What is environmental, social and governance (ESG)? And why does it matter to small businesses

Small businesses that adhere to strong governance practices and ethical standards can efficiently handle legal and regulatory challenges.

This article will explore Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) principles and examine their significance for small businesses.

What Is Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG)?

ESG is a structured framework that helps to measure a business’s overall impact externally and internally on sustainability and ethics. It is a set of factors that help assess how a company operates regarding its effect on the environment, its relationships, and its internal management.

Breaking down ESG

E: Environmental

This aspect focuses on the impact of a business on the environment. It considers energy consumption, carbon emission, waste management techniques, and sustainability practices.

S: Social

The social aspect assesses the business’s relationship with the community and its employees. It includes checking how a company treats its employees, its diversity and inclusivity, and how active they are in serving the community.

Governance (G)

Governance refers to how a company is managed and controlled. It includes assessing the business’ decision-making process, the board of directors’ skills, and the top executives’ salaries. It also checks the ethical standards and transparency of a business.

Benefits of ESG Practices for Small Businesses

Reputation Enhancement

Small businesses prioritizing ESG practices gain a positive reputation for being socially and environmentally responsible.

Many people are becoming very socially conscious, especially the younger generation. Hence, maintaining ESG practices can attract many potential customers and gain loyalty. Satisfied customers are highly likely to spread positive word-of-mouth and referrals.

Employee Attraction and Retention

Today’s workforce, especially younger generations, values work environments that are not just about profits but also work towards making a change. Small businesses prioritizing ESG create a workplace where employees feel proud of their contributions.

Practicing equality, justice, and inclusivity within the workplace can motivate employees greatly. The increase in morale will reflect in their working practices, which will become more efficient.

Operational Efficiency and Cost Savings

ESG initiatives can often lead to operational improvements. Small businesses can save money using energy-efficient practices, such as using less power electronics.

These small steps can contribute to lower utility bills, decreased supply chain costs, and higher profitability. Moreover, practicing ESG rules can prevent penalties related to such issues, saving many costs.

Risk Management and Compliance

Small businesses that adhere to strong governance practices and ethical standards can efficiently handle legal and regulatory challenges. By promptly addressing risks, such as legal liabilities or reputational damage, your business can avoid costly setbacks and maintain a positive image.

Real-World Examples of ESG Practices

Microsoft: All of you must have heard about this tech giant. However, you might need to be aware that Microsoft is also known for its efforts toward environmental care. In 2020, Microsoft promised to use less carbon than it produces by 2030.

They are doing this by investing in renewable energy projects. They also started a program called “Environmental Sustainability Vision” to be more eco-friendly. As a result, Microsoft did reduce the pollution made by them and also the waste. Their eco-friendly efforts even made $10 billion more in sales.

Costco: Costco is few of the biggest retail stores in the US. They have made many socially responsible efforts like waste management and supporting sustainable agriculture.

They also started a “Sustainable Business Strategy” plan to be even more eco-friendly. Consequently, Costco’s customer satisfaction increased by 20%, worker engagement increased by 15%, and the company’s value grew by 10%.

How to Incorporate ESG Considerations into Business Strategies

Incorporate ESG with Business’ Values and Mission

As a small business owner, begin by adding ESG considerations to your business’s mission and vision plan. Having a base enriched with such values can make your steps more responsible.

You should identify how ESG factors directly affect your business’s purpose and long-term objectives. This integration can foster authenticity and commitment.


Being in the top layer of a business structure makes it your responsibility to connect with all your stakeholders as much as possible.

You need to bring everyone together, from the top leadership to the junior-level employees, to emphasize the strategic importance of ESG. Everyone working towards the same goal will speed up the process and enrich it.

Conduct a Materiality Assessment

Not all ESG factors will be equally beneficial for your business. Hence, you should conduct a materiality assessment to identify which ESG aspects are most relevant and impactful for your business.

For example, single-use supplies are necessary in the medical industry for hygiene and safety reasons. Reducing waste by reusing these supplies might not be suitable, as it could be hazardous for the patients.

Set Clear Goals

It would help to establish clear and measurable ESG goals related to your business strategy. Whether reducing carbon emissions or improving employee well-being, well-defined goals provide a roadmap for progress.

Reporting and Transparency

Transparency is critical to building trust. Regularly report your ESG progress, challenges, and plans to stakeholders. Providing accessible and transparent information shows you are confident and sincere in your efforts.

Bottom Line

Being a small business owner who embraces environmental, social, and governance (ESG) considerations showcases a commitment beyond profit margins.  Showing responsibility in these areas can be a powerful strategy to attract investors.

By incorporating ESG principles into your business, you align with the values of an evolving market and make the way for a brighter future.