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Article

Educate, Don’t Advocate: The Why and How of Civic Engagement at Work

May 14, 2024

U.S. Version: May 2024

The Takeaway

As the United States faces one of the most politically polarizing presidential elections in recent years, organizations can benefit from shoring up a healthy internal climate and prioritizing business continuity now ‒ ahead of potentially divisive events that might fracture cultures and teams or disrupt business operations.

A Healthy Outlet for Civic Engagement Can Make a Difference

Help employees stay focused on shared goals at work through civic engagement programs that aim to educate (not advocate). Keep in mind:

  • Non-partisan support for democratic processes can help organizations and their employees navigate a challenging political climate more positively and constructively.
  • To weather potential disruption and division in the workplace most effectively, organizations should plan ahead and take steps to promote positive civic engagement ahead of potentially disruptive events.

Three Ways to Support Democratic Processes

Organizations can — and many already do — support employees’ civic duty by offering time off, providing information/resources and encouraging them to engage in democratic processes. Here’s how to activate:

1. Time. Organizations can support the process by ensuring employees have the time they need to vote. Federal laws don’t require that employers grant time off to vote, state and local ordinances vary, and time-off offerings depend on business needs. But organizations can offer time to vote by:

  • Encouraging employees to talk to their managers to ensure they can participate in the election process
  • Offering PTO hours, closing for the day or dismissing employees early to allow time to vote. (Organizations that operate in multiple states should be mindful of state and local variances to ensure consistent access, e.g., consider whether employees in states with mail-in voting have access to the same amount of time off as those without it.)

2. Information and resources. Organizations can encourage employees to seek out authoritative, verified sources of information, especially those that have been through editorial reviews. By providing access to resources detailing voting procedures by state as well as information about which items appear on the ballot, an employer can be seen as a trusted source of accurate and impartial information.

Other measures include:

  • Helping employees register to vote and educating them on smart voter practices and preparation leading up to elections.
    • Posting signage with information on how to register and vote
    • Making registration forms available in common areas
    • Hosting a voter registration drive
  • Launching an internal website or educational campaign aimed at getting out the vote
  • Curating a list of third-party, independent resources and making it available to employees, for example:
    • Secretary of State websites
    • County Board of Elections websites
  • Aligning with non-partisan voter advocacy groups that offer insight and guidance.

3. Encouragement. Organizations have an opportunity to reiterate to employees that, as U.S. citizens and regardless of political positions, voting is their civic duty. Senior leaders can set the tone by underscoring the importance of voting and instilling a sense of confidence in its power. Consider:

  • Sending a note highlighting the importance of education, registration and voting
  • Aligning voting and civic engagement to company values
  • Sharing a leader’s personal voting plan — and inviting others to do the same
  • Timing outreach around ongoing civic events such as conventions, debates and National Voter Registration Day on Sept. 17.

Whatever level of encouragement you provide, proactively communicate — across a variety of channels and methods — all the measures your organization is offering to help employees exercise their right to vote by:

  • Helping them register to vote
  •  Prompting ballot reviews  in advance of the election
  • Making a plan to get to the polls and vote

Be Aware of the Potential for Disruption

As you empower employees to engage in democratic processes, it’s likely that politics may enter workplace. Equip your organization to weather this period and maintain business continuity by embracing a preparedness mindset. Monitor the following dates for the 2024 U.S. election cycle events, which present added potential for impact on employees or your business.

  • July 15-18: Republican National Convention (Milwaukee, WI)
  • Aug. 19-21: Democratic National Convention (Chicago, IL)
  • Sept. 16: First Presidential Debate (San Marcos, TX)
  • Sept. 25: Vice Presidential Debate (Easton, PA)
  • Oct. 1: Second Presidential Debate (Petersburg, VA)
  • Oct. 9: Third Presidential Debate (Salt Lake City, UT)
  • Nov. 5: Election Day

What’s Next

Provide a positive outlet for action and participation by evaluating, enhancing and proactively communicating your organization’s current and potential measures to promote healthy civic engagement now.

For more guidance, check out these resources on leading teams through a turbulent time:

The political landscape and related employee sentiments are changing daily and could impact your company culture and reputation, internally and externally. While these recommendations are tailored for the United States, democracy is on the ballot worldwide this year, so your organization may be called on to support democratic processes globally. Our Public Affairs and Talent + Transformation experts remain available to discuss these emerging issues.

