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    ESG Communications Strategy, Tips, and Best Practices for 2023

    Join Susan McPherson, Mignon Senuta, and Susan Hunt Stevens as we discuss how corporations of all sizes can develop & implement successful communications strategies around their ESG goals to engage employees and stakeholders!

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    An effective ESG communications strategy is critical in scaling engagement for your programs in 2023. You need to capture the attention and understanding of stakeholders, employees, and consumers in a way they can understand and feel connected.

    In this webinar, we discussed tips, best practices, and frameworks for launching an ESG communications strategy that ditches confusing jargon and engages stakeholders across the business.

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    Meet the Panel

    Susan Hunt Stevens

    Susan Hunt Stevens is the Founder & CEO of WeSpire, an award-winning employee experience technology platform focused on engaging people in ESG initiatives. She was named an EY Entrepreneur of the Year for New England, a Boston Business Journal Woman of Influence, and to the Environmental Leader 100 list.

    Prior to WeSpire, she spent 9 years at The New York Times Company, as a consumer marketing and digital executive. She has an MBA from The Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, where she was named a Tuck Scholar, and graduated with high honors from Wesleyan University.

    Susan McPherson, Founder & CEO, McPherson Strategies

    Susan McPherson is a serial connector, angel investor, and corporate responsibility expert. She is the founder and CEO of McPherson Strategies, a communications consultancy focused on the intersection of brands and social impact. She is the author of The Lost Art of Connecting: The Gather, Ask, Do Method for Building Meaningful Relationships (McGraw-Hill).

    Susan has 30+ years of experience in marketing, public relations, and sustainability communications, speaking regularly at industry events including Massachusetts Conference for Women, BSR, DLD, Worth Women and Techonomy, and contributing to the Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, and Forbes. She has appeared on NPR, CNN, USA Today, The New Yorker, New York Magazine and the Los Angeles Times.

    Mignon Senuta, ESG Communications Executive

    Mignon Senuta is an award-winning ESG and corporate affairs executive. At Digimarc, Mignon built the ESG and Corporate Communications functional group from the ground up, developed and socialized a new corporate purpose, values, and ESG framework, and oversees all corporate communications, including media relations, investor relations, public affairs, social media, and executive and employee communications.

    Prior to Digimarc, Mignon held roles in ESG strategy, corporate communications, and international public affairs at McDonald’s Corporation and spent more than a decade building public-private partnerships to advance key social impact and sustainability initiatives.

    Table of Contents

    1. The biggest ESG messaging win in history (01:40)
    2. Ditch the jargon, acronyms need to go! (05:50)
    3. Challenges and Opportunities of Enterprise ESG Communications (11:59)
    4. The 5-step ESG Communications Framework (20:20)
    5. Engage people with technology (26:30)
    6. Reporting social impact in ESG (37:14)
    7. Find budget for your ERGs across departments (50:35)

    The biggest ESG messaging win in history (01:40)

    In the 1970s (far before ESG was a thing) the EPA was just being established and the National Ad Council ran an ad campaign called “The Crying Indian” to combat highway littering by motorists.

    This ad is considered to be one of the first, most impactful efforts at communicating sustainability.

    “This commercial to this day, I still get chills if I see it, if it pops into my brain. And it put an imprint in the next 40, 50 years of my life to make saving our environment a good chunk [of my career]”. - Susan McPherson

    Ace Metrix released a study in 2014 on what drove the effectiveness of this ad. After the commercial began airing litter was reported to have reduced by 88% in 38 different states.

    Ditch the jargon, acronyms need to go! (05:50)

    Using accessible language in your communications is mission-critical. Start simple with your communications. Connect individual activities and passions to the goals your team has set.

    Susan McPherson uses Patagonia as an example of an effect ESG strategy that ditches jargon and engages stakeholders:

    “You don't hear Patagonia standing up on the bully pulpit saying, we are sustainable. Instead, they're talking about what they're doing and they do it. Nobody wants to hear a bunch of verbiage if you don't have action to back it.

