Putting the G into ESG

Written by Ben Draper, Group COO

ESG has been an interesting journey for us at Ward. As our understanding of what it means to run a business that’s totally accountable to environmental and social pillars evolves and deepens, so does our critical evaluation of not just what we do, but how we do it. In other words, our ethics, values and behaviours – the Governance.

I’d argue that good governance has always been the bedrock of ours and all well-run companies long before we knew about ESG. ESG as we know it today emerged in the mid-2000’s, but as the Corporate Governance Institute rightly points out, with a big exception to Environmental, you could go as far back as the industrial revolution to see how Governance and Social aspects were realised as labour conditions improved. Look no further than the progressive work of the industrialist Robert Owen in Lanark, Scotland.

But I’m interested in what good, ethical governance means for how we do business in today’s challenging environment and how we measure our progress. At Ward, we stand by three simple guiding principles of having the right motivations, carefully considered and thoughtful decision making, and operating with total transparency.

Examples of this in practice are balancing our profit with what we give back to not just employees, but the communities we serve too, be it our time or our financial support (including the corporation tax we pay). Care is one of our core values, not just for each other and our clients, but also applied to our decision making. And vital transparency, not just about what we do but also about what we still have to do. There’s a worrying swing of the pendulum towards companies not disclosing their progress towards ESG goals for fear of repercussion, especially if they’re deemed to be falling short of goals or lacking fast progress. But this is poor governance. To attain ESG standards and meet climate goals is a marathon we’ll only win if we all win. And that starts with sharing where we are and taking a long hard look at not just what you’re doing, but how you’re doing it too.

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