Article

How Communicators Can Help Brands Win in the New Tech-Lifestyle Revolution 

May 10, 2024
By Tam Carneson

The information age has created a consumer who is more connected and empowered than ever before. This has given rise to, among many evolving behaviors and trends, (demand for) tech-enabled experiences across consumer products and sectors.  

In fact, today, consumers are looking for the same seamless and intuitive experience that they’ve become accustomed to, thanks to the ubiquitous smartphone — from the brick-and-mortar stores where they shop to the fashion and accessories that they wear, the homes they live in, and more — so much so that the predicted global market size for the fashion tech industry alone is USD 2.7 billion by 2025.  

In a world where consumer expectations continue to evolve with rapid technological advancements, changing personal habits, and heightened competition, brands must move with the speed of this change or risk being left behind. 

But it’s not just about technological frills. Consumers are increasingly prioritizing their well-being and that of the world they live in, and along with products that empower them to take charge of their lives effortlessly and the impact they’re making, they expect transparency and trustworthy information. Ultimately, they are looking for tech-infused products that blend seamlessly into their lifestyles, solve real problems and add value to their lives from brands they feel they can trust and be aligned with.  

So on top of their fitness tracker counting steps AND measuring heart rate and blood oxygen levels, or their smart home devices learning their preferences to automate tasks, save energy, prevent waste, AND create a more convenient living experience, consumers are also looking for quick and painless resolutions to their complaints, the option of self-help solutions, access to brands via their preferred channels, personalized experiences, data protection and privacy AND honest and open communication. 

Expectations and the stakes have never been higher. 

So, how can marketing and communication professionals help brands navigate this new landscape? Here are a few steps to take: 

  1. Understand the Audience: Research consumer expectations and pain points and identify the specific problems your brand’s tech-lifestyle product can solve. 
  1. Focus on User Experience: Prioritize clear communication and education about (new) features to avoid user frustration. 
  1. Craft Compelling Stories: Go beyond technical specifications and tell stories that showcase how the tech integration delivers personalized experiences that enhance the user’s lifestyle and align with the brand’s core values. 
  1. Address Concerns: Be transparent about business practices like data collection, manufacturing processes and sources, and especially about mistakes and efforts to correct these. 
  1. Measure and Adapt: Monitor feedback and sentiment and be prepared to adapt communication strategies and product features based on evolving user needs. 

The crucial role marketers and communicators play as businesses navigate this rapidly evolving world cannot be understated. As strategic partners, we bring a unique perspective to the table, including data-driven decision-making, timely market and cultural understanding and impactful storytelling ability. Businesses that understand this — working to integrate technology into their processes and products and prioritize user experience while staying true to their brand identity and delivering honest and engaging communication — will win.  

Article

Asian Investors Seek Diversification Amidst an Uncertain Global Economy, According to New FleishmanHillard Report on Asset Management in Asia

May 6, 2024

Performance and Credibility Continue to be Major Factors for Investors Picking an Asset Manager

HONG KONG — Investors across Asia continue to look to diversify their investment portfolios amidst an uncertain global economy, according to FleishmanHillard’s The Future of Asset Management in Asia 2024 report.

The report, published with research by TRUE Global Intelligence practice, features analysis drawn from an online survey of 1,250 investment professionals in Asia, with 250 respondents each in, Hong Kong SAR, Japan, Mainland China, Singapore and South Korea between March 30 and April 10, 2024. The report also includes an overview of the latest trends in Asia’s asset management industry.

The 2024 report highlights the key risks currently identified by investors. The majority of investors (42%) are most concerned about slow global economic growth or even a downturn, followed by persistent inflation (24%) and geopolitical tensions (16%). In response to these uncertainties, nearly one-third of respondents (29%) plan to shift their investments towards lower-risk options, while 23% intend to maintain their current risk profile. Notably, investors from mainland China stand out as 49% see more buying opportunities and are increasing their risk appetite or actual investments in high-yield instruments.

While equities funds (51%) and fixed income funds (34%) remain popular among Asian investors in the coming year, there is a growing interest in diversifying portfolios. Investors are now showing enthusiasm for private market investments, particularly in private equity funds (15%) and private credit funds (15%). Respondents believe that these alternative investments can enhance and diversify their returns, complementing traditional stocks and bonds (90%), and helping mitigate overall portfolio risks associated with economic downturns (90%).

