Consumers, regulators, and investors are placing a greater emphasis on corporate social responsibility (CSR) in their buying and investing decisions. As a result, an entirely new set of strategies — commonly referred to as Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) practices — has emerged. Even NASDAQ has gotten on the ESG train.

Often, nonprofits think in terms of mission rather than embracing a comprehensive ESG mindset. But almost all nonprofits “do” ESG work — attempting to tackle the challenges of injustice and inequality, for example — even if they don’t call it ESG. The time is right to start taking some credit and getting more attention for your work.

Setting the Example
Consider Friends of Trees, an Oregon organization that has been planting trees — thousands of them — for decades. Of course, they have used local channels to communicate their work for a while now, but the U.S. Forest Service recently released a peer-reviewed study, which showed “the health benefits of living around greenery […providing] a prescription for policymakers to plant more trees.” This study generated national attention; as a result, Friends of Trees will be able to expand their reach and inspire others to mimic their approach, despite not being particularly large in budget size or service area. Other neighborhood and environmental organizations can cite the study to expand their own impact as well.

So how did a relatively small organization manage this? The organization’s documentation of their work enabled them to secure a research partner at the U.S. Forest Service. By giving the research partner access to their data, Friends of Trees was able to take part in the study that was published in a respected scientific journal before gaining attention in the national press.

Here are five steps to begin a communications plan to document how your nonprofit integrates ESG practices into its mission-based work.

  • Step 1: Analyze and expand your ESG practices.
  • Step 2: Document your ESG impact.
  • Step 3: Enlist some allies.
  • Step 4: Communicate your ESG impact.
  • Step 5: Think of ways to grow your ESG story.

It is no longer enough to just do the work. With today’s competition for attention, nonprofits must also document their good works, connect that work to societal benefit, and then tell their stories in ways that resonate with multiple audiences. Nonprofits that learn to tell emotionally resonant stories are able to plow through all the noise and distraction to get the attention and support they need and deserve.

Read the full article about nonprofits embracing ESG by Florence Tandy at Blue Avocado.