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World Economic Forum releases framework to help business identify ESG factors for long-term resilience

  • ESG factors with financial impact on a company can change over time; identifying these factors before they arise is important for a company’s long-term strength
  • As proven by the unexpected impacts of COVID-19, companies already see the need to prepare for financially material business factors which can change rapidly
  • New World Economic Forum analysis examines this process of “dynamic materiality”, releasing framework to help companies consider how ESG factors may become financially material in the future

The white paper, Embracing the New Age of Materiality: Harnessing the Pace of Change in ESG, determines that what is financially immaterial to a company or industry today can become material tomorrow, a process called “dynamic materiality”. The whitepaper also introduces a new framework analysis of how ESG issues have become financially material over time.

ESG issues are increasingly impacting business. As social tensions and similar trends become more acute, these external social and environmental factors will become tangible financial costs for companies.

“As we’re learning in real-time with the outbreak of COVID-19 and its unexpected impacts, today’s companies must increasingly account for non-financial factors in their long- and short-term business plans,” said Maha Eltobgy, Head of the Future of Investing at the World Economic Forum. “As companies look to adapt their value‑creation plans in the new business landscape, they must optimize performance against current and future material ESG issues to safeguard their companies and ensure long-term success.”

While companies are already feeling the impact of ESG factors on the health of their business, today’s era of increased transparency is also highlighting the importance of enhanced disclosures. Increased transparency also means that the rate at which currently immaterial issues are becoming material is accelerating.

“For businesses to thrive in the 2020s, they will need to understand the forces that will shape the next 10 years and use them to their advantage. There’s no doubt that sustainability and societal impact issues will be a leading force for driving value creation,” said Rich Lesser, Global Chief Executive Officer, BCG, USA.

“We cannot wait for corporate reporting to become perfect. We need to become more forward-looking now and push for better corporate reporting at the same time,” said Brian Deese, Global Head, Sustainable Investing BlackRock, USA.

The framework, developed by the World Economic Forum in collaboration with Boston Consulting Group (BCG) helps companies identify these issues. It comprises four components:

1. Hyper-transparency of corporate practices in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

2. Escalating stakeholder activism fuelled by social media

3. Changing societal expectation in the new age of stakeholder activism

4. Growing investor focus on sustainability issues

Framework on how ESG issues become financially material over time

The framework for action gives guidance to investors on the signals to look for to better identify and manage dynamic ESG issues.

The coming generations are already creating changes in consumer markets, talent pools and other areas of society as their economic importance grows. Companies must acknowledge the upcoming generations priorities. They need to reflect and internalize these values in their operations and investment.

This article was originally published by The World Economic Forum.
Written by: Madeleine Hillyer, US Media Relations
Alem Tedeneke, Media Lead, World Economic Forum
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