In terms of investment sectors, AI (49%) continues to be the most favored sector for the upcoming year, followed by the internet sector (34%), biotechnology and healthcare (33%) and technology, media and telecoms (33%). This indicates a strong preference for new economy sectors that have experienced rapid growth despite global economic challenges.

Patrick Yu, Asia Pacific lead of FleishmanHillard’s Financial and Professional Services sector, commented on the findings, stating, “Investors are seeking to diversify their portfolios to build resilience during this period of global economic uncertainty. Private equity and private credit funds, traditionally favored by institutional investors, are now increasingly attractive to Asian investors. This presents significant opportunities for asset managers to expand their product offerings and communications strategies to cater to the needs of Asian investors.”

Similar to last year’s report, the performance (93%) and credibility (92%) of asset managers remain the most critical factors for investors when choosing an asset manager. Other important criteria include knowledge of individual managers (87%) and the public profile of the asset manager (86%). While the environmental, social and governance (ESG) commitment of asset managers is still considered important (78%), it has declined slightly by four percentage points compared to the previous year’s survey.

Furthermore, Asian investors prioritize sophistication in risk management (86%), transparent fee disclosures (86%) and transparency in communication with customers (84%) as the most important qualities for overseas asset managers operating in their local markets.

Yu emphasized the importance of transparency, profile and reputation for asset managers, highlighting, “More than ever, demonstrating transparency and having a strong profile and reputation are key for asset managers. Credibility and performance are fundamental to these qualities, and it is crucial for asset managers to elevate their strategies, product offerings and ESG commitment to make a difference in the highly competitive environment in the Asia Pacific region.”

The survey findings also revealed:

  • Asia Pacific (54%) remains the most popular region for investment in the coming year, with Singaporean investors (69%) displaying the highest confidence in the region. North America (43%) is the second preferred region for investment, particularly favored by Japanese investors (58%).
  • Similar to last year, digital platforms (54% of total) are the most popular channel for fund patronage among Asian investors, driven by the variety of fund choices (83% of digital platform users). Independent financial advisers or bank intermediaries continue to be important channels (43%), alongside wealth managers (38%), reflecting that a significant number of investors prefer to receive expert advice through in-person meetings during fund patronage. In particular, mainland China and Singapore investors show an increased interest in purchasing funds from independent financial advisers (60% in 2024 compared to 53% in 2023 for Mainland China and 55% in 2024 compared to 45% in 2023 for Singapore).
  • According to the report, financial media (45%) remains the most popular source of information for Asian investors for funds and investment products. However, this proportion has declined by eight percentage points from 2023. Face-to-face interactions, including independent financial advisers or bank intermediaries (30%) and friends and family (29%), are also ranked as important information sources. Notably, mainland Chinese investors prefer social media platforms as their primary source of information (52%) compared to their counterparts in the region.
  • Regarding ESG, the most important commitment from asset managers, as cited by investors, is “walking the talk” and taking action in proxy voting in listed companies (82%). Transparency in ESG data and protocol (79%) and clearly defined ESG goals and objectives (79%) are also highly valued.

FleishmanHillard’s The Future of Asset Management in Asia 2024 report includes quantitative data and qualitative analysis on the asset management industry in Asia. All 1,250 respondents self-identified as having traded or invested in at least one of the following: equities funds, fixed income funds, ETFs, alternatives, balanced funds, PE funds, digital assets or cryptos. A Mainland China focused report, The Future of Asset Management in China 2024, is also available for asset managers interested specifically in this growing market.

Article

How Can Companies Strengthen their Reputation and Build Leadership in the U.S. during the Presidential Election Year?

April 29, 2024
By Yvonne Park and Ron Boehmer

While many organizations are focused on the 2024 election and the expected outcomes, the next six months are critical in preparing for a range of scenarios. FleishmanHillard is working with companies in Korea and around the world to analyze their businesses and industries, identifying threats and seeking opportunities. With politics shaping the future of business, finance and trade, companies must do all they can to be prepared for a changing political and regulatory environment. Engaging in – and investing in – public affairs is critical to building relationships, strengthening reputations and helping ensure successful outcomes.

On April 26, a special session was held at George Washington University, co-hosted by the Washington branch of the Korea Trade Association and FleishmanHillard. The event focused on the communication strategies of Korean companies in Washington DC, ahead of the election. Panelists included James Rhee, author of the bestselling book “red helicopter”; Dr. Hyun-jung Je, Chief Representative of the KITA DC office; Yvonne Park, President of FleishmanHillard Korea; Ron Boehmer, Vice President of FleishmanHillard D.C.; Kevin Lawlor, Chief Political Affairs Officer at DDC Public Affairs; and Prof. Kichan Kim, Co-chair of the GW Global Korean Entrepreneurship Forum.

