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What is ESG - Environmental, Social and Governance Criteria?

Environmental, social, and governance, or ESG, refers to the three crucial elements when assessing a financial investment's sustainability and moral impact on a corporation or a business.

What is ESG - Environmental, Social and Governance Criteria?

Published on:

29 Feb 2024

Environmental, social, and governance, or ESG, refers to the three crucial elements when assessing a financial investment’s sustainability and moral impact on a corporation or a business. Most socially conscious investors assess firms using ESG criteria when evaluating investments.

It is a general phrase used in capital markets and frequently used by investors to assess corporate behavior and forecast future financial results.

ESG factors are a subset of non-financial performance indicators that cover moral, environmentally friendly, and corporate governance concerns. These concerns include things like putting systems in place to ensure accountability and reducing the corporation’s carbon footprint.

Rising inequality, the shift from a linear to a circular economy, climate change, and balancing societal and economic requirements are just a few significant issues facing our world today. Businesses need to be effective stewards of financial capital and natural and social capital and have the proper governance framework in place. This is what investors are increasingly demanding. ESG is becoming more significant from the standpoint of acquiring debt and equity financing as more and more investors incorporate ESG factors into their investment decision-making process.


The “environmental” component of ESG refers to the environmental impact of a corporation. This can involve the: greenhouse gas emissions, water and waste management methods, and conservation initiatives of a business. Due to their efforts to reduce their environmental impact, companies with excellent ESG practices in this area are frequently viewed as more responsible and sustainable.


A company’s social impact is considered the “social” component of ESG. This can include how a business treats its employees, interacts with suppliers and other stakeholders, and engages with the neighborhood. They are making efforts to guarantee that their operations benefit society. Businesses with good ESG practices in this area are frequently viewed as more responsible and ethical. The social category of ESG may encompass specific problems like diversity and inclusion, employment policies, and human rights.


A corporation’s governance procedures and policies are referred to as the “governance” component of ESG. This comprises the management and leadership structure of the business, its decision-making procedures, and openness. Because they have adequate procedures to ensure they are managed ethically and transparently, companies with excellent ESG practices in the governance sector are frequently considered more responsible and accountable. Executive pay, board diversity, and shareholder rights are a few specific concerns that may fall under the governance area of ESG.

ESG and SGD have a close association with one another. Many of the topics covered by the SGDs, such as inequality and climate change, are also essential ESG factors. It is possible to promote sustainable development objectives and have a good effect on society and the environment by investing in firms that perform well on ESG measures. On the other hand, investing in businesses with subpar ESG performance risks undermining the SGDs and causing unfavorable social and environmental effects.

What Companies Should do to Mitigate Legal and Reputational Risks about the ESG

Develop and implement strong ESG policies and practices: Businesses should have definite rules and procedures in place to handle concerns related to the environment, society, and governance. All employees and stakeholders should be informed of these rules, which should comply with all applicable laws and regulations.

Monitor and report on ESG performance

Businesses should have a set of definite rules and procedures in place to handle concerns related to the ESG. All employees and stakeholders should be informed of these rules, which should comply with all applicable laws and regulations.

Engage with stakeholders

Businesses should actively involve their stakeholders, such as staff members, clients, investors, and community members, to comprehend their ESG concerns and resolve potential problems. 

Manage risks proactively

Potential ESG risks should be identified and evaluated by businesses, and procedures should be in place to manage and reduce these risks. This might entail carrying out risk analyses, creating risk management committees, and carrying out risk management strategies.

Seek out guidance and support

To manage complicated ESG concerns and make sure they are taking the necessary precautions to avoid legal and reputational risks, and companies may choose to seek advice and support from other sources, such as industry groups, consultants, and legal experts.

According to a recent survey by OCEG ESG, the common areas of ESG impact were lead by brand and reputation. The various effect zones mutually depend on one another; they cannot exist alone. Investment choices are influenced by customer satisfaction. Both customer and employee satisfaction impact brand and reputation. Financial results have connections to both investors and customers. ESG impacts will continue to expand overall, both favorably as corporations make their ESG efforts more visible and negatively when ESG-related failures in areas of environmental and social concern occur, regardless of which is now “in the lead,” as stated.

Adoption of ESG Technology

The use of technology to support and enhance an organization’s ESG practices is referred to as the adoption of ESG (environmental, social, and governance) technology. This can encompass a huge variety of technologies, including:

Environment Technologies

These include technology like renewable energy, energy efficiency, and water conservation intended to assist businesses in lessening their negative environmental impact.

Social technologies

These include supply chain management systems, training and development systems, and human resources management systems, all of which are intended to assist businesses in improving their social performance.

Governance technologies

These technologies, such as risk management, compliance, and transparency tools, are intended to assist businesses in strengthening their governance procedures.

