How investors can increase their ESG impact by combining risk and co-creation

Most business leaders believe that ESG (environmental, social, governance) regulation will have a major impact on sustainability practices.

This is very common in the world of banking and finance, for example. Investors are guided by risks. The climate crisis and the issue of sustainability are no different: Both are seen primarily as the cause of a multitude of financial and material risks.

This thinking results in:

  • A generally passive behavior of entire sectors in waiting position
  • Limiting sustainable impact to minimum regulatory requirements
  • ESG is often perceived by activists as greenwashing.

Regulation blocks the opportunity to fundamentally rethink common business practices.

It does not align investments with the purpose of the investment firm, but with predetermined criteria.

Yet in order to tackle the complex issues of sustainability, it is much more important to communicate at equal terms — both between suppliers and customers as well as between management and employees. The background to this is: As a rule, the parties involved do not yet have a solution in their pocket — it is a matter of finding a solution in mutual exchange.

The trick is to collaborate:

Focus on co-creation, the assumption that companies and customers enter into an equal partnership to find solutions.

Find out in advance of a customer dialog, e.g. through an appreciative inquiry, where your customers stand on the subject of sustainability.

A shift in thinking from “selling” sustainability to working together to find solutions first builds trust. It’s an act of listening. And once you know what experiences your customers have already made and what current problems they are struggling with, you are in a position to address these individually.

Letting go of the risk view opens up creative potential.

Instead of applying rules, engage in dialogue and work on a solution together.

Complexity does not allow for a black-and-white view. Focusing purely on checklist criteria prevents us from seeing the big picture. The future emerges in communication spaces that include all perspectives — it is a worthwhile approach to be participating in!

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