The Role of the PR Adviser in Driving ESG Change

December 5, 2021

It’s highly likely that we will look back on the last few years as a tipping point. The fallout from the pandemic has shifted the global agenda, and the idea of corporate value creation is no longer centred around shareholder primacy to the exclusion of all else.

Firms are now required to demonstrate how they’re bringing value to the world regarding their environmental, social, and governance contributions. As leaders and executives grapple with implementing these changes in their own organizations, I believe that the role of the strategic communications adviser is becoming increasingly vital in not just supporting, but driving this new agenda.

At CW8, we back founders and leaders with bold visions who are intent on changing the world at scale. For example, our client Pure Harvest is pioneering sustainable smart farms that produce fresh Mediterranean vegetables year-round in the arid deserts of the Middle East and South Asia.

But if we only sought out clients with a worldview that matched our own, we’d be missing an opportunity and failing to live up to our responsibility as advisers. As companies and brands strive to make the change to become greener, more socially responsible and champions of diversity, we have a role to play in helping to drive that change, connecting our clients with broader ESG initiatives, and then empowering them to communicate these strategies with impact.

Moreover, the PR adviser has a vital role in realizing the value of the ESG agenda. After all, PR companies exist to help brands create a communication strategy that brings value to the company, and ESG is now intrinsically linked to value generation in several ways.

The Intrinsic Relationship Between Communication, Value, and ESG

Prioritizing the green agenda and addressing social issues is becoming critical to the ability to engage and retain stakeholders, including customers, investors, and employees. A 2020 global study of over 8,000 consumers and 75 brands revealed some eye-opening insights into customer preferences. It examined “Strength of Purpose,” as defined by eight elements covering participating companies' values, ethical and sustainable business practices, and diversity. It found that customers were four to six times more likely to trust, buy, and champion companies with a strong purpose, and yet only 37% believed that companies today have a clear purpose. Effectively, that’s value being left on the table.

In a similar vein, it’s proven that higher-performing companies have more diverse workforces, creating a value case for diversity and inclusion.

Communication is the thread that ties all this together, and so that’s where the role of the PR expert as a trusted adviser comes in. An effective communication strategy is where firms have the opportunity to showcase their purpose and their ESG results. As such, this represents the best chance for PR firms to step up and help drive the change from within.

Narrowing the gap between the communities leading the adoption of fintech, and their representation in the developer community building fintech ecosystems will be crucial to achieving more equitable outcomes for these participants, as well as more profitable businesses according to more and more research.

Caroline Criado Perez’s chart-topping book ‘Invisible women: data bias in a world designed for men‘ illustrates how, in our tech-centric lives, the requirements of minority groups and women are frequently overlooked because they simply don’t have a seat on the design team. Technologies are then tailored by default to best suit the male and majority group experience, often lacking vital accommodations or design features that would benefit other parties - like mobile-first launches to enable earlier access to fintech products in emerging markets. Entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds are more likely to develop tech solutions that address a need they themselves experience. It all depends, Criado Perez argues ‘on who is going to be allowed to do the inventing’.

While headline findings from the Fintech Diversity Radar’s (FDR) latest (2021) report on diversity in fintech make for somber reading, there are some glimmers of hope. In the regions where the financial inclusion and poverty gaps are the widest, including the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America, the FDR report found that the number of female fintech leaders is rising more rapidly than in other sectors. Cointelegraph has also reportedthat the number of women entering the blockchain and cryptocurrency jobs market is rising steeply. This is a particularly welcome indicator, given how central this sector is becoming in shaping the future of financial services.

We live in an era of accelerative transformation, and it is the responsibility of the tech sector as a whole to recognize the rewards of valuing ‘outsider’ ideas and encouraging a diversity of thought to proliferate within our companies, which is evidenced to best foster innovation.

By Seán Pattwell
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