Here are the key takeaways from the discussion regarding actions Korean companies – and, by extension, global companies operating in the United States – should take in the months ahead:

  • Companies should conduct thorough analyses of their businesses and industries over the next several months to prepare for any election outcome. This period of demographic, social, and political change in the United States presents a unique opportunity for companies to showcase their businesses and products, and to connect intimately with consumers, advocates and policymakers at all levels.
  • Korean companies should understand how their brands and industries are perceived by foreign governments, especially in the United States, and anticipate potential actions by the next Administration or Congress.
  • It is crucial to recognize the influence of external forces, such as labor unions, the media, and academia on the business and political landscape.
  • Corporate communications professionals should focus on communicating their company’s values and aligning them with ideals that appeal to broad demographic groups.
  • Engaging at the state level with local stakeholders and forming alliances can effectively communicate a company’s value proposition to individual communities, highlighting a commitment to and investment in key areas.
  • Developing thought leadership on pertinent issues, not just products, can position company spokespeople as respected experts, creating a halo effect for their products and services.
  • Korean companies should creatively articulate their narrative to resonate with U.S. stakeholders by integrating business success factors with entertainment elements.

At FleishmanHillard, we collaborate with many partners – including in-house communications and marketing teams, government relations firms, legal counsel and others to ensure that strategies are aligned and companies are optimally positioned for success.

Article

Navigating Sustainability and Climate Disclosure Requirements: A Strategic Approach

April 16, 2024
By Patrick Yu

In today’s business landscape, companies are increasingly recognizing the importance of understanding sustainability issues and effectively reporting them to stakeholders. With recent regulatory changes and growing investor demand for climate-related information, public companies and financial institutions find themselves at the crossroads of both exciting opportunities and formidable obstacles ahead.

The postponement of the implementation of IFRS S1 and S2 for Hong Kong listed companies to 1 January 2025, as announced by The Stock Exchange of Hong Kong, along with the introduction of new standards by The Hong Kong Monetary Authority regarding the sale and distribution of green and sustainable investment products by registered institutions, has produced a fresh array of opportunities and challenges for public companies and financial institutions in Hong Kong and the region.

In a similar vein, the United States has also taken significant steps towards climate-related disclosures. On March 6, 2024, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission enacted rule changes mandating companies to divulge specific climate-related information. These disclosures encompass a wide range of aspects, spanning from greenhouse gas emissions to anticipated climate risks and transition plans. The overarching objective of these requirements is to equip investors with consistent, comparable, and consequential information to facilitate informed investment decisions, while concurrently establishing clear and uniform reporting obligations for issuers. Additionally, there would be extra territorial rules applying to European companies outside of the EU as well.

Given this evolving regulatory landscape, the question arises: How can public companies (global or local) and financial institutions effectively prepare for these upcoming requirements in Hong Kong and the region?

Five steps to prepare for sustainability and climate disclosure requirements

Following the adoption of different rules pertaining to sustainability and climate disclosure, public companies and financial institutions are under huge pressure to accelerate their efforts to capture, measure and disclose emissions data.

1. Conduct a Comprehensive Audit

To kickstart the journey towards sustainability and climate disclosure, it is crucial for companies to conduct a thorough audit. This audit should encompass quantifying greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across the company’s operational footprint and identifying the most material sustainability issues. While this process may pose challenges in emerging markets, initiating the audit early on allows for the formulation of effective disclosure strategies.

2. Perform a Holistic Assessment

Having completed an audit, companies need to then understand asset-level physical risks and quantify their financial impact and evaluate the business impact of climate transition risks. By conducting scenario mapping exercises, organizations can assess the potential effects of both physical and transition risks. This comprehensive assessment aids in developing robust business, operational, and communication strategies.

3. Set Science-Based Targets and Metrics

It is essential for companies to establish science-based targets for emissions reductions and align their efforts with various jurisdictions and requirements. These targets should be tangible and achievable to facilitate benchmarking against industry peers.

