Putting the ‘e’ into ESG

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Climate actions need to speak louder than words

“It’s really irritating when they talk, but they don’t do” were the recent words of a rather exasperated Queen Elizabeth II, referring to inaction on climate changeAlthough she may not have been able to join the global leaders at the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow there is no doubt that her message will resonate across the globe – the time for talk is over!

The world’s leaders are meeting to talk about the big issues involved in sustainability and climate change and one three letter acronym that will be heard many times at COP26 will be ESG which stands for Environment, Social and Governance. But when the dust has settled and the time for talking really is over the question that many large service providers will be asking is how do we actually do something that could start to make a difference – how can we put the ‘e’ into ESG? 

Customers will walk – if all you do is talk

And one of the issues that all brands will face is that if they don’t change, and change quickly, they are going to lose customers to leaner and greener competitors. Whilst many of us might share the Queen’s skepticism about governmental action on climate change, it would be a mistake for any organisation to think that their customers’ expectations are equally low – consumers genuinely want to see corporate action which is consistent with sustainability and the core principles of ESG and it’s not just the idealistic youth of today that are driving this expectation. 

Corporates will be fully aware that ‘Millenial’ spending power has just surpassed that of the ‘Boomer’ generation.  Surveys consistently indicate that rising generations are more likely to buy from brands that they feel share their values. Furthermore, Howard Schultz, former Starbucks CEO, sees sustainability working in both directions – “If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand.” Many executives will also share the risk observation of the former CEO of Unilever, Paul Polman, who was quoted in an FT article as saying, “ My biggest fear for this company, of which I have very few, is that we lose the connection with Millenials.” 

And it is not just the consumer brands that need to ‘wake up and smell the ESG coffee’  – all service businesses are serving the very same customers and they now have a choice about who provides them with their bank account, insurance, electricity, mobile phone etc. And a digital customer experience is about much more than just a flashy mobile app and a dazzling sign-up experience if basic problems cannot be sorted further down the line

Go Digital to Go Green – or Go Home!

The message is clear to corporate executives – real actions on climate change are required quickly and not just some policy paper that outlines proposed steps towards sustainability. We deliberately reference ‘paper’ here because perhaps the quickest and easiest way for companies to immediately take action and start to put the “e” into ESG would be to digitise all paper-based communication with their customers.  The ongoing use of traditional letters sent via the postal system is increasingly likely to alienate customers, and the traditional excuse that older generations will be disadvantaged would cause even the Queen to raise an eyebrow these days. Whilst we doubt that Elizabeth II uses her phone to pay her electricity bills, her generation have quickly transitioned into the digital world and confounded the predictions of those who didn’t think that ‘going digital’ would work for all age cohorts. Below are just three examples of ‘digital journeys’ that have transformed the way whole industries deliver the services they provide to their customers of all ages and backgrounds. 

  • eTicketing for air travel
  • eMailing medical prescriptions direct to pharmacies
  • eMailing digital Covid-19 QR codes and subsequent storage on mobile wallets

Time for Talk is Over

The rallying call from COP26 is clear – the time for talking is over and everyone must start to take action. For service organisation such as banks, telcos and utilities there is no excuse for delaying action on postal waste. The mere receipt of a letter could drive a customer to switch to a greener alternative – regardless of their level of interest in Amazon deforestation. Going paperless will retain customers and deliver significant operational and financial wins for businesses.

Going digital should also benefit one other critical stakeholder – a company’s own employees. Not only do employees want their employer to act and reflect their own personal values, they also want to see a company embrace digital to reduce tedious manual tasks for both themselves and the customer.  Just imagine the joy of staff members drafting up a letter like the one illustrated below that proudly claims “This just might be the last letter you ever receive from us”. 

Hint: Try scanning the QR code in the letter above

Where to Start?

It is definitely no longer a matter of if it makes sense to go digital and it is all about how quickly companies can be seen to be making a genuine and significant step in the right direction.

If you want to find out more about how CustomerMinds has helped service providers such as the Post Office, Vodafone and Bank of Ireland put the e into ESG, click on the button below and get started on your ‘digital journey’…

Relevant Links 


Check out the following articles to see how you can use Which50 to treat vulnerable customers in a fair and compassionate manner – a key part of the
Social requirements for ESG.

Also check out this article to see why we believe that the demands of the modern consumers are one of the 3Cs that banks need to focus on to succeed in a demanding digital world :  

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