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ESG Talk: Simplifying ESG, One Conversation at a Time

Key Takeaways

Welcome to the conversation. In the first episode of ESG Talk, we dive into the development of the ESG Talk podcast: The conversations that shape us in the field and four powerful ESG business drivers happening NOW. Let's talk. Let's listen.



S1 Episode 1: ESG Talk | Transcript


Mandi McReynolds:  

Hello, and welcome to our ESG Talk podcast. We're so glad you're here for our first episode. Today we're going to talk about the conversations that have shaped us and dive into four ESG business discussions happening right now in the market. I wanted to open up and if it's okay with you take a few moments to share what are the conversations shaping us and have it be a little bit more personal. Over 20 years ago, this book was written by Margaret Wheatley, and you will see it in our notes, or you can see it on the screen If you're watching on YouTube. It's called 'Turning to One Another in Conversation to Restore Hope to the Future.' At the time, Margaret Wheatley wrote the book because she was so discouraged by the polarization and divisiveness in conversation, and really believed that if we entered in empathy and talked to one another, we would have hope. I want to open up with this quote from her book, "We never want to be alone. But today, we are more alone, more fragmented and isolated from one another than ever before." Does that sound like your last year of the pandemic? I don't know about you, there were definitely moments in 2020, where I felt alone. She goes on to say, "As the world becomes more complex, and fearful, we need to find a way through the darkness." Just turn on your news feed or check out social media, you can see the fear and and you can feel the complex nature of the problems we're trying to solve. "The simplest way to begin finding each other is to start talking about what we care about." If you've been in the field of environment, social and governance or managing its complex nature today, we hope we can simplify it for you, every time you tune in. You see, I often think about the fact that you can get called out in this field, if you're to ESG woke, you're gonna take the company broke or you're to Wall Street that you don't care about Main Street.

I don't believe that that has to be the discussion. In fact, I have found hope over the years as business and society has come together to solve great challenges and restore hope. This didn't happen at big conferences with 1000s of attendees, or even on the newsreel. It happened with simple, quiet moments, often talking with stakeholders. Like the dirt floor of India, where students were doing circuit board development, and they were showing me their skills as I talked to a community partner who talked about the transformational law, Corporate Social Responsibility law, in India that was so ahead of its time, that it can reimagine what the future economic vitality is for youth, to the incredible employees who sat across lunchroom tables and have said "When are you going to create short term assignments, so that we can gain some skills but also learn about the future of environment, social and governance for our company for industry?". Those investment bankers, customer service representatives, office managers, seasoned marketers have added incredible value to how I think and maybe you might think about how business and society can come together to create outcomes. To the number of CEOs boardrooms and investment committees, that I've had the honor and privilege at a young age to be a part of. Together we have dialogued and debated on how do you achieve both financial and societal impact? In those difficult moments, often what we walked out of the room agreeing to is that we weren't perfect, but we made real progress. We need to have more of these conversations. So on ESG Talk we're going to have interviews with the season cynics, who have faced challenges in the career to the young hopefuls spilling the 7000 new jobs for ESG on LinkedIn. I hope to take away some learnings from it and I hope you do too. So those are the conversations we're going to have.


Mandi McReynolds:  

Let's talk about the four discussions of business value drivers that are happening in the market right now that you'll hear throughout this season. I first one to talk about investors. I mean, you can't even open up the Financial Times or enter into your marketplace without hearing how investors are thinking about environment, social and governance. Workiva went out into the market and wanted to interview institutional investors. And here's what we learned. I'm going to look down and read it so that I get this right for you. 70% of respondents across foreign markets agreed that companies should be responsible for demonstrating their ESG performance. Great, you and I would agree, right. However, respondents noted and demanded ESG data they can trust, with 64% noting that they currently find it challenging to judge whether or not companies are doing the right thing. Well, the only way you can restore trust, is if you actually spend time listening to the various stakeholders that are struggling to trust us. We need to unpack this investor conversation from the long term investor, who may debate some areas of future work and scenario testing, to the institutional investors. Like we've had the opportunity with Kevin O'Leary, "Mr. Wonderful" from Shark Tank to talk about if he thought in the market the next 1000 unicorns, we're going to restore both business and societal responsibility together for a profit. These conversations matter so that we can deliver growth to our companies.

The next one is my favorite one. It's when I have the opportunity to sit across the table from Workiva customers and potential customers. We went into the market and had over 1300 conversations with potential customers and current customers about ESG and what they were thinking about it. Here's what I learned from those closed door meetings, the pace of ESG change is unsustainable. Most of our customers spend anywhere from 200 to over 1000 hours on corporate report reporting for ESG to stakeholders. They know that they can't do it without the talent we talked about earlier, and the tools of innovation and technology to drive efficiency to drive better data driven decisions. That's why I'm so excited to bring to you our first guest Tim Mohin, who is the Chief Sustainability Officer for Persefoni, he has spent his career dedicated to building environment, social and governance in companies like Apple and Intel to serving and framework providers as an executive for GRI. Now, today, he works on innovation and fintech that can help us do our jobs better. As we think about the investor and customer perspective, we can't talk about ESG and not acknowledge the rapid change of global regulation and risk. You see, we have global regulation happening around the world. And we acknowledge that that is good for us to create some standardization. However, it is executed at the country specific level, from Singapore to the UK, to India, back to the SEC and the US. And companies have to think about how are we going to manage our regulation and risk not only in the community that our headquarters are in, but our businesses around the world. We will this week be at CefPro, it's one of the top conferences about risk and innovation. I want you to follow along with us at ESG Talk on Twitter, because we're going to share with you what this conversation of our keynote looks like as we talk about risk with geopolitics. to a panel of experts sharing how ESG relates to both of these issues. We hope to bring that conversation to live and share some reflections that can be relevant to you as you manage this area.


Mandi McReynolds:  

Finally, we need to talk about growth and creating value. We were asked by the Chief Business Review to talk about business value drivers for ESG. But I thought it was important rather than just to pontificate on our article to actually take the time and throw out a poll to you on LinkedIn. And here's what I found. 42% when I asked the question, "What was the number one business value driver For ESG in 2022?", 42% said financial growth and reduced cost. The second was talent and retention and attraction 25%. Risk and regulation was a part of the conversation. But it wasn't why you were waking up every day to drive ESG for your businesses. So we need to take some time and talk about the trends in the data that can really add to business value growth. I want you to join us if you can, at the economist US week, June 7, we're going to have a fireside chat, where we talk about big data and the Chief Sustainability Officer. If you're unable to make it will again make sure that you on ESG Talk can hear the outcomes. But remember, we can talk about the conversation shaping the field and the for business value drivers this season. But this is your discussion. This is your podcast. So please engage with us. Please be a part of the journey so that we can make sure the content is relevant, helpful, practical and useful as we aim to simplify ESG one conversation at a time. I want to end with this great quote by Linda Lambert. She said, "One great conversation can shift the direction of change forever." Thank you so much for joining us. Thank you so much for being a part of the conversation. It's only together that we can build a better world and create business and societal impact. Let's talk soon.


Workiva ESG Talk podcast




Mandi McReynolds

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