The curse of the one-dayer in ESG

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In our household we use the term ‘one-dayer’. This describes people that precede an intention with the phase ‘one day’. We try not to be one-dayers ourselves, preferring instead to be guided by the old adage of not putting off till tomorrow, what can be done today.

The concept of intentions is central to describing and explaining human goal directed behaviour. In everyday life we constantly plan, store and implement intentions. In many cases, such implementations are immediate; for instance, having a drink, but in other cases they are delayed, one day I will travel to Mexico. Unsurprisingly, therefore the phenomenon of converting intention into action has been widely studied and researched and is a major element in several theories including the theory of reasoned action, Goliath (goal-directed behaviour), the theory of planned behaviour and implementation intention theory to name but a few.

Measuring the ESG gap between intention and action

What is clear from all these theories that is that there is a gap between intention and action. Research by Sheeran and Webb (2016) on this gap found that it is in fact possible to predict whether intentions will be enacted. The intentions that fail to come to fruition are ones that are complex, large, poorly planned, or too conceptual. This might explain why so many organisations are struggling with their ESG implementation – all too often the protagonists cannot see the wood for the trees meaning the projects are easily derailed.

Therefore, the fact that according to Accenture out of 560 companies surveyed 93 per cent are still facing challenges in meeting their ESG goals is not that much of a shocker. But what is depressing is the fact that of those that are on their way to meet their ESG goals, most aren’t proud of what they’ve done. Do a quick Google search and see how few press releases/case studies/opinion articles there are extolling the results of an ESG project. Now try Googling successful CRM and see what you get!

This is a big problem considering 51 per cent of organisations are approaching ESG as a growth driver. To succeed you must convert intention into action – and actually get stuff done. ESG needs to be pragmatic.

The rise of ESG pragmatism

This pragmatic approach has been employed by DFS and Robert Dyas. Both businesses have made the decision to use reduction of energy consumption as an ESG driver. To this end both organisations invested in infrastructure which has enabled them to turn their sites into a state-of-the-art ‘data rigs’ that reports back information in real time. Having this data across the whole of the estate means that it is possible to reduce energy consumption by optimising the air quality, humidity, and temperature controls for each site. This is controlled centrally but can be activated locally through Edge computing meaning that store managers, for example, do not need to manually change settings or remember to turn lights and heating off. Additionally, pragmatic recommendations can be made on when the heating needs to be turned on and at what temperature to ensure the store or distribution centre is at optimum temperature for opening. The data is integrated with cloud platform for reporting and proactive maintenance and alerting for instance, the automated continuous commissioning self-identifies site issues, without human intervention, and can schedule engineer callouts if necessary. The approach to centrally managing the entire estate, means that changes to policy, such as air quality levels or temperature settings for COVID best practice can be rolled out to individual sites via a single central action.

Both businesses have been able to realise 27 and 30 per cent cost saving respectively based on the optimisation of their energy usage but as a bonus also improve employee productivity and wellbeing through enhanced air quality and temperature control. But the benefit of the data doesn’t stop there. DFS is using this insight to enhance the customer experience – creating new revenue streams for the business. ESG is not just saving money but should also be about growth and innovation.

The big 4 ESG questions

  • How many solar panels did you install across your estate last year?
  • How many of your building are smart with proper software and control beyond last man switch off?
  • How do you communicate your estate energy strategy?
  • Do you know at a granular level how the spaces you own/manage are engaged with to support space optimisation through to customer engagement?

Ask yourself the above questions. Are you able to answer them? And if not, how long would it take you to find out the answers? For most business leaders, it would take a lot of time.

The key to ESG success is being able to answer these questions. It is actions such as these that enable businesses to turn their intention into action. The problem with being a one-dayer when it comes to ESG, is that one day, the world won’t exist….

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