4. Strengthen Communications and Trainings

Engaging stakeholders, including customers, partners, investors, and employees, is crucial in the sustainability and climate disclosure journey. Proactive communication efforts should be undertaken to ensure transparency and build trust. Additionally, organizing internal training programs equips employees to become ambassadors for sustainability, fostering a culture of environmental responsibility within the organization.

5. Continuous Evaluation and Reporting

Sustainability and climate disclosure is an ongoing process, requiring constant evaluation and reporting. Regularly assessing performance helps identify any gaps and ensures compliance with evolving international standards. Staying ahead of the latest requirements and industry developments is vital to meet the expectations of global stakeholders.

As sustainability and climate-related issues continue to gain prominence, public companies and financial institutions must adapt and embrace the changing landscape. By following these five essential steps—conducting audits, performing assessments, setting targets, strengthening communications and training, and continuous evaluation and reporting—organizations can navigate the complexities of sustainability and climate disclosure requirements effectively. Embracing these practices not only supports regulatory compliance but also enhances your reputation, attracts investors, and contributes to a more sustainable future.

Article

How to Get Employee Engagement Right with Gen Z Employees

By Cynthia Chan

Our team has come across this question from our clients frequently, “How should we engage with Gen Z employees?”

As Gen Z continues to grow in today’s workforce, managers are finding they need to adjust their strategies to effectively engage this generation. Digital natives and pragmatists with greater cultural intelligence, today’s Gen Z workers have different ideals, priorities and expectations from their baby boomer counterparts – one of the oldest generations still working today. They prioritize purpose, collaboration, personal growth and recognition over more traditional metrics.

The pandemic caused lasting disruption to work patterns worldwide, and younger employees are seen to be more detached from their work than other generations. With distractions galore, maintaining focus and passion in their roles presents unique challenges for organizations. However, getting these dynamics right can pay dividends in performance and retention.

Tips for Engaging Gen Z in the Workplace

Create a purpose-driven working environment – Entrust employees with meaningful work that plays to their strengths. Orchestrate inputs on strategic decisions and innovations that shape the future and give autonomy where possible over work schedules and project elements. Make them feel inspired and motivated to contribute to the company’s success so they can see how it benefits them and their career. Engagement often improves when people feel ownership over their roles.

Support connections that fuel engagement – Provide training to managers to empower them to manage a multi-generational workforce. Explore new touchpoints to younger colleagues through digital channels, optimizing your content for a mobile-first experience. This is essential to effectively reaching this audience. Use creative, short video content and graphics to drive easier accessibility. Gamifying content can also create participation, which is effective with some types of internal campaign launches to retain attention beyond the first impressions and limit bounce rates.

Enable collaboration and recognition to boost motivation – Networking comes naturally for the younger generation, which prefers to interact through instant messaging or online collaboration, rather than lengthy emails or in-person meetings. Create a collaborative environment where they can feel recognized for their contributions, both big and small. Apart from traditional hall-of-fame awards, ask them for ideas and opinions that can show how you value their participation and contributions. Then celebrate the ideas (and the employees responsible) that are put into action and generate positive results.

Managing and engaging the younger portion of talent requires updating approaches to match Gen Z values. By connecting work to meaningful causes, encouraging digital teamwork and celebrating contributions, managers can ignite passion and increase engagement. When combined with other strategic initiatives to improve the employee experience, the payoff has potential to be immense — an energized, loyal team that drives innovation and growth in the years ahead.

Article

The Surging Popularity of Women’s Basketball and the Opportunity for Brands

April 15, 2024
By Shannon McKee

The NCAA Division 1 Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournaments bring together casual and serious college basketball fans to cheer on their favorite teams and players, and more often than not, programs and prospects that fans have never had a rooting interest in before. Year after year, the tournaments deliver incredibly compelling storylines. This year’s story, undoubtedly, is the surge in popularity of the women’s game. 

Since the tournament’s founding in 1939, the NCAA Division 1 Basketball Tournament has been synonymous with the men’s tournament, and while the men’s game remains extremely popular – there’s been a paradigm shift. For the first time ever, more people watched the women’s championship game than the men’s, according to Nielsen. Additionally, this year’s women’s tournament generated 60% more earned media coverage than the men’s tournament, while also setting viewing records across all six rounds. 

The women’s game is taking center stage – with growing popularity and interest in the teams and their all-star rosters – carving out new and exciting marketing and communications opportunities for brands. Now the question is just how big this opportunity will be and which brands will be at the forefront of advancing women’s sports. 