Utilizing ESG technologies can help businesses reduce legal and reputational risks while enhancing their ESG performance. Additionally, it can aid companies in lowering expenses, boosting productivity, and strengthening their standing in the market. However, it is crucial for businesses to carefully weigh the advantages and disadvantages of implementing ESG technologies and to make sure they have the resources and knowledge required to do so.

According to the poll, only 10% of respondents said they used technology entirely, and another 30% said they only used it for some aspects of environmental, social, and governance (ESG). More than 60% of these attempts do not use any technology.

How ESG, Finance, and Investing Works Together

Allocating resources over time to make a profit is a critical component of finance and investment. ESG issues may be necessary when making financial and investment decisions since they can have a good or negative impact on a company’s financial performance and, consequently, the return on investment.

ESG variables are becoming more widely acknowledged as related to financial performance. It’s a tool for identifying possibilities and hazards in investment analysis. As a result, many investment strategies that consider ESG factors have been developed, including sustainable and impact investing. These strategies seek to provide a profit and beneficial societal or environmental impact.

When the paradigm was included in many institutional investors’ playbooks, ESG gained popularity. In addition to new and evolving reporting formats, an increasing number of ESG rating agencies issue ESG ratings, enhancing the consistency and transparency of the data that businesses disclose publicly.

Capital markets can be an effective vehicle for bringing about change. Bad actors may be enticed to improve performance on ESG measures by restricting access to capital. On the other hand, rewarding businesses and their management teams for good ESG performance promote improvement and further advancement.

Green bonds, mutual funds, ETFs, and index funds are a few of the new ESG investment instruments. Thanks to these publicly traded securities, investors can connect their investment choices with their personal opinions and values regarding E, S, or G.

Responsible Investment in ESG

Sustainable, socially conscious, or ethical investing are other terms for taking environmental, social, and governance (ESG) considerations into account while making investment decisions. This can entail actively searching out assets consistent with specific ideals or avoiding investments inconsistent with those values. Engaging with businesses to motivate them to enhance their ESG performance is another option.

Investors may opt to use responsible investment strategies for several reasons. Some investors may be driven by moral principles, such as a desire to back businesses that benefit society or the environment. Others may be caused by the idea that organizations with excellent ESG practices may be better run and have a lesser risk of financial difficulties, which could result in higher potential long-term economic gains.

ESG factors can be taken into account in a variety of ways when making investment choices. One strategy is to put money into businesses or funds deliberately created to positively influence society or the environment, such as renewable energy or affordable housing. Another strategy is to utilize ESG data and ratings to choose investments or interact with businesses to motivate them to improve their ESG performance.

Investors should carefully assess their investment objectives and risk tolerance when selecting whether and how to include ESG aspects in their investment decisions. They should also be aware that there is no one “correct” method for responsible investing and that various strategies may be suitable for multiple investors.


Disclosure in the context of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues refers to the practice of making data regarding a company’s ESG performance available to the general public. Information about a company’s environmental effects, such as its greenhouse gas emissions and water use, as well as its social and governance practices, such as its executive compensation and labour rules, might be included in this.

ESG disclosure is crucial because it enables stakeholders, investors, and members of the public to comprehend how a company is performing in these areas and to make well-informed judgments about the business. Additionally, it can assist businesses in recognizing and addressing possible ESG-related risks and opportunities.

ESG data can be disclosed using a variety of channels, such as financial statements, sustainability reports, and internet databases. The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB), which offer standardized frameworks for reporting on ESG problems, are two voluntary reporting projects in which some businesses elect to participate.

Investors should carefully assess the given information to verify that it is accurate and meaningful because the consistency and quality of ESG disclosure can vary greatly. Investors may also speak with businesses directly to request more details or to motivate them to enhance their ESG disclosure procedures.

Challenges with ESG

Data quality and availability: The quality and accessibility of data are one of the major problems facing the ESG industry. It can be challenging for businesses to assess and report their ESG performance precisely. This can occur particularly if they have operations in several different countries or work in sectors with convoluted supply chains.


The absence of standards in the ESG industry presents another difficulty. It can be challenging for businesses to evaluate their performance compared to their competitors and to choose the most important metrics to pay attention to because there are so many different frameworks and criteria for assessing and reporting on ESG performance.

Integration with business strategies

Integrating ESG factors into corporate planning is another difficulty. Businesses may have trouble integrating ESG factors into their decision-making processes and coordinating their ESG aims with their overarching commercial goals.

Reputational risks

If businesses are not living up to public standards on ESG issues, they also risk losing their good name. This could harm a business’s reputation and affect its financial results.


Lastly, businesses may encounter ESG regulation-related difficulties, mainly if they operate in sectors or marketplaces with complicated or dynamic regulatory environments.

Despite these obstacles, responsible investing is becoming more popular in various parts of the world. Numerous programs and organizations are attempting to resolve these problems and advance sustainable investing throughout the continent. While some investors use ESG data and ratings to assist them in identifying risks and possibilities, some are actively looking for ways to have a positive social or environmental effect in Africa.

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