The role of ESG in navigating the path to a sustainable future

Karen Basiye, Director, Sustainable Business, Social Impact & the Foundations, Safaricom PLC. [Courtesy]

As world leaders, policymakers, and stakeholders convened in Dubai for COP28, the urgency to address pressing climate concerns is palpable. The convergence of digital innovation, sustainability, and global climate action creates an unprecedented opportunity for transformative change.

At the heart of this transformation lies Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) principles, which have emerged as a critical catalyst in steering us towards a more sustainable future.

 Indeed, the role of ESG in influencing policies, business strategies, and societal norms has intensified, creating an impactful shift towards organisational operations, investor capital allocation, and societal perceptions of growth inside the ever-changing domains of business and finance.

ESG principles, often viewed through the lens of responsible investing serve as a guiding framework in the wake of companies embracing sustainability. But what exactly is ESG?

This is a three-part framework that evaluates a company‘s activities and their influence on numerous societal and environmental factors.

Environmental elements are concerned with a company‘s influence on the environment, including climate, energy, and waste policy.

Social factors examine how a corporation interacts with society, including labour policies, diversity, human rights, and community involvement. Governance assesses the internal structures and policies that guide the organisation, such as board diversity and ethical conduct.

 Today‘s world is confronted with diverse challenges that need immediate attention and innovative solutions.

Traditional approaches that formerly sufficed are no longer adequate in dealing with the intricacy of these challenges.

The issues we face are increasingly interconnected and overwhelming in extent, ranging from the growing threat of climate change, insufficient natural resources, and environmental degradation to socioeconomic inequality, health crises, and geopolitical conflicts.

 ESG, as opposed to traditional Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), launches a revolutionary strategy by embedding accountability at the very heart of corporations.

ESG pushes companies to rethink internal operations, procedures, and decision-making - creating a culture of responsibility throughout the organisation, where profit is achieved in harmony with responsible, sustainable practices rather than at the expense of societal and environmental well-being. ESG promotes an impact reporting culture by promoting transparent sharing of non-financial performance measures. This reporting promotes accountability while also allowing stakeholders to assess a company‘s commitment to sustainability and social impact.

Through robust ESG practices, companies are not only able to measure their progress towards sustainability goals but also strengthen their dedication to creating positive change.

Many businesses throughout the world are now appreciating the critical need to incorporate ESG principles into their business strategy. Safaricom, for example, has since 2012, been reporting by the ESG requirements, all linked to our purpose, ‘Transforming Lives’.

The company focuses on four purpose pillars which are creating shared value, where it leverages the power of connectivity and digital services to create inclusive business platforms and strengthen the resilience of economies throughout the entire value chain.

The telco has committed to managing its impact on the environment and developing solutions to help its customers mitigate their environmental footprint, and operating responsibly, and our people and the world around us that focus on ethics and integrity - connecting Kenyans to opportunities, knowledge, and the world respectively.

 As we continue to encounter unprecedented global challenges, businesses must not only adopt ESG as a framework but also as a guiding philosophy, incorporating sustainability, ethics, and governance into their business structures.

 As we reflect on the discussions emanating from COP28, let us align with the SDGs, embrace transparent impact reporting, and cultivate a culture of innovation, cooperation, and responsibility, so that as businesses, we can pave the way towards a more equitable, resilient, and sustainable future for generations to come.

 -The writer is the Director of Sustainable Business, Social Impact and the Foundations at Safaricom PLC.