We identified three takeaways from this year’s tournament, the trends to watch and the opportunities for next year and beyond. 

  • Drafting off the Popularity of the Tournament Remains a Winning Proposition: March is often when brands try to attach themselves to the men’s or women’s tournaments to better connect with their target audience. Now, seeing the opportunity to drive visibility and conversation, other organizations are getting in the game, too. During the tournament, it “leaked” that the Big3 offered Caitlin Clark, the University of Iowa’s record-breaking player, $5 million to suit up for the 3-on-3 league – a “historic offer” to a “generational athlete,” according to Ice Cube. The offer generated 1.5K original stories, so don’t be surprised if you see other professional teams or leagues, or upstarts looking to draft off emerging players, leveraging the popularity of the tournament in the future. Brands can get in the game too, as long as there’s an authentic connection to an athlete or another component of the tournament, e.g., team, coach, etc.  
  • Women Athletes Deliver Proven Value: Watch any sporting event and you’ll see professional athletes during the commercial breaks. But this March – those athletes were predominantly non-professional women athletes. For those brands that wanted to connect with consumers using current college basketball athletes, there were more well-known women superstars in college basketball than men to choose from. That’s particularly evident when reviewing internet search volume for March, where Clark generated 900% more searches than two of the more popular men’s basketball athletes in Zach Edey of Purdue University or Dalton Knect of the University of Tennessee. Moving forward, brands would do well to identify the rising stars in the women’s game –  now –, to build their playbook for sponsorships and NIL deals headed into next season. An added benefit of utilizing the top women’s players – they’re staying in college (and at leading schools) longer than their male counterparts, providing a longer runway and better opportunities for brands to curate authentic connections with their growing fanbases. 
  • Leverage Media with Cultural Influence: One of the more interesting moments during this year’s tournaments was Angel Reese, Louisiana State University’s (LSU) star player, declaring for the WNBA Draft, even though she still had a year of college eligibility left. The interesting part wasn’t that Reese declared for the Draft, it’s HOW she did it – with a feature in Vogue (Angel Reese Is Taking Her Talents to the WNBA). Until now, you may not have put Vogue and women’s college basketball in the same category, but the match-up of Reese’s crossover star power, and the popularity of women athletics, made this exclusive one to remember. The Vogue story delivered significant conversation around Reese’s decision, generating 8.5K earned media stories that continue to drive conversation today, and solidify her position as a budding WNBA superstar. In the article, Reese said of her decision to share the news exclusively with Vogue, “I didn’t want anything to be basic.” Not only was Reese not “basic,” she opened the door for brands to target more culturally focused outlets like Vogue, as opposed to relying solely on sports outlets.

What once was a moment dominated by the men’s tournament has shifted dramatically. Women’s players are the rising superstars, taking their lion’s share of the brand opportunities. With several of the women’s game greats declaring for the Draft, there’s optimism and interest to see how their phenomenon evolves, and who will rise next. 

March continues to be one of the greatest times of the year for brands to connect with fans through their shared love of basketball. For those interested in joining the conversation, laying the groundwork for more inclusive partnerships and activations starts now. 

Chris Potter, Gabby Hawley, Miranda Xie, Matt Groch and Steve Hickok contributed to this article.

Article

Nine Principles for People Leaders to Keep in Mind Throughout a Tumultuous 2024

March 26, 2024

As a highly contentious election year, 2024 stands to be as volatile and divisive as any period in recent memory. The following principles and guidance will help ensure people leaders are equipped and ready to support and engage with their teams through the potentially rocky period ahead.

Also check out our full Guidance for People Leaders, including worksheets and a checklist, for navigating this year.

Understand the Landscape

To understand the issues creating social division and key milestones that could serve as inflection points throughout the year, people leaders should take a quick scan of the news — from a balance of sources — every morning.

Be Accessible to the Team

To determine how employees are doing, people leaders should walk the halls or host 1:1 meetings with their teams, adopt an “open door” policy, encourage people to reach out when they need to talk, and practice active listening.

Stay Neutral

To remain balanced and refrain from bringing biases into workplace conversations, people leaders should pay attention to employees’ body language, ask how people are feeling while conversations are taking place and direct discussions accordingly.

Get Familiar with Policies and Helpful Resources

To socialize helpful resources to employees, people leaders should designate time to review and share their organization’s corporate values, code of conduct and relevant policies, and use these worksheets to guide their team’s ways of working.

