As more companies take note of the ESG trend, I’ve been fielding client questions about how ESG is changing talent needs

In my view, ESG is having an impact in three key ways: It’s changing how we talk about the role of business in social and environmental issues, it’s catalyzing big new investments and it’s creating a demand for talent that the market is not yet ready to meet.

I’ve been working in this field for long enough to remember when we used the phrases "triple bottom line" and "3Ps" — terms popularized by consultant John Elkington — to describe how companies accounted for their impacts on people and the planet.

Over time, that terminology evolved. By the late 1990s, we started using "corporate social responsibility" or the even more ambiguous acronym CSR. It made sense at a time when companies wanted to reassure their stakeholders that they were doing the right thing: taking corporate citizenship seriously, earning their social license to operate, accounting for risks.

But by the early 2000s, CSR sounded quaint and too narrowly focused on social issues, so people started using the catch-all term "sustainability." Sustainability was a much larger umbrella, with room for all kinds of social and environmental issues. Sustainability could mean environmental sustainability, social and environmental sustainability or even more broadly, futureproofing for tomorrow. Ten or so years later, Michael Porter and Mark Kramer coined the phrase "shared value," which offered an even stronger, inclusive point of view: "We’re in this together, building a sustainable world."

Over the past couple years, the term ESG has gained popularity, with more coverage in the mainstream press and more than a few companies hiring for roles with ESG in the title.

Watching the demand for ESG talent, I have noticed a change: The current pool of qualified candidates is significantly smaller than the demand. Part of this is because companies are looking for specific credentials and more sophisticated skill sets. It’s not just a rush to hire data wonks who can collect, analyze and report the numbers. Employers are looking for people who can lead on strategy and connect the dots between sustainability risks and opportunities, investor demands, government regulations, finance and business operations to think holistically about integrating ESG into every company function — and get the CEO and board on board with new ways to invest and allocate capital.

Read the full article about the evolution of ESG by Ellen Weinreb at GreenBiz.