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Why your career growth depends on working for a company committed to ESG

To realize your career potential in a purpose-driven world, you can’t afford to ignore three ESG trends.

Why your career growth depends on working for a company committed to ESG
[Source images: Flavio Coelho/Getty Images; Rawpixel]

What matters more: a company’s profit margins or its purpose? For a growing share of workers, the answer is obvious. In a competitive labor market, candidates look for a fair and inviting workplace. But more than that, many employees want their work to make a difference. Their purposeful career choices leverage corporate resources to help create a better, more equitable world.  

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The good news is, many companies have made the same decision. Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) principles have emerged as an urgent reflection of corporate purpose. Shareholders increasingly view business prospects as tied to corporate social responsibility. As a result, leading firms have made a full commitment to pursuing ESG factors. And new hires should expect nothing less from potential employers. 

To advance your career and realize your potential in a purpose-driven world, you can’t afford to ignore three ESG trends. Understand them, chase after them and, most importantly, know how to find companies at the forefront of ESG innovation. 

The same three attributes that unlock the success of ESG can also unlock career success. It’s no secret that a focus on KPIs, the ability to adapt, and outright persistence are the winning combination for thriving organizations and high-performance individuals and teams. The ESG process forces organizations to take a multidisciplinary approach to management. ESG measures identify, a resourceful purpose-led organization, and through the skills it hones, productive and purpose-driven employees. 

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KPIs for the ESG Age

For forward-thinking corporations, following ESG principles isn’t simply sticking to a long-term sustainability framework. Rather, companies imbued with ESG-driven purpose tend to focus on what is material to the sustainability of their industry as a whole. They examine policies, social trends, and environmental, social, and governance risk, then form strategies to generate the biggest ESG impact. 

These companies have adopted key performance indicators that turn their intentions into meaningful action, quantifying their ESG successes, and identifying areas for improvement. Take Patagonia as an example. By acknowledging that around 10% of the global greenhouse gasses are emitted from clothing and footwear industries, Patagonia was able to switch to 100% renewable energy and explore toxin-free manufacturing practices that utilize organically grown, regenerative organic cotton. 

A purpose-led brand sets a higher bar for employee achievement. Giving workers a stake in ESG performance promotes transparency and self-reflection at all levels. Their purpose-driven solutions overwhelmingly benefit diverse employee bases because their metrics reward merit evenhandedly.

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Adaptability as an asset

If executed correctly, an ESG-centered purpose creates top-down and bottom-up alignment throughout the organization. Workers can act on a shared purpose and adapt to cultures, trends, new technologies, and environmental demands. With every challenge wrought by systemic and uncontrollable change, self-directed employees are constantly learning how to think critically and consider the most effective questions, solutions, and outcomes in real time.  

In turn, purpose-driven companies have a multidisciplinary, functional approach that prepares employees to respond to adversity. Purpose-driven leaders train personnel in a more diverse array of impactful disciplines. Employees trained for resilience can think on their feet and draw from a deep well of sustainability-minded information. Their actions benefit stakeholders and their communities simultaneously. 

Adaptable skills and specializations are a boon to any workforce, including future employers who hope to adopt emerging best practices. Corporate social responsibility gives workers the opportunity to stretch and make themselves a more appealing hire. 

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Purpose through persistence

ESG goals are, by nature, difficult to break down into clear steps. The sheer breadth and scope of the issues at hand leave many employees wondering, How am I supposed to accomplish this? 

Similarly, deciding on an ESG framework can be a complex process in itself, requiring ambition and perspective in equal measure. Paul Polman and Andrew Winston’s book Net Positive describes how Unilever, one of the world’s largest consumer-goods conglomerates, handles its ESG-based challenges and triumphs through a mix of tenacity and trial and error. The moral of the story: No amount of resources can guarantee a brand’s success in the realm of social responsibility. 

When assessing companies for compatible ESG principles, never underestimate the tenacity of a company’s leaders, the culture they build, and the growth they promote in their colleagues. Companies, like the people who keep them in business, are in a constant state of change. Companies that put their ESG purpose into action find the clarity to pursue nontraditional avenues of growth.  

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Every turning tide brings with it a new wave of pioneers willing to ride out the next biggest challenge and thrive in the new spaces they create for themselves. By looking for ESG and corporate fundamentals, such as purpose-driven KPIs, adaptability, and persistence in the face of adversity, professionals can find their next passion project without compromising on their true potential. 


Diane Primo is the CEO of Purpose Brand public relations agency. Her most recent book is Adapt: Scaling Purpose in a Divisive World.


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