And September was also the month we began our ‘root and branch’ DESG assessment.
If you’re wondering, DESG stands for Dynamic Environmental, Social & Governance.
Where the old CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) was based on ‘duty’ (and often reduced to a token appearance within corporate websites), DESG is grounded in a sustainable financial approach to these critical business areas. No surprise then that we hear little nowadays about CSR and an awful lot about DESG or the more generic ESG.
The major difference, of course, is that ESG is rooted in sustainable finance so getting it right has a direct impact on a company’s financial health.
ESG is business critical, because its core elements are business critical:
Environmental: no business can ignore the increasing impacts of climate change. Our industry has witnessed one of the poorest Bramley apple crops in recorded history this year; and it is the weather impact associated with climate change that has played a major part in this outcome. And that’s not all, climate change will also play its part in a whole host of business impacts from materials shortages to energy cost increases, from the way the business operates, to the manner in which our workforce travels to and from work.
Social: alongside the business-critical environmental issues are the way a business works with, supports and optimises its engagement with its workforce, its supply chain, its customers, its wider stakeholder base and the communities that surround it. No business can operate in a vacuum and ESG not only acknowledges this, it enables companies to optimise the return on investment in these core areas.
Governance: I’m sure we all recall the so-called ‘horsemeat scandal’ of a few years ago. With the governance component of ESG, this type of scandal should become something consigned to history. And rightly so. Just think back to the damage the scandal caused to retailer and consumer confidence across the whole meat industry, despite the issue being confined to a relatively small sector of it. Governance also looks at the way we work, the standards we adhere to and the quality levels that ensure customers, and consumers, get the food they truly deserve, at prices that are realistic and sustainable.
No area of our business will escape the DESG assessment – from our workforce to the governance that assures our standards, from our waste management to the process we use for cleaning our toilets.
At the close of the assessment, we will have a full report enabling us to optimise our performance in each of the main areas of Environmental, Social & Governance at every level across the company – farm and factory.
I like this approach because it accords well with the way we work throughout the Business.
Rarely, in my experience, is there a single solution to creating real, sustainable improvement – whether that’s addressing climate change or running an efficient, high quality food production line. More important are the myriad small changes and improvements which, added together, and properly co-ordinated, provide the much-desired ‘silver bullet’ effect.
The ‘Environmental’ of DESG is a case in point. If a handful of businesses take ESG seriously we may see small changes and improvements. But imagine for a moment if every single business grasped the ESG opportunity and made the changes necessary to improve their company’s performance. Bearing in mind that ESG is grounded in sustainable finance that would mean not only raising business standards throughout, not only addressing environmental challenges and not only making workplaces and business relationships better, but it would do so in a way that is sustainable financially. It means that doing things better is no longer all about cost; now it’s about benefit.
MD of Fourayes, Vice Chairman of British Apples & Pears and Fruitician