How companies can tackle ESG backlash

Backlash Thumbnail

Here’s the intro from a blog from Cooley’s Cydney Posner:

As the ESG backlash escalated this past year, companies have often felt caught between Scylla and Charybdis, struggling to navigate between the company’s commitment to ESG issues that the company believes will contribute to its long-term performance and benefit investors and other stakeholders, and the opposition that has arisen to the corporate focus on ESG, particularly social and environmental matters. The Conference Board, however, suggests that we look at it differently: “Despite the negative connotations, ESG backlash can be a clarifying moment for companies.

It can prompt companies to reevaluate their ESG strategy, priorities, and commitments,” providing an “opportunity to clarify their ESG strategy and communications.” In a recent TCB survey, half the companies indicated that they had experienced some form of ESG backlash, whether against their industry (26%), more generally (e.g., their state) (20%) or against the company specifically (18%). In addition, 61%  thought that ESG backlash would “stay the same or increase over the next two years.” TCB posits that the increase will be driven largely by “emotionally charged topics, such as hot-button social issues and the transition to more sustainable forms of energy that raises fear of job losses.”

With that in mind, this paper from TCB attempts to provide some analysis of the nature of ESG backlash and guidance on how companies can address it.