Beyond Breakfast: The importance of ESG in growing your business

How can businesses make a positive impact on society and the environment? That was the theme of our Beyond Breakfast event this week at the former brewery, now contemporary art gallery, The Tetley, in Leeds.

KPMG Director Anthony Barrett, who leads the firm’s Energy and National Resources team in our region, set the scene for the debate by telling the audience that businesses which make Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) related investments now, will have the upper hand as economies strengthen.

We’ve captured some key insights from the event, shared by our inspiring speakers Dan Graf, CEO and Founder of technology specialists Earthchain and Holly Kragiopoulos, Co-Founder and Director of North Star Coffee Roasters, who each gave vital practical tips for businesses on how to act more sustainably and outlined the enormous benefits which can be achieved for people and profit as well as the planet.

Audience listening to a speaker at Beyond Breakfast 2.

Dan Graf speaking at Beyond Breakfast 2

Dan focused on the need for tangible action as part of an ESG strategy:

“Although carbon credits can form part of a business’s ESG strategy, they must be of good quality and run in parallel to clear reduction targets. Carbon credits in isolation is simply greenwashing. Banks, venture capital companies and funders now have to disclose the carbon footprint of investments over a certain size and understand the impact of their portfolio on environment and society. Increasingly they are seeking investments which fulfil those criteria.”

He also reassured smaller businesses that help is out there:

“SMEs and start-ups do not have the economies of scale to change a whole supply chain, but they can take action closer to home and make credits part of their wider ESG programme. There are extremely helpful frameworks out there to guide that process – you don’t have to invent this from scratch.”

And encourage them to focus on the things that matter to them and their brand:

“Businesses can choose causes and communities which align with their brand values, sharing progress updates and milestones which resonate with their customers. The local projects we work with give business owners and their employees the opportunity to meet the project teams and get involved themselves. Remember, it’s so much better to be doing something, than trying to seek perfection – and share your progress with other businesses: when it comes to protecting our planet, we all have the same goal.”

Holly Kragiopoulos speaking at Beyond Breakfast 2

Holly Kragiopoulos spoke about her company’s passion for putting people and planet first and said all businesses could make a positive impact:

“Every company – of every size and every sector – has an impact on society and the environment. For us, it’s about worker rights and climate change and even though we are a small business in a massive, commoditised global supply chain, we are making a difference. You have to focus on what is relevant to you and where you can drive real change.”

She wanted business owners to be optimistic about the real difference they can make:

“Don’t be overwhelmed by the bigger picture – you can be optimistic and positive about what you can do with your own operations. There are so many strands to becoming future-focused: from employee well-being and customer satisfaction, to sustainable sourcing and carbon footprint. You don’t have to be part of a complex supply chain or working internationally to have an impact.

The business benefits of doing the right thing, she added, went well beyond compliance with ever-increasing ESG legislation:

“The motivation should always be people and planet before profit, but an inevitable consequence of building a sustainability strategy is that it benefits your business. Teams are more engaged, talented recruits are more attracted and customers are drawn to the “buy good, feel good” factor of choosing quality products and services from companies they can see are doing the right thing and sharing the right messages.”

Fundraising and Internationalisation are the focus of future events in our Beyond Breakfast series – if you want to find out more, please follow our Eventbrite page for details and diary dates.

Earthchain works with the Gold Standard Foundation to curate a portfolio of local and international projects to help businesses select causes and communities which reflect their brand and core values.

North Star is a B Corp certified company, supplying high quality, sustainably sourced coffee at its Leeds roastery and coffee shop and through wholesale partnerships across the UK.