    When jargon is used in daily communication you risk alienating the people who have the most impact. So focus on action and outcome.

    How people and tech work together (26:30)

    Mignon Senuta spent 2 years managing communications at one of the most recognizable brands in the world. McDonald's.

    Although McDonald’s is a unique and massive organization, the challenges and lessons learned can be applied across businesses of all sizes.

    Aligning Internal Stakeholders in ESG Communications

    Aligning leadership, HR, finance, local management, and associated foundations is as challenging as it is important for every business.

    “HR, risk management, corporate secretaries. Ronald McDonald House Charities, every sliver of the organization was a thought partner, a reviewer, ESG encompasses everything.” -

    The solution to alignment is communicating and involving all parties, keeping your work and your impact inclusive.

    ESG Risk Threshold

    Larger companies tend to have a lower risk threshold. There is just too much at stake to be at the cutting edge of something ambitious.

    “There's not much of an incentive some of the time to be a first mover in some of these circumstances” - Mignon Senuta

    To develop an effective communication strategy you need to take this into account and ensure you are not “shocking” anyone. Work with your risk management team, PR, and/or corporate to understand their appetite for risk.

    The 5-step ESG Communications Framework (20:20)

    You have a finite amount of time and maybe even diminishing resources in 2023 to develop, launch, and grow your ESG communication strategy. You need to make sure you have a framework early to inform your plan.

    “I fervently believe communications needs to have a seat at the table early on whether again, it's through a third party [or not].” - Susan McPherson

    1. Understand all of your audiences including investors, employees, customers, etc. They all call about different things and have a different impact on your strategy.
    2. Determine how those audiences are impact impacted, both from within your organization and outside your organization.
    3. Establish the specific issues you are going to address. ESG is too broad to take it all on at once.
    4. Take advantage of your company’s strengths. What are you uniquely able to affect?
    5. Provide an opportunity to engage. You have them interested and knowledgeable. Give your stakeholders an avenue for action.

    WeSpire’s tools make it easy to engage all of your stakeholders. Schedule a demo now!

    Engage people with technology (26:30)

    Email, Slack, Teams, Zoom, and platforms like WeSpire are all great delivery methods to get your message out there.

    But the key component to having a holistic ESG communications strategy is engagement with people.

    “We really see the difference with customers when when they have gone through the process of creating not just an ESG strategy, but really an ESG engagement strategy” - Susan Hunt Stevens

    Invest in a strong strategy backed by engaging programs with technology as a catalyst to drive real impact.

    Reporting social impact & communications in ESG (37:14)

    Regulatory bodies have been adjusting their reporting requirements almost constantly. But most of the requirements are focused sustainability, emissions, and DEI.

    But where does social impact land in the ESG reporting space?

    “It's certainly part of those scorecards and it's something that we’re [including in] an ESG report” - Mignon Senuta

    Reporting this information and including it in your ESG communications is important both for internal recruitment and engagement purposes as well for regulatory reporting like The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI).

    At WeSpire we are seeing a trend of our customers moving beyond simply reporting dollars and measuring social impact and DE&I in more inclusive ways.

    “We're doing some pretty exciting work with some clients to have a much more sophisticated approach to [a more holistic reporting approach].” - Susan Hunt Stevens

    Bring your ESG communication strategy to life with WeSpire!

    Develop messaging, launch campaigns, and drive engagement with our ESG Communications platform.

    WeSpire’s platform helps ESG & comms teams plan, launch, manage, and scale engagement with 100s of campaigns, automated reporting, and support from ESG engagement experts to help small and large teams alike.

    WeSpire: Live! is all about community engagement and we would love your input! If you have any questions, topics, or emerging themes you want discussed in this upcoming session, please do not hesitate to email!

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    WeSpire: Live! is all about community engagement and we would love your input! If you have any questions, topics, or emerging themes you want discussed in this upcoming session, please do not hesitate to email!