Why Not Use the Covid-19 Lockdown to Learn the Language of ESG?


Agenda | April 6, 2020


The Agenda article, “Why Not Use the Covid-19 Lockdown to Learn the Language of ESG?,” was co-written by Russell Reynolds Associates Consultants Anthony Goodman and Kurt Harrison on why it’s important to maintain a focus on ESG even amid the COVID-19 crisis. The article is excerpted below.

As we sit in our individual home office spaces contemplating board oversight of ESG, you may well be wondering why we would even bother. Should we not be focused on the crisis at hand (and on washing our hands) rather than the climate crisis? Or perhaps like our friends we should be jumping on Duolingo to learn Spanish. There are several reasons why directors should continue to focus on ESG.

First, once we have healed humanity, we may be more likely to want to heal the planet itself. Think about the compelling photographs showing the lack of pollution above major cities. Consider the simple pleasures of walking outdoors and the fact that states and cities have had to shutter parks to keep us away from them and each other.

Secondly, many of the excuses for climate change intervention have vanished overnight. If the entire government could be mobilized to swiftly inject $2 trillion into the economy and GM instructed to switch to producing ventilators, how will the same government and big businesses make a coherent case against the more modest investment and regulation required in a Green New Deal?

Finally, investors will continue to demand it. BlackRock has already confirmed it sees no reason to alter its perspective on ESG. The Financial Times reported in March that “Michelle Edkins, global head of BlackRock’s investment stewardship team, said the asset manager wanted to see progress from companies on these issues regardless of the coronavirus outbreak.”

Our view is that directors who are currently social distancing at home could usefully ditch the Duolingo and think about how to learn the language of ESG instead.

To read the full article, click here.

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Why Not Use the Covid-19 Lockdown to Learn the Language of ESG?