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Yogesh Chauhan Blog

Published on: Tuesday 7th June 2022

Authored by By Yogesh Chauhan

Director of ESG, HubSpot

Yogesh-Chauhan

Leading with influence in corporate sustainability

Written by Yogesh Chauhan, Director of ESG, HubSpot

Recently, I made a trip to my health store for a bar of shampoo soap to help cut down on plastics. I was surprised when the shop assistant told me that demand for eco-friendly bath products had exceeded their expectations. So, while I left without my soap, I couldn’t help but feel a bit of optimism about the future of the planet.

When I first started working in the field of corporate sustainability almost two decades ago, the United Nations Global Compact had just launched, and the concept of ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) had yet to reach mainstream adoption. Now, 91% of business leaders believe their company has a responsibility to act on ESG issues.

While it’s noteworthy that sustainability has become a business imperative, recognising we have a responsibility to act is just the first step. In order to create lasting change, we must understand the full scope of our influence as businesses and organisations.

Consider your “brainprint”

As investor and regulatory interest in ESG continues to rise, it’s easy to become fixated on standardised reporting requirements. The Greenhouse Gas Protocols helpfully defines Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions. Reporting against these is becoming common practice and whilst there is much to applaud in that I would ask, why stop there? Perhaps there is a scope 4 and beyond.

For companies that largely generate value such as intellectual property, digital technology, communications, media and services, this influencer or multiplier role can be substantial - in other words, our “brainprint.” WWF coined this term to address the role the media and entertainment industry plays in shaping public attitudes and perceptions and the indirect impact the industry has on its audiences.

Whilst there is some interest in the ‘brainprint’ a business or organisation can have, I’m keen to encourage sustainability leaders to really start to explore it further, especially if we are to rapidly move towards a low carbon economy. Perhaps a good place to start is asking ourselves what kind of sustainability behaviour is our business encouraging amongst its stakeholders whether it is clients, consumers, employees or other businesses? Secondly, can you begin to quantify and measure it and then what actions can you undertake?

This is largely uncharted waters but we as sustainability leaders have a responsibility to pioneer the evolution of this type of ESG thinking.

Be intentional in setting a strategy

As Director of ESG at HubSpot, I spend a fair bit of time considering our influencing role. In my view, being intentional is at the heart of any sustainability strategy. It’s quite clear, even in my short tenure so far at HubSpot, that this idea is embedded in everything we do, from delivering content and experiences that attract and delight customers to treating culture like a product we build for our employees. It’s my goal to adopt the same approach in driving a sustainable agenda for our customers, employees, partners, and communities. Fortunately, I’ve been meeting with people across the business who are incredibly engaged and ardently push us to be thoughtful and act with integrity, which is critical to creating meaningful impact.

During a recent chat with a group of HubSpotters, we talked about how the choices we make as a company impact our circles of influence. These circles of influence include not just our employees, customers, partners and suppliers, but any organisation or individual we have the potential to influence or be influenced by. So, our wider circles include downstream our customers’ customers and upstream the suppliers of our vendors, which may include sources of energy, raw materials and labour. What conversations should we be having with stakeholders and what can we do to drive sustainable change that extends to their circles of influence? These are the types of questions I ask myself and that I recommend all leaders in ESG should, as well.

Work out what circularity means to your business

Another way to think about our influencing role is the concept of circularity. A circular economy refers to the idea of eliminating waste by finding value in the lifecycle of a product. The same way manufacturers calculate the carbon footprint of their product by understanding the resource loops from raw materials to usage, I believe there is an opportunity to explore what circularity means to organisations that provide intellectual services. This goes back to the influencer role and the challenge is how can such businesses, which includes HubSpot, create a virtuous circle which supports a sustainable future?

As more and more companies take up a sustainability agenda and public perception of social responsibility shifts, there’s no question that the potential for impact is immense. Now is the time to consider our wider influence and jointly work toward change.

If you are a sustainability leader and interested in further discussion or collaboration on our influencing role and “brainprint”, we’d love to hear from you.

Please  contact Yogesh through the Windsor Leadership Alumni Portal or contact Liz Ward, Alumni and Leadership Academy Manager.

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