Taking ESG seriously creates new opportunities and makes it easier to build upon existing ones. As a CFO, I’ve seen this firsthand. At ServiceNow, we recognize that there’s an enormous gap between the rapidly growing demand for tech talent and the supply of workers who have the right skills to fill those jobs. That’s why we’ve launched our RiseUp initiative, which has the goal of training 1 million people on our platform by 2024. Meeting this target is mission critical for us, but we can’t do it by having a narrow view of what tech workers look like or where they come from. To meet tomorrow’s talent needs, our company—indeed, every company—must be ready to tap into the amazing human potential inherent in people of all races, ethnicities, genders, and educational backgrounds. Is that virtue signaling? Of course not. It’s just good business.
The fight against climate change offers another example of how ESG creates value and improves resilience for organizations that make it a strategic priority. Companies face pressure from a variety of stakeholders, including regulators, lawmakers, shareholders, and customers, to improve the quality of their reporting when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions and other climate impacts. But they face a challenge: The data they need is all too often collected by hand, stored in systems that can’t communicate, and stuck in organizational silos across the company. To meet these expectations of transparency, they’ll need to rely on hyperautomation to help create a single source of truth for ESG within their organizations. But such an effort won’t merely strengthen their climate reporting. As part of a broader digital transformation effort, it can boost productivity, mitigate risk, and cut costs—ultimately driving proven value.
ESG may have its critics, but the value of initiatives like these isn’t lost on corporate leaders. In fact, research shows that companies that take ESG seriously see a bigger benefit. Sixty percent of executives at companies identified as leaders in the space said their ESG programs drive improved financial results, according to a survey of 1,000 C-suite executives across five industries and 13 countries conducted by ServiceNow and ThoughtLab.
It's important to recognize that some of the pushback against ESG reflects real concerns. Greenwashing is an unfortunate reality, and some companies are more interested in marketing their ESG credentials than achieving actual results. Part of the backlash stems from initiatives that increase cost without delivering real economic value.
To counter such critiques, ESG programs must drive true change and concrete value inside of the companies that undertake them. When they don’t, they can damage credibility, erode trust, and provide fodder for skeptics who—despite all the evidence to the contrary—are all too happy to portray even the most rigorous initiatives as hollow posturing. When they do spark true transformation and proven value, ESG programs can be a competitive differentiator. In an unsettled business climate, companies would do well to seize every advantage they can.
Simply put, it’s an opportunity we can’t afford to miss. Those that don’t seize it risk falling behind.