I Took Harvard’s Leading ESG Course

Photo by Scott Graham on Unsplash

ESG is a key skill set for any professional.

Environmental, Social and Governance, or ESG, is everywhere. As a consultant and instructor, I wanted to skill up on this key aspect of modern business and learn as much practical information as I could.

Key aspects of the course

The two instructors — Kevin Hagen (Iron Mountain) and Kevin Wilhelm (Sustainable Business Consulting) — are both seasoned practitioners who bring a wealth of real world experience and case studies to the course content. They also leveraged their extensive networks and invited world-class guest speakers to provide additional insights.

Key take-aways

There were many key lessons in this course. These are my top five.

ESG can be a way to bring people together and drive profitability.

ESG is often framed as a negative (i.e. why would we do things differently / we don’t have the staff / this is not the way it has always been done / this will cost money). It is our job as practitioners to demonstrate the business value associated with robust data collection and reporting, and to use that data to develop future business opportunities. Skilled ESG professionals will search for ways to translate potential risks into meaningful business opportunities.

Make data collection as easy as possible.

There are many different ESG frameworks and the ESG reporting landscape continues to evolve. To avoid having to go back and get more or additional data sets, try to gather all the data you might need, the first time around. Consider related data or data that is germane to other frameworks to help expedite reporting.

Lead with transparency and authenticity.

Sustainability often gets worse before it gets better. Tracking down data can sometimes reveal blemishes within your organization. Keep in mind that no company is perfect and every organization has to start somewhere.

Engage all stakeholders in meaningful conversations — and listen to them.

A robust ESG strategy will ensure that all key stakeholders are identified and engaged. This may require you to use different outreach strategies for different audiences. Keep in mind that tools like materiality assessments can help organizations figure out which areas to prioritize.

Understand the importance of good Governance.

E, S, and G are all important to complete reporting. That said, the “G” often gets overlooked. Challenge yourself and your organization to think of good governance as the “behind the scenes” structure that drives the rest of the program, long term.



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Nicole DeNamur

Nicole DeNamur


Attorney + sustainability consultant. I write about how we can drive deep green innovation at scale. https://www.sustainablestrategiespllc.com