The S pillar of ESG covers a broad spectrum of issues, covering everything from workplace safety to human rights and diversity, equality and inclusion. Having a robust approach to governance will help companies review and manage S risks across such areas and ensure continuous improvement and legal compliance. Alongside this top down approach, it’s important to provide opportunities for employees to collaborate and create positive changes within their organisation.
In this next blog in our ESG summer school series, we look at the ‘S’ benefits of setting up internal networks.
- Why start a network? Because it is a gift. From your people to each other and (if you get it right) back to your organisation. People feel valued at work when they can be themselves, when they feel heard and seen. People thrive when they are connected, when they are creating positive outcomes and they can see the tangible benefits of those connections.
- Done well, what value are they to your people? They offer an opportunity for people across all parts of your business to connect and collaborate; to share experiences and potential solutions; to find common ground and shared passions; to learn from each other; and to improve their experience in the workplace.
- You don’t know what you don’t know. Many organisations have a top down management structure which makes it even more important to seek the views of employees at all levels. Even the best organisations, and the best managers, can benefit from the ideas generated by every single team member.
- Listen and learn. Networks offer different perspectives – often because of the lack of hierarchy. People come together regardless of the team they work in or their seniority, and are valued equally for their contribution. Staff networks provide a perfect opportunity for your organisation to learn and hear what matters most to your people, the issues they face and the potential solutions to those issues. They facilitate discussion and the identification of areas of concern or disquiet, which are often masked when relying on the conventional approach to managing people and finding out what is on their mind.
- Pivot and plan – insight from your networks can be invaluable in shaping the design of your governance, risk management and social structures. It can also be drawn on when looking to enhance your culture and to celebrate diversity and inclusion.
- Perhaps your disability & health network has flagged that there are accessibility issues with parts of your offices – this gives you a head’s up and an opportunity to find out why, so that you can take positive steps to address the issue. This will also improve your diversity, inclusion and accessibility credentials while simultaneously managing risk.
- Perhaps your workforce wants to see active senior leadership support for those things that matter, such as sponsorship of and engagement with social mobility projects, charitable and pro bono activity, and the championing of community causes.
- How do you start a network? One step at a time. When you’re back in the office after the holidays, brainstorm it: What do you want to achieve? How will you engage with your workforce?
Consider what networks you think your people would benefit from and ask the workforce for their suggestions. Galvanise support, start small and build up organically, rather than establishing networks for the sake of it. It’s not a tick box exercise.
- Will you have senior stakeholders? The involvement and commitment of senior stakeholders and key business support leaders who can engage with and help networks achieve their aims is vital – not only in helping networks achieve their potential, but in demonstrating a genuine commitment to supporting the workforce.
For more ideas from this series, check out our other blogs on assessing whether your ESG and business policies are fit-for-purpose and setting targeted ESG objectives at a team level.
ESG has increasingly become an integral part of the corporate and investment world as companies strive to improve their approach for tomorrow’s world. Our specialist team is fully engaged in developments in this area and is working with a wide range of businesses and other organisations to support their approach to ESG. Comprising of lawyers working across practice areas in our international offices, the team provides a wide spectrum of advice – helping clients to understand their responsibilities and identify where risks and opportunities may lie.
Find out more about the team and where it can support on our ESG page.
About the author(s)
Vivienne advises on the whole employment life cycle, from recruitment to talent retention, managing health issues at work, reasonable adjustments, complex grievances, change programmes and equalities learning. She brings experience from having successfully represented clients in complex multi-party tribunal claims over the last ten years (most frequently including complex whistle-blowing and discrimination claims) to her advisory work, to capture and improve best practice.