governance,  mission,  sustainability,  values

Integrating ESG practices into your mission

Nonprofits that are just beginning to concentrate on their environmental, social and governance impact can start small and expand from there. As you develop your own strategies, keep abreast of the latest trends and data around ESG strategies. Then ask your employees and board members what is important to them and then tailor your efforts to appeal to their interests. Like most things, the more they are involved, the more they will embrace it.

Here are some practical things nonprofits of all sizes can do – from the mundane to the sublime:

  • Set goals for reducing your organization’s environmental footprint – and then keep track of what you have done and the impact it has had.
  • Review your hiring procedures to become more inclusive and open.
    • Make sure your staff recruitment efforts include BIPOC and LGBTQ applicants.
    • Pay a living wage, provide good benefits, and advocate for local businesses to do the same.
    • Provide professional development opportunities for all staff.
  • Include diversity screens in your purchasing and contracting.
  • Small efforts can show rewards – both financially and in employee engagement.
    • Recycle, reuse, reduce.
    • Move toward a paperless office environment.
    • Sponsor neighborhood cleanups around facilities or in the community.
    • Engage volunteers or program participants in ridding natural areas in your community of invasive species.
    • Encourage staff to get active at work – take walks, practice mindfulness, take yoga classes as a team.
    • Plant trees in any open spaces you control – and advocate for others to do the same.
    • Install an ESG suggestion box.
  • Retrofit your facilities with LED lighting, solar panels, and other energy conservation measures.
  • Assure that your board is diverse – gender, race, ethnic, LBGT, income and consider including your target customers on the board.
  • Update your HR; purchasing, recruitment, and board governance policies to include an emphasis on the environment, diversity, and sustainable business practices.
  • Include ESG strategies in your strategic plan and develop benchmarking tools to measure your ESG performance – as an organization and within individual programs.

Once you have your ESG mindset fully integrated within your operations, collect stories about your efforts, successes, and failures. Those stories will appeal to potential donors and program investors. You will engender community support as you show that beyond your specific mission your organization is setting a good example in environmental and social justice, community building, and sustainable business practices. Potential employees, too, will be more likely to seek you out for employment – and become engaged in the work – as they see the added impact that an ESG mindset can have on people, the planet, communities, and, yes, even profit.

Lena Eisenstein sums up ESG and Nonprofits this way: “Embracing ESG is more than a matter of ethics and morals. Investors and donors are sure to take notice of your efforts to promote ESG principles because they consider it to be part of good business practices that lead to profitability.”(Board Effect;

No matter what your nonprofit’s mission is, I believe we can all get behind that sentiment. Let’s get to work!

See also the first article in this series, Nonprofits Should Care About ESG, Too