Consider Situations that May Arise

To prepare for potential workplace disruptions, people leaders should consider the specific political and societal issues important to employees, as well as inflection points that may result in displays of emotion in the workplace.

Maintain Control of Conversations

To navigate discussions about politics or polarizing issues in the workplace, people leaders should reinforce that employees are expected to always treat each other with respect and that the workplace is a safe space where no one should feel marginalized or harassed, among other helpful reminders.

Appropriately Address Workplace Issues

To host productive conversations about employee behavior, people leaders should consult with HR before the conversation, seek to understand each person’s perspective and respectfully remove herself/himself from any conversation in which she/he feels threatened or unsafe.

Respond When the Team Needs Support

To determine how to address something that will upset one or more employees, people leaders should consider whether it is a topic appropriate for a team-wide discussion or better suited for 1:1 check-ins and, if needed, reference relevant employee benefits and programs that may be shared in those conversations.

Seek Additional Support

To effectively manage through what’s to come in 2024, people leaders should seek the input of peers they trust or colleagues in supporting functions, such as HR, Employee Communications, Legal and Labor Relations (if applicable).

Article

“ESG is in our DNA” isn’t just a cliché: How PE firms can prepare for ESG scrutiny by communicating strategically

March 14, 2024

Private equity as an asset class continues to boom, but this has brought with it added scrutiny, particularly on how firms are incorporating ESG and sustainability into their investing process. It has become a cliché to say that “ESG is in our firm’s DNA” but the PE business model lends itself particularly well to sustainable investing in a number of ways and businesses can communicate this better. In the current absence of uniform disclosure rules, firms that are transparent about their approach to ESG can stand apart in an increasingly difficult fundraising environment while setting an example in an industry that is associated with opacity.

The scene today

Assets under management in the PE industry totaled $2.7 trillion according to Preqin data in 2010 globally. Despite a marked drop in fundraising over the past two years, that figure has still mushroomed to $13.1 trillion as of June 30, 2023, with Asia accounting for nearly a third of that total. As a result, the stakeholders are proliferating, with investors such as private wealth and family offices growing, and demands for greater transparency, and even action on better distribution of profits increasing. The head of Calstrs, a major pension fund and PE Limited Partner (LP) issued a call for PE firms to “share the wealth” with the workers and communities of companies that they invest in.

Among those stakeholders, ESG is of ever-increasing importance when selecting a manager. A recent INSEAD survey showed that 90% of PE investors consider ESG as part of their investment process, with 77% citing it as a gauge for picking a manager.

Transparency is improving, but firms, particularly mid-size and smaller ones that have been hit hardest by the recent fundraising squeeze, can do much more to communicate their strategy and approach to sustainable investing.

Regulation is on its way

ESG regulation regarding disclosure is being developed in Europe and the United States in response in part to demand from investors and media. Examples include the proposed U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Scope 3 emissions disclosure rule and the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) from the EU, which came into force in January.

The CSRD affects PE firms in Asia as several of their portfolio companies will be in the value chain of the EU companies covered in the directive. They will have to prepare detailed reports covering carbon emissions, workers’ rights and a raft of other measures. They also cover the LPs themselves. Reporting will be released in 2025, but in the meantime, firms will have to move fast to put in place the means to measure the data correctly.

The issue that firms face, and one that affects sustainable investing globally, is the lack of a uniform reporting structure. While that is being developed there are ways for firms to inform their LPs, their stakeholders and the employees of their portfolio companies how they are applying ESG to their investment process, without being mistaken for an impact fund.

ESG really is in the DNA

Private equity as a strategy has several advantages for advancing sustainability due to its ownership structure allowing greater scope for activism at a board level, its focus on sustainability and its ability to offer scale.

Even if LPs don’t own 100% of the companies they are invested in, they will almost certainly have a strong presence on the board, meaning access to information around sustainable performance, can hire or reward executives for hitting sustainable targets and can scrutinize governance closer than investors in public markets and even regulators. They also have a longer investment horizon, meaning they have the time to implement and execute new strategies and see them through to completion.

Secondly, PE as a business model is focused on maximizing efficiency and profitability, initiatives that are clearly aligned with issues like reducing energy use. To maximize efficiency and performance, PE firms also have a rigorous system of collecting KPIs, which can be used to facilitate the collection of sustainability data while aligning it with financial goals.

