Purpose Decoded Forecast: 2023 ESG Outlook

We’re pleased to share the Purpose Decoded Forecast video series with insights on the key environment, social and governance (ESG) and sustainability trends shaping the agenda this year. First up is the “2023 ESG Outlook”.

As world leaders gather in Davos, Switzerland, this week for the 2023 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, many of the top issues on the agenda relate to a changing climate, fractures in the social contract and new realities for the future of work — all issues that fall under the umbrella of ESG. With the rise of sustainable investing and broader adoption of ESG factors in capital markets and corporate decision-making, ESG practices and policies have become a shorthand for how companies meet new stakeholder expectations for purpose-driven leadership.

But the current debate over ESG and claims of “woke capitalism” — especially in the U.S. — distracts from a very necessary conversation about how companies need to address risks across their value chain and protect a sustainable license to operate in an era of unprecedented volatility.

To better understand the issues CEOs and corporate leaders should prioritize, we spoke to the experts. The “2023 ESG Outlook” provides perspective on and how to define ESG strategically to drive business performance and impact.

Victoria Mills, Managing Director at EDF + Business, advises CEOs to look critically at what it will take to ensure their “business can thrive over the long term” — including how they can contribute to societal stability, proactive talent management and good governance practices.

Amy Hepburn, CEO at Investor Leadership Network, is focused on the role of investors in this context and redefining the concept of fiduciary responsibility to take into account climate risk, diversity and other ESG considerations. Mindy Lubber, CEO and President at Ceres, agrees, pointing out that such risks have “billion dollar implications for companies and investors”. She asserts that ESG and sustainability issues must be considered as bottom-line economic issues.

Sasha Mackler, Executive Director of the Energy Program at the Bipartisan Policy Center, counsels CEOs to “define ESG in a way that works commercially and strategically for their particular business” before a competitor or policymaker defines it for them.

More Insights from Our Subject Matter Experts

Powell Tate’s report, Leading at the Intersections 2023, provides actionable insights on some of the biggest issues of the moment, what to be watching for in 2023, plus some of our best thinking from the past year.