Unlocking the full potential of ESG: why sustainability extends beyond climate?

Insights 30 May 2023

In one of our previous articles, we approached in depth the pillar that is usually referred to as the sustainability indicator par-excellence: E for Environmental. As we had seen, the institutional approach to the notion of sustainability from a primarily analytical point of view, and then from a practical sustainable transformation standing, as well, started as the definition of climate-related and environmental risks. Thus, the sustainability communication has been – and still is – highly environment-focused, and not without reason. However, when dealing with a company’s approach to sustainability, environmental emergencies are not the only risks that it has to successfully tackle for its activity to be defined sustainable. Today, organizations have to go beyond the “E” in ESG, focusing on the two other pillars, with a view of complying with existing regulations regarding social and governance aspects. 

S pillar: embracing potential and inspiring progress for a sustainable future

Let’s take a step backwards: what are the key elements that allow us to define the level of sustainability of a given company’s activity and why is it even important for the corporate world?

When it comes to investing, the social aspect holds significant weight and should not be overlooked. According to the Italian Ministry of Labor, more that 1.6 million people have resigned in the first nine months of 2022, with an increase of 22% compared to the same period of the previous year. These data confirm a recent times’ trend known as the “Great Resignation”. As this movement gains focus, it becomes increasingly crucial for companies to prioritize employee well-being and address the underlying factors contributing to widespread resignations.

The Great Resignation has emerged mainly as a response to the challenging conditions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many employees have reevaluated their priorities and sought better work-life balance, flexibility, and purpose-driven employment opportunities. Organizations that fail to adapt to these changing expectations risk losing valuable talent and suffering a decline in productivity.

From an ESG perspective, companies that are able to focus on employee satisfaction, fair compensation, and career growth opportunities enhance their reputation as an employer of choice. Investors with an eye on ESG considerations recognize the value of socially responsible practices in driving financial performance. Research shows that companies that prioritize employee well-being and promote an inclusive and diverse workforce tend to enjoy higher employee engagement, productivity, and customer satisfaction. This, in turn, positively impacts both the company's profit and long-term sustainability.

In conclusion, the "S" pillar of ESG investing holds significant importance, particularly in the context of the Great Resignation phenomenon. Companies that proactively address employee well-being, embrace flexibility, and offer opportunities for personal and professional growth are more likely to attract and retain top talent. By incorporating social considerations into their investment decisions, stakeholders can identify businesses that prioritize their workforce's needs, leading to improved financial performance and ethical behavior.

Risk management of the G pillar

As far as the "G" pillar is concerned, it plays a critical role in determining a company's long-term value and sustainability, defining what needs to be done both from a social and environmental point of view. Effective governance practices, combined with strategic investments in research and development (R&D), can significantly impact a company's growth prospects and competitive advantage.

Governance practices, such as transparency in the decision-making processes and independent board oversight, promote accountability and mitigate risks, fostering an environment conducive to innovation and long-term value creation. By establishing effective governance structures, companies can allocate resources efficiently, prioritize R&D investments, and leverage technological advancements to stay ahead of the competition.

R&D investment serves as a catalyst for growth, enabling companies to develop new products, enhance existing offerings, and expand into new markets. It empowers businesses to adapt to changing consumer demands, embrace emerging technologies, and address environmental and societal challenges more effectively.

From an ESG standpoint, emphasizing the "G" pillar ensures that companies align their governance practices with ethical standards and regulatory compliance. This reduces the risk of reputational damage, legal disputes, and financial losses that can arise from poor governance. Investors who consider the governance aspect of ESG can identify companies with robust governance structures, reducing potential risks and enhancing long-term financial returns.

By integrating ESG factors into investment decisions, stakeholders can gain a holistic understanding of a company's commitment to sustainable and responsible practices. Enterprises that prioritize R&D investments and effective governance mechanisms not only foster innovation but also position themselves as industry leaders in sustainability and creating deep-rooted value for both their stakeholders and the broader society.


In conclusion, it is evident that a comprehensive ESG assessment goes beyond focusing solely on the "E" pillar and includes considerations of the "S" (Social) and "G" (Governance) aspects. Neglecting these pillars can have detrimental effects on a company's overall value and long-term sustainability.

Thus, the world is no longer a “profit at any cost” place, at least with regard to how companies want to be perceived. By incorporating social factors into the ESG evaluation, such as prioritizing employee well-being, protecting consumers and advocating for diversity and inclusion, companies can foster a positive work culture, attract top talent, and improve financial performance. Additionally, integrating governance practices, including R&D investment, ensures effective resource allocation, innovation, and responsible decision-making.

Furthermore, an ESG assessment enables investors and stakeholders to make informed decisions that align with their values and long-term goals. By considering all three pillars of ESG—environmental, social, and governance—investors can identify companies that prioritize sustainability, ethical practices, and value creation:

  • Environmental: Focus on climate change mitigation, resource conservation, and environmental impact reduction
  • Social: Prioritize employee well-being, diversity and inclusion, community engagement, and human rights
  • Governance: Implement transparent decision-making processes, independent board oversight, and effective risk management strategies.

In the ever-evolving business landscape, ESG considerations are not only ethically responsible but also financially prudent. Companies that embrace sustainable practices, prioritize employee well-being, and exhibit strong governance structures are better positioned for long-term success and resilience. As the importance of ESG investing continues to grow, businesses that proactively address all three pillars will be at a competitive advantage, attracting investors, customers, and top talent.

By recognizing the significance of the "S" and "G" pillars alongside the "E" pillar, stakeholders can contribute to a more sustainable and equitable future while ensuring their investments generate positive social and environmental impacts.