Finally, PE firms offer scale. Small and medium enterprises (SMEs), which make up a huge amount of the wider economy and that PE firms often invest in, may struggle with making the changes necessary to pivot to lower or zero emissions as they don’t have the technical ability, knowhow or resources to change their business model in the desired manner. Having a PE firm as an investor or owner means that SMEs can apply all the resources at their disposal and the synergies of their portfolio companies to help businesses make those changes.

How to make it count

Uniformity among reporting regimes is still to come, but firms can demonstrate their actions through increasing transparency, employing strategic messaging, recognizing their extended universe of stakeholders and engaging with them in a clear and thoughtful way. Explaining a firm’s sustainability model transparently as well as the improvements it is making from an ESG-perspective will make sure it can stand out to asset allocators, regulators and the growing universe of stakeholders which PE firms now must address.

Article

Three Best Practices for Communications Around Scope 3 Emissions

By Judith Rowland

This month, the SEC voted to approve new reporting rules that make climate disclosures legally binding. Following this long-anticipated development, sustainability communicators are rightly considering how their own strategies need to evolve. While Scope 1 and 2 emissions are the primary target of the new rules, conversations on the importance of reducing Scope 3 emissions continue to rise at a fast clip.

Scope 3 emissions refer to indirect emissions that occur both upstream and downstream of a company’s value chain. The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi)— a global collaboration launched by CDP, the United Nations Global Compact, World Resources Institute and WWT in 2015 — considers Scope 3 emissions the “most significant and most challenging source of emissions from businesses.” According to CDP, emissions in a company’s supply chain are on average 11 times higher than direct (Scope 1) emissions and reflect more than 70% of total emissions. Sectors with large, global value chains — including the food and agriculture sector — likely experience the most pressure to decarbonize their supply chains.   

Since 2021, Google Trends reports search volume for topics related to Scope 3 emissions has increased by more than 214%, signaling heightened visibility of the importance of reducing emissions throughout the value chain. As the pressure to reduce Scope 3 emissions intensifies, there are three best practices for sustainability communications leaders to leverage.

Transparently Report Out Scope 3 Emissions

Though the new SEC reporting rules lack a mandate for reporting on Scope 3 emissions, regulations in other markets — especially Europe — go much further. Due in part to this global regulatory pressure, disclosing emissions is becoming common place for large companies. To qualify as a science-based target, companies must have a plan to “reduce Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions to zero or a residual level.” As of this writing, 7,705 companies have started the process of setting a science-based target and 4,778 companies have had their targets approved.

For companies that haven’t taken the step of aligning with SBTi, finding ways to start tracking and reporting out on Scope 3 emissions is a best practice. Scope 3 emissions can be disclosed within sustainability reports and key reductions in emissions should be celebrated in website materials, handouts or even content for LinkedIn.

Focus Media Pitches on Achieving Rather Than Setting Goals

Over two decades ago, psychologists conducted a study designed to assess how people think about the future. Researchers asked participants to consider their activities and available spare time that day and a month from that day, and then decide on which day they’d have more time. This landmark study demonstrated humanity’s tendance toward “delay discounting” wherein we prefer to incur a large cost later, rather than a small cost now.

As 2030 inches closer, the gap between where companies are currently, and the ambition established within their net-zero targets is becoming apparent. In response to the “delay discounting” related to climate targets, many sustainability-focused reporters are giving less airtime to goals announcements and instead prioritizing coverage for companies that meet or exceed targets early. Highlighting key successes and strategies that can be leveraged by other stakeholders to reach net-zero can be a top-tier media-winning strategy.

Collaborate to Proactively Address the Barriers to Decarbonization Within the Value Chain

Disclosing and reducing Scope 3 emissions is challenging because these emissions are not produced by the company themselves. Companies must lean on suppliers and customers to report emissions and track progress. This is particularly challenging for companies like food processors that take in a wide range of inputs to create a food product, and for companies that operate across multiple markets with a patchwork of sustainability regulations. Sharing learnings throughout the value chain and collaborating to increase the accuracy of Scope 3 emissions reporting must become a standard practice. Rather than a “race” to net-zero, we must consider how we can collaborate to get there together.

Though the new norm of reporting out on Scope 3 emissions and diligently working to meet targets set well into the future may be challenging, my colleagues and I remain energized by the opportunity to define solutions for entire value chains to collaborate on decarbonization. By setting transparent goals, working to achieve them and collaborating with sector partners, we can take critical steps on the journey to net zero.

Ericka Loida contributed to this piece.