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ESG Standards: The New Imperative for Building a Sustainable Future for Business


Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) Standards are becoming increasingly important in today's business world. Companies prioritizing ESG are more likely to attract investors, retain customers, and be viewed positively by society. In this blog post, we'll explore the importance of ESG standards, their impact on companies, and some of the challenges and opportunities associated with implementing them.

Gartner's definition is Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) refers to a collection of corporate performance evaluation criteria that assess the robustness of a company’s governance mechanisms and its ability to effectively manage its environmental and social impacts. Examples of ESG data include the quantification of a company’s carbon emissions, water consumption, or customer privacy breaches. Institutional investors, stock exchanges, and boards increasingly use sustainability and social responsibility disclosure information to explore the relationship between a company’s management of ESG risk factors and its business performance.

ESG Standards - What You Need to Know


Environmental standards refer to a company's commitment to reducing its environmental impact. This can include reducing carbon emissions, conserving energy and water, using sustainable materials, and minimizing waste. A study conducted by Harvard Business Review found that companies with a strong focus on environmental sustainability outperformed their peers in terms of stock performance and return on assets.

The global push towards environmental sustainability has led to the creation of various frameworks and guidelines to help companies achieve their sustainability goals. The most commonly used frameworks include the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB), and the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD).

Social Standards

Social standards refer to a company's commitment to treating its employees, customers, and communities fairly and responsibly. Social standards commitments can include:

  • Providing safe working conditions

  • Promoting diversity and inclusion

  • Respecting human rights

  • Supporting local communities

Companies prioritizing social responsibility are more likely to attract and retain top talent, build stronger customer relationships, and enhance their reputation.

The United Nations Global Compact is one of the most well-known initiatives promoting social responsibility. It encourages companies to adopt ten principles related to human rights, labor, the environment, and anti-corruption. In addition, the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) and the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Index are widely used to measure a company's social performance.

Governance Standards

Governance standards refer to a company's commitment to maintaining ethical and transparent business practices. Governance Standards commitments can include:

  • Having independent boards

  • Ensuring accountability

  • Preventing corruption

  • Protecting shareholder rights

Good governance practices are essential for ensuring that companies are managed responsibly and sustainably over the long term.


The Global Corporate Governance Principles, developed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), is the most widely recognized governance standard. Other popular frameworks include the International Corporate Governance Network (ICGN) and the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI). Learn more.

Benefits of ESG Standards

There are numerous benefits associated with implementing ESG standards. For example:

  • Improved financial performance: A study conducted by Harvard Business Review found that companies with strong ESG performance outperformed their peers in terms of stock performance and return on assets.

  • Enhanced reputation: Companies that prioritize ESG are more likely to be viewed positively by customers, employees, and society at large. This can lead to increased brand loyalty, better customer relationships, and a stronger social license to operate.

  • Reduced risk: Companies that prioritize ESG are better equipped to manage risks related to climate change, social issues, and governance practices. This can help reduce the risk of reputational damage, legal issues, and financial losses.

  • Access to capital: Investors are increasingly looking for companies that prioritize ESG and are willing to invest in companies that demonstrate strong ESG performance. This can provide companies with access to a broader pool of capital.

The Stats

Several statistics highlight the growing importance of ESG standards in today's business world; for example:

  1. According to a report by the Global Sustainable Investment Alliance, global sustainable investment assets reached $35.3 trillion in 2020, up 15% from 2018. This suggests that investors are increasingly interested in companies that prioritize sustainability and ESG considerations.

  2. A survey by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services found that 89% of executives believe that a strong sense of purpose contributes to business success. ESG considerations can help companies define and communicate their purpose, which can, in turn, enhance their reputation and attract customers and investors.

  3. A study by MSCI found that companies with strong ESG ratings outperformed those with weak ESG ratings regarding stock price performance and profitability. This suggests that companies prioritizing ESG considerations can gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

  4. A survey by the United Nations Global Compact found that 93% of CEOs believe that sustainability will be essential to the future success of their company. This suggests that ESG considerations are increasingly seen as a critical component of long-term business strategy.

These statistics suggest that ESG standards are not just a passing trend but a key driver of business sustainability and success. Companies prioritizing ESG considerations are more likely to attract investors, retain customers, and enhance their reputation in today's increasingly sustainability-conscious business environment.

Challenges and Opportunities

While many benefits are associated with implementing ESG standards, companies should also be aware of the challenges and opportunities.


  • Data availability: One of the biggest challenges associated with ESG reporting is the availability and quality of data. Companies often lack the necessary data infrastructure to collect and report on ESG metrics.

  • Standardization: There are numerous frameworks and standards related to ESG, and companies may struggle to choose the most appropriate one for their business.

  • Implementation: Implementing ESG standards requires significant resources and commitment, which can be a challenge for some companies. However, there are several strategies that companies can adopt to successfully implement ESG standards:

    1. Set clear goals and objectives: Companies should establish clear and measurable goals and objectives related to ESG. This can guide their efforts and track their progress over time.

    2. Engage stakeholders: Implementing ESG standards requires collaboration and engagement with different stakeholders, including employees, customers, investors, and communities. Companies should seek input from these groups to help inform their ESG strategies.

    3. Integrate ESG into business practices: Companies should integrate ESG considerations into their core business practices, including decision-making processes, risk management, and performance management.

    4. Invest in data infrastructure: Companies should invest in data infrastructure to support the collection, analysis, and reporting of ESG metrics. This can improve the quality and availability of ESG data.

    5. Monitor and report on progress: Companies should regularly monitor and report on their progress toward achieving their ESG goals and objectives. This helps build trust with stakeholders and demonstrate their commitment to sustainability.

While implementing ESG standards may require significant resources and commitment, there are several strategies that companies can adopt to successfully incorporate ESG considerations into their business strategies.


  • Innovation: Embracing ESG standards can drive innovation and promote the development of new products and services that meet sustainability criteria.

  • Collaboration: Implementing ESG standards requires collaboration between different stakeholders, including investors, employees, customers, and communities. This can lead to stronger relationships and increased trust.

  • Competitive advantage: Companies prioritizing ESG can gain a competitive advantage by differentiating themselves from their peers and appealing to socially conscious customers and investors.


ESG standards are becoming increasingly important in today's business world. Companies prioritizing environmental sustainability, social responsibility, and good governance practices are more likely to attract investors, retain customers, and enhance their reputation. While challenges are associated with implementing ESG standards, there are also significant opportunities for innovation, collaboration, and competitive advantage. As the global push towards sustainability continues, it is essential for companies to embrace ESG standards and incorporate them into their business strategies.


Ilka Jordan

About the Author: Ilka Jordan

Ilka Jordan is a passionate and experienced transformation executive with a proven track record of success. Specializing in business strategy, innovation, and technology, Ilka is a strategic thought leader in her field. With her collaborative approach and talent for identifying opportunities for improvement and designing effective solutions, she has helped guide companies through successful transformations.

As the founder and CEO of Jordan Alliance Group, a boutique management consulting and learning firm, Ilka is committed to delivering exceptional results for her clients. Her team of experts specializes in process optimization, change management, and technology implementation. As a minority-owned, women-led firm, JAG is one of the first of its kind in the industry, and Ilka is proud to lead a team that shares her commitment to excellence.

Ilka is also a DBA student, continually developing her craft and staying at the forefront of her field. Her expertise has benefited many high-profile enterprises, and she is dedicated to ensuring the success of your company's transformation efforts. Contact Ilka today and experience the transformative power of her strategic thought leadership.


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