work, is Flinn’s reflective response. “This includes ensuring your people know more than the basics about ESG and have the opportunity to share experiences with each other,” she said.

“The social proof that others are doing this too lifts engagement and it makes smart choices normal. Some might be as practical as how they have their boys do housework or encourage their girls into sports and physical fitness on the Social side of ESG. On the Environment side, it could be how they went past separating waste and found ways to compost or how they implemented low plastic in the house.”

READ: The role HR can play to enable ESG outcomes

To learn more about how CHROs can put sustainability into action, join Flinn and the ESG Institute at a series of one-day masterclasses on ESG. As part of HRM Asia’s CHRO Series 2023, the ESG Masterclass is scheduled for 19 October in Indonesia, 22 November in Malaysia, and 6 December in Singapore.

Designed to equip HR leaders with the necessary knowledge and tools to navigate the growing importance of ESG considerations in today’s business landscape, the ESG Masterclass will offer key insights into the business value of investing in people and sustainability, as well as strategies for integrating sustainable practices into organisations.

To register for the ESG Masterclass and CHRO Series 2023, click here.