ESG issues are raising up the boardroom agenda – Helen Cordon

Helen Cordon, Partner and Employment Law Specialist at Pinsent Masons

International governments’ commitments to curb rising global temperatures are influencing the attitudes and actions of lenders and investors, giving employers reason to consider environmental and sustainability issues afresh.

HR professionals can play a critical role in shaping and delivering ESG strategies, leading practical environmental policies to help employees cut a business ‘carbon footprint, linking those policies to a business’ purpose and values, and helping companies address their skills gaps. the process.

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One example is the travel policy. Different individuals and departments are likely to have different needs and a one-size-fits-all approach to business travel may not be appropriate, but HR can disassociate policies so that employees understand them.

Focused young students listening to notes of interns workers making old senior female manager coach mentor leader teacher talking at group office meeting instructing business work team with laptop

HR is also well-placed to identify and implement sustainability issues on training that complement policies, while environmental considerations can also be fed into appropriate reward, development and recruitment strategies. An emerging trend is the linking of pay incentives to the achievement of carbon reduction or other ‘green’ goals by employees.

With environmental issues becoming an increasingly emotive issue, HR professionals will need support from legal teams on managing issues such as employee activism and environmental whistleblowing.

How an organization manages relationships with its customers, suppliers, employees and the communities in which it operates is important. Equality, diversity and inclusion are strong components, but modern slavery and health and safety management are also considerations.

HR teams can support D&I networks and employee resource groups, with the right purpose and governance to drive real change in an organization. Collecting and analyzing diversity data can inform the setting of appropriate targets for increasing gender and ethnic minority representation.

Legal teams can advise on HR management data protection issues inherent in the collection of diversity data, on the terminology used in onboarding documentation, contracts and HR policies are inclusive and meet legislative requirements, while also supporting pay equity and transparency initiatives, such as equal pay. Audits and pay gap reporting.

HR professionals can help drive accountability and transparency by aligning the business with its purpose and values. Impactful organizational structure and leadership can lead to better investor and employee relations, reduce risks and regulatory pressure and increase government support.

Many businesses are taking the lead in responding to the ESG agenda of HR in the boardroom where the function is able to directly influence strategy and culture. Working with legal advisers, HR can support the board in pay reporting and audits, and with modeling to inform recruitment and succession planning around company, industry and regulatory goals.

In a competitive labor market it is important that businesses do all they can to attract and retain the best people and an organisation’s approach to the ESG agenda can be a differentiator in this regard. If employees have a choice over which organization to join and whose salary and benefits packages are comparable, then the deciding factor may be driven by the ESG agenda.

Helen Cordon, Partner and Employment Law Specialist at Pinsent Masons

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