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What are boards really doing about ESG?

When 18-year-old Essex art student Ollie Nancarrow mowed the image of a giant polar bear with the words ‘Climate change is real’ in a field below the flightpath of Air Force One in protest at Donald Trump’s recent visit to the UK, he joined a growing global movement of young protesters demanding action on climate change. 

Inspired by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, who started a weekly vigil outside the Swedish parliament last year, the movement has spread from Sweden across Europe, as well as to countries from Australia to the United States. With protestors gluing themselves to oil companies’ offices and frustrating commuters’ journeys to work in the financial district, the issue of climate change is generating more column inches and awareness than ever before.  

Climate change and the destruction of the natural world was cited by over 24,000 respondents to the 2017 World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers Survey aged 18-35 as the most critical global issue, ahead of war and inequality. Indeed, some 90% of respondents agreed that humans are responsible for climate change. As ICSA’s 2018 report, Next Generation Governance, showed, millennials in particular are concerned by environmental and social issues and expect companies to do something about them. And they are not the only ones. Many of the Extinction Rebellion demonstrators who brought part of London to a standstill earlier this year fell outside the millennial age bracket. 

With growing worldwide concern about environmental issues and increasing frustration at those politicians who are failing to deliver any real action on climate change, consumers and investors are starting to look for other methods of making their concerns felt. For instance, Morrow Sodali’s 2018 survey of global institutional investors revealed that 49% of respondents had fully integrated ESG and sustainability into their investment decision-making processes for all asset classes, with a further 44% stating that they were in the process of doing so.

Clearly, ESG is of growing importance to investors, so what exactly are boards doing to get to grips with the issue?

According to a recent report from the Diligent Institute, almost half (48%) of the respondents to their Winds of Change survey reported that their board had no established governance policies or practices related to environmental sustainability issues, which is clearly a position which needs to be rectified. Environmental and sustainability oversight, reporting and operating are all going on globally at this very moment. Now, as one respondent puts it, it’s“time to add good governance” to those practices.

Join us at 13.30 on 9 July to hear more about the report findings from Dottie Schindlinger, VP of Thought Leadership at Diligent, and Clare Wardle, General Counsel and Company Secretary at Coca-Cola European Partners. Dottie and Clare will share their thoughts on how the governance of environmental sustainability is changing, and offer some practical tips for the boardroom.

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