Today’s companies have come to understand that it isn’t enough to just make profits, to expand their market, or to establish prestige, there is also a moral imperative to demonstrate that a company cares. The phrase “Business with Purpose” is emerging as a statement of a company’s commitment to step up and to demonstrate concern or interest attached to something that is considered socially important. This might include topics ranging from global warming and forced labour, to more community-related issues such as the ‘me too’ movement, or racial injustice and homelessness.

One of the most important ways a brand addresses their acceptance of a business with purpose emphasis, is with the Environmental, Social and Government (ESG) framework.  ESG is a topic that is often referred to as “sustainable investing.” This is an umbrella term for investments that seek positive returns and long-term impact on society, environment, and the performance of the business. Most ESG efforts focus on the investment sector to demonstrate that a brand is moving towards sustainability and to reflect its desire to make the world a better place.

Photo by Claudio Schwarz on Unsplash

Two days ago, I was preparing for a panel discussion related to “ESG and Emerging Trends.”  As part of a pre-session meeting, the facilitator asked me an amazing question – ‘If you were to add another letter to ESG, what would it be?’ Without hesitation, I said, ‘P’.  He asked why this letter.  I responded, ‘P represents partnership.’

I have been working with ESG for several years.  I understand the relevance of ESG to each company, but I have also felt that the concept of ESG could be extended to include measuring the relationship companies have with other organizations, including their competitors.  What would the ‘P’ focus on?  This might include: indicators related to the relationship that companies have with the United Nations and Governments to feed into the Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs); the interactions and actions that a company takes with international multi-stakeholder organizations that address issues related to climate, poverty alleviation, hunger, labour exploitation, and more; and the efforts carried out to bring corporations together to tackle a problem as a community, not just as an individual entity.  While some of these actions can be found within existing ESG indicator categories, I’d argue that they are relevant and important enough to have their own separate designation.

Doing good and being profitable are not mutually exclusive. While individual corporate efforts are important and relevant, so are efforts that bring organizations together in partnership. This is where the global impacts and breakthroughs will happen – through combined, collective actions.

Author: Matthew Friedman