Lawrence Heim, the editor of PracticalESG.com, has been working in environmental sustainability for over 30 years, moving from one area of the industry to another and developing a deep knowledge of the space. PracticalESG.com is designed to help professionals approach program development, program implementation and disclosure, as well as understanding the basics from a practical point of view. He and Tom discuss how legal work led to a passion for ESG, and the HBR paper that changed his whole way of thinking. (Green and Competitive) It was in the late 80’s and early 90’s that meaningful linkages between environmental management and business value started to be made, and that is where today’s guest found his stride in the industry.
A Risk Management Focus
Tom asked how Lawrence’s experience has helped him create a risk management focus on ESG. Lawrence explains how he didn’t know a thing about what risk management really was. Even today, he is of the opinion that most people don’t really understand what risk is. It’s critical that ESG professionals discuss and work alongside traditional risk management folks, or different terms, definitions, and benchmarks are going to be in play, which is really ESG shooting itself in the foot in terms of credibility.
Changes over the Pandemic
Tom points out that the pandemic has really focused attention on supply chains and procurement, and the importance of responsible sourcing. Lawrence explains how this has been an evolution over time, starting in the garment and textile sectors, and how public as well as corporate awareness started to shift the needle. The Rana Plaza incident, and the rulings around conflict minerals have really advanced the conversation. They also discuss what changes have happened internally in organizations over the pandemic – particularly the impact on how companies are treating employees.
Too Much Information
Getting started in ESG can be overwhelming because there is a huge amount of information, much of it conflicting. Lawrence recommends that people just begin reading and learning, but remaining skeptical, and being on the lookout for contradictory information. Learning which sources you can trust, and which have the best reputation takes time, but if you start broad, and remain skeptical, you will start to gain a full understanding.
Long Term ESG Strategy
Lawrence gives his thoughts and predictions about what the coming years will mean for ESG – he posits that ESG is going to become fully integrated in organizations, rather than a standalone issue. He further posits that if companies aren’t considering water use and availability now, they should be.