The corporate side of conservation
Often, we see the blame for global warming or ecosystem destruction being placed onto large companies and corporations, governments or even entire countries. So, if they are the largest issue, who is addressing them to create fundamental change? Is it the activists who protest in the streets? Maybe.
But Consultant Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) data analyst George Day believes there is another approach. He engages with the corporate world – working with them to comply with new ESG legislation in the UK and abroad.
What lead to George taking on this role?
George studied Economics at university and discovered that many individuals around him were solely focused on profit. This was a common experience for him, as he observed similar profit-driven motives across various organizational scales.
Despite this prevalent mindset, George was determined to seek a more balanced approach within this economic landscape. He feels he began to find that balance when he started a role as a Junior data analyst at Asesoria Group Ltd (a professional services group).
What are the main activities in this role?
In this role George worked as a consultant for Asesoria clients, working with companies to calculate their emissions as well as waste data, water use data and so on to be published in their annual reports.
This then progressed to helping organisations develop transition plans that align with the increasing legislation around environmental transparency, as well as solidify targets and ambitions for their future business sustainability. In more recent years this has also included beginning to address biodiversity commitments although he admits this is still in its early stages for listed companies.
How do the three parts of ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) work alongside each other?
These three pillars (Environmental, Social and Governance) represent a set of criteria that investors use to evaluate a company’s impact beyond traditional financial metrics.
George admits that environmental issues often fall to the bottom of the list of priorities for a company, with governance or social issues coming first. It is potentially unsurprising that topics such as gender equality or health and safety which directly impact people on a day-to-day basis may be seen as more pressing.
“Peoples’ prioritisation of the climate … depends on how immediate it is to them. And how much time they have to worry about it – if someone doesn’t have to worry about their wages, how stable their job is … then yes they can focus on the climate”.
George went on to explain that this is a two-part issue.“We’ve seen it this summer with all the wildfires for example… many companies, particularly those with employees in locations where the effects of climate change are already impacting them… when you talk to those people, they definitely care about it.”
Where do you think the drive for change should be coming from? Is ESG as it stands enough?
George believes that the responsibility lies with everyone.
“I think it needs to come from everybody, because that would get the most impact… it does need to come from government and legislative bodies, etc.; it does need to come from the top down, but it also need to come from the bottom up.”
He explains that people in the lower ranks of companies often could enact new changes to procedures, these are also often the people with the most practical ideas of what these changes might be. It may not be the only solution but the ESG template encourages a culture where these individuals can suggest environmentally sympathetic improvements for the company’s progress.
As to his view on the potential criticisms around ESG – Greenwashing or gaps left by self-reporting systems – George hopes that as legislation progresses to become more globally standardised through the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) public perception will improve. This will therefore push demand from these companies further in the right direction.
“Progress is progress”, he insists, claiming that all too often we all want to solve all the issues now. Everyone wants to be the best they can be but depending on their priorities often you have to accept some companies are only willing to take two steps forward at this stage rather than five.
What are the main challenges in your job?
In George’s daily role, a significant challenge is assisting companies in sourcing their emissions data. He notes that the nature of the company greatly influences the types of resources used (e.g. an IT company versus a transit company), and data accessibility varies accordingly.
The location of the corporation and its suppliers also plays a role; European suppliers may have already calculated emissions, while counterparts in Latin America or Asia may not prioritize such measurements. Obtaining information from these regions can be more challenging.
However, a positive trend is the increased scrutiny on the validity and authenticity of published data, ensuring a more accurate representation by companies.Top of FormBottom of Form
While George says he has “never really met anyone who is a climate denier, there are many who feel their hands are tied by the infrastructure they are working within”. This can be for several reasons:
- The infrastructure and culture in the company’s host country may impact its operations. In regions where electric vehicles are not yet practical, transit/route-based companies might face challenges.
- Social infrastructure within the Does anyone have the privilege to be confident in their position, their pay, their safety? Do they have the time to think about the company’s climate impact?
- Company culture. Do people feel empowered enough to suggest how the company might improve? Will it be reciprocated higher up?
Frequently, the central concern remains profitability, questioning whether a company can sustain or even increase profits annually within its physical infrastructure. The challenge here lies in the emphasis of the paper trail for profits, which is far rather than on the environmental impact. ESG steps in here, creating a paper trail that encourages companies to take responsibility and, ultimately, improve.
George emphasizes that maintaining confidentiality can hinder convincing companies of the effectiveness of a certain approach, whether it involves drafting new policies or engaging with investors.
“One of the most difficult parts of the job is to convince clients that you have an understanding, that you have expertise because you have done something before – whilst not being able to go into detail about it.”
It takes a level of skill to be able to convince clients of your credentials without having a physical portfolio of examples.
What are the best parts of the job?
“Although this is a career I had never previously thought about, I’m pleased I’ve landed in it… and as it’s a growing sector… I think it’s one where the potential to have positive impacts is only going to get bigger as I stay with it,” George shares.
Another positive is that as a consultant he gets to work on many different projects, so things are always changing. By working with different companies with different outlooks he never gets bored and doesn’t feel stuck in the same situation for too long before moving on to the next client.
If he wasn’t a consultant, he feels he would have a narrow view of what sustainability means. Whereas:
“From the consultancy perspective you get to work with a huge number of companies, all across the world, operating in vastly different areas and it gives you much more of a rounded view of what the climate challenge actually is.”
George describes how this can be an advantage for his personal confidence that he can show a range of clients how they can best work on their ESG. He adds, “It’s also just a bit more fun, to be honest… there’s a huge range of projects you can get involved in and therefore a huge range of positive impacts you can have without burning out”. George never gets bored, and his ever-changing role keeps him motivated for the next challenge.
What would you want someone to know who is considering a similar role?
George says that it is important to be realistic.
“Ultimately as a consultant you are brought in to do what is asked of you by that company. You can advise them to enact a more ambitious transition plan; you can advise them to push themselves further. If they turn around and say no, you have to accept that. We are not activists, we are experts. Experts who recognise that this is a crisis that we should be trying to manage.”
To tackle this climate crisis, it takes all kinds of people from all walks of life, backgrounds and specialities. Those who have the most to offer may not always be the obvious ones. Wildlife rangers, research ecologists, nature journalists and many others with roles based “on the ground” are all widely thought of as the people at the forefront of the climate movement.
However, from George’s point of view he’s making the best impact he can by sitting across the table from these companies and working with them to make those crucial (however small) steps in the right direction towards a more sustainable future.
If you want to find out more, visit the Asesoria website.
For more information on the corporate side of conservation visit:
- Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) – GRI provides sustainability reporting standards that many companies use to disclose their environmental and social impacts.
- Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) – Offers recommendations for companies to disclose climate-related financial risks.
- State of Green Business – An annual report by GreenBiz providing insights into corporate sustainability trends and practices.
- World Economic Forum – ESG in Investing – Explores the role of ESG factors in investing and corporate decision-making.
Author Profile | Jayna Connelly
Jayna Connelly is an ecologist, deeply committed to communicating crucial knowledge to a wider audience. As a Research Ecologist specializing in Entomology, Jayna’s passion is fueled by a profound understanding of the intricate connections within ecosystems. Her studies made her aware of the huge breadth of wildlife that is often misunderstood or completely overlooked.
Jayna firmly believes that by fostering an appreciation for the significance of even the smallest creatures in our surroundings, society can collectively reverse the decline of ecosystems. Jayna’s work extends beyond academia; she strives to inspire a broad audience to recognize the inherent value of the biodiversity that surrounds us. Through her efforts, she envisions a world where the collective empowerment of individuals translates into meaningful actions, leading to positive changes for our planet.