ESG. The Journey

Author: Sarah Shannon
Date:  September 1, 2021

A muddled mind of tangential thinking by John Dowdall

Picture it. Midway through 2020 during one of the strangest times the world has seen (let’s not go there), 3 middle aged white guys, some going grey, discuss a new venture they believe will change the way we do business for the better.

At the start of this journey, simple ground rules are agreed:

  • We’re going to make money
  • We’re going to, above all else, enjoy it!
  • We’re going to improve how we do it, when it comes to people, planet and responsibility

You see, the 3rd one is the one we always discuss the most. As one of our founders said, “I want to be able to tell my kids over Sunday dinner, that Daddy does something to make a change for good, something they’ll value and respect.”

So, the decision was made early on that Pulse Market would embrace the values embedded in ESG and focus on the journey of becoming a B-Corp.

What I’ve written so far all makes logical sense and quite frankly seemed simple. It also looked like an enjoyable area to focus on, so everyone's hand was up to get involved.

It’s only when you start the journey and turn the first corner that you realise how many turns there are and the distance you may have to travel.

With ESG there is both a business side, which can be broken into the ethical and moral side and the more prescriptive regulatory side, and there is also the personal side of how we act as individuals and at many stages there may and likely will be contradictions between the two.

A simple example:

As businesses we believe in setting objectives to reduce our CO2 emissions. This can be a belief or due to market or regulatory forces, either way businesses will do it.

I leave work, go home, have a lovely steak 5 nights a week. Cows emit methane, increasing CO2 emissions. There in lies the contradiction.

Disclosure: I LIKE STEAK

So, as it stands today, I still grapple with this and still look for ways to do things better. You see, the point here is, we will have failures, we will attempt things that don’t always work, but it’s the try, try and try again that will lead to success, hopefully.

Now consider business. How does business grapple with similar challenges? It may be different for SMEs to large corporates to start ups.

Consider the supply chain side of things for a moment. A large corporate may have 1000s of suppliers across everything imaginable, an SME a manageable 10-20, and a startup, well starts from zero. The large corporate will need to review everyone they do business with and make a decision as to whether or not they are still appropriate, whereas a startup can decide only to select appropriate firms from day one. On the flip side, large corporate has the resource to manage this, small startup doesn’t.

On a recent Pulse ESG working group session comprising primarily of large financial institutions & fintech suppliers, the question was asked “What happens if a supplier is not up to scratch when we enquire about their ESG policies & procedures? Do we have to stop doing business with them?”

And this is again an area of interesting debate. If a company has high CO2 emissions, will you likely give them time to improve? Most likely yes. If they can’t show they hit targets on diversity and inclusion % wise, will you do likewise? Maybe, with policies in place. If they are involved in modern slavery, what there? hmm.

The objective of ESG policies should be to get everyone to a better place, even in the most extreme examples. The challenge is that in certain areas, such as climate and modern slavery, people must be seen to act now.

In coming articles, we’ll try to focus on specific areas of ESG and their challenges, and hopefully on some of the solutions or at least guidance.

At Pulse we start our journey with the same challenges. Remember, we started with 3 middle aged white men. We are now 14, with hitting a 30% women and 7 nations across the globe. We are far from perfect, but we are learning.

In that regard, we believe that the journey is best travelled with companions and that community is at the heart of ESG being a success. Nobody knows all the answers, but as a group we may get to most of them.
So what is Pulse doing?

  • We are now 6 months in to our ESG working group – this is a community looking to share ideas and solutions to problems commonly faced
  • We are looking to issue, in the next few months, a set of ESG guide questions that firms (large and small) should consider when approaching ESG
  • We will also issue a more detailed version of the ESG questionnaire for those with the ability and resources
  • We will be inviting ESG solution providers to join the Pulse Market pilot in late August, which will run over the next few months

What can you do?

  • If you are a solution provider with an ESG focus, contact us & we’ll set you up so that financial institutions can contact you
  • If you are a Financial Institution who currently uses ESG solutions, introduce them to Pulse, so your peers can also avail of them.

Join our product ESG user group

We would be delighted to welcome new members to our ESG User Group, which helps shape our ESG Roadmap, and gets early access to features and content.

Join the group today by completing the form on our ESG page

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