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Shining the Spotlight


The power of human centric stories in ESG

Susan McPherson

Founder and CEO, McPherson Strategies
Navigate your next, Infosys

In an interview for Infosys, Joel Makower of GreenBiz spoke with Susan McPherson, an ESG and CSR expert and founder of McPherson Strategies, on a range of ESG-related issues.

McPherson pointed to a "very challenging" environment at the moment, given that elements within the U.S. Congress are advancing an anti-ESG agenda. As a result, she said, "we're seeing companies getting nervous and their legal departments are winning out, because they don't want to rock the boat and, they don't want to run into any challenges in the public eye." She emphasized that "the time is now to be pushing back on these people who are making such a case about anti-ESG. We can't let them get the upper hand, because business needs to have a voice."

Asked by Makower about the merit of companies not publicizing their ESG initiatives, McPherson said, "I don't like to hear that. But if it means in lieu of not doing any good, then go for the 'green shushing' all you want. But I think you're missing huge opportunities to influence other companies in your sector, the broader business community, the public, education opportunities."

Fundamental to success, said McPherson, is highlighting the human stories around ESG. She said that while reporting on metrics like Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions, or the supply chain, can have value, "the vast number of people who ingest your information via social media, via traditional media, via broadcast, don't really care about all of that, and their eyes glaze over. But if you talk to them about how you are impacting the schools in which people send their children, the water that they drink every day, the food that they eat, people will pay attention."

ESG progress also depends on making inroads with corporate boards and investors, says McPherson. "As much as we say consumers make a difference with their pocketbooks, no matter how much you and I spend, we're never going to have the control that a major pension or asset manager will. So we need to get those folks pushing for better change."

McPherson is also an angel investor and talked about the obstacles facing women entrepreneurs. "I think they have to be much more resourceful, because things don't come easy. I think also you have to have a circle of support around you because inevitably, and this is a generalization, as a woman, you have to manage not only your company and your day job, but your home life and your children and potentially the parents who are still around that you need to support."

Makower closed by asking McPherson what story she hopes to be able to tell about ESG and sustainability in five years: "That we don't even call it ESG or sustainability. That it is just good business and it's part of every single thing that we do."