Apr 15, 2024


by Rebecca Sistruck

ESG: Doing Right By People and Our Planet

Now more than ever, why we work is intricately linked to our local, national, and global communities. This link has brought about a reckoning of responsibility, with a long-overdue lens focused on organizational accountability to create spaces that support employees and their work. Although nuanced, achieving this accountability begins by tying organizations’ greatest environmental and social impacts to their values and belief systems.

As I contemplate the future of work, I am deeply driven by the pressing need to promote social equity and reduce environmental impact. I regularly engage in conversations with the next generation, including my own young adult children, about why concepts like equality, transparency and accountability, which seem inherently simple, can be so challenging to implement. The world should afford all humans fair and just treatment. Solving that complex but straightforward problem would align the workplace accordingly.

In today’s world, social inequity and climate change are at a critical crossroads. Global events and actions have had a domino effect on our communities. We saw a prime example in June 2023 as the devastating wildfires in Canada resulted in reduced air quality throughout the US East Coast. We cannot afford to ignore or become paralyzed by the expansiveness of the global issues before us. A global pandemic clarified how connected we are and how our choices at micro and macro levels impact both humanity and the communities where we live and work.

We find ourselves at a crossroad between the “volunteerism phase” and the “evaluation and adoption phase.” No longer can we afford a selective approach. We must understand where we are and how we can set goals to measurably improve, as inaction has dire consequences. Even at the individual level, action brings about momentum and increased awareness, which leads to more collective action.


ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) has become a commonplace acronym in the world of business, strategy, and planning. In its simplest form, ESG is first, “doing the right thing by people and our planet,” then being able to document and prove that value. The “governance” component of ESG brings both opportunity and challenge. Trust, competence, accuracy, and accountability play a key role in ensuring that business strategies support the environment and its inhabitants.

As the prominence of social consciousness continues to rise, the influence of both public and privately owned business regulatory reporting requires a harder look at the organizational role of supporting their people and keeping the planet habitable for future generations. While publicly held companies have launched more formalized ESG initiatives and reporting, some privately held companies are still grappling with how to effectively define and prioritize environmental and socially conscious reporting.

75% of U.S. executives say ESGs have a positive impact on employee engagement. 86% of workers who work for organizations with ESG-related goals said their employer’s ESG goals made them proud to work there, make their jobs more meaningful, and make them want to stay with their organization.

Winter 2023 SHRM People
& Strategy Journa

Whether public or private, these critical and time-sensitive considerations have moved up the business agenda. We are seeing a major transition from financially motivated ESG initiatives to avoid risk to ESG initiatives that align with customer expectations and employee demands for purposeful work. These initiatives influence organizations’ business drivers, work processes, and engagement with their stakeholders, customers, and employees.


  • Stakeholder Expectations demand transparency, accountability, and responsible practices from organizations.
  • Employee Expectations are high, and employees are more likely to be engaged and committed when they feel their organization is socially and environmentally responsible.
  • Strategic Decision Making proactively manages risks, enhances resilience and drives innovation, and competitiveness.
  • Sustainable Growth Strategies and ESG align, providing better positioning to capitalize on emerging market shifts while differentiating from competitors.


  • Talent
    Organizations that neglect ESG considerations may struggle to recruit and retail skilled employees, leading to talent shortages and increased turnover. A lack of diverse talent can also hinder innovation and limit the organization’s ability to adapt to changing market dynamics.
  • Market Relevance
    Organizations that fail to adapt and meet these expectations may find themselves falling behind their competitors and losing out on potential business opportunities.
  • Reputation
    In today’s interconnected world, negative publicity related to environmental damage, labor violations, or ethical misconduct can damage a company’s image.
  • Operational & Financial
    Failure to address social risks can result in legal disputes, employee unrest, and damaged relationships with local communities. Environmental risks, such as resource scarcity, pollution, and climate change impacts, can disrupt supply chains, increase operational costs, and lead to regulatory penalties.

It is important to prioritize both people’s and the environment’s needs, as one cannot exist without the other. Organizations and leaders have significant power and resources and, therefore, a collective responsibility to make positive changes. Organizations can establish a best practice strategy by combining business metrics with ESG metrics. This enables them to document and report measurable impacts from social and environmental policies—a smart equation for a sustainable strategy that drives societal progress.

Learn more about the working world and how its culture is being redefined. Little’s recently published Beyond Workplace III book explores the possibilities, the realities, and even the impossible.


Rebecca Sistruck

Rebecca is a Workplace Strategy Leader and Prosci Certified Change Practitioner at Little, always connecting the dots between clients’ business drivers and people-centric workplace strategies. As a working mom of two young adults, she excels in designing intentional outcomes to create the ideal human experience. When given a choice, she’ll always opt for dining outside and incorporates yoga and meditation into her daily routine, supporting her belief that the journey is more important than the destination.

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