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Why ESG Conscious Companies are Resilient Companies The courageous leaders of today are those that are taking their social impact into account.

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In the years right after 9/11, there was sympathy for even the largest companies hit by the financial impact of the attack on the World Trade Center. American businesses lost over 11 billion dollars during the disruption of the economy. Airlines, banks and brokerage houses became household names. Patriotism was often a trip to the highstreet to throw some much needed money into the names on the Wall Street tickers. It was a good thing to spend through an attack on a way of living. You will not find that kind of corporate compassion today.

In the spring of 2020, many of the same company names (read: airlines) were hit by the global closures caused by Covid-19. Early leadership and strategy conversations centered around resilience planning and future proofing your investments. What didn't emerge this time was sympathy.

This pandemic was eye-opening to the complex relationships between inequality, economic growth, loss, climate change and social cohesion. The way that consumers saw a connection between spending and recovery after 9/11, they now see a connection between addressing disparity and recovery. The mantra has been: we are all in this together.

Companies who want to draw the patronage of the public today need to have a position on whether their infinite growth is possible on this finite planet. Is what they do sustainable for their workers, the climate and the consumer? Or will they be remembered in the past tense for carrying on contributing to collapse while consumers asked for better. Any company not addressing their ESG (environmental, social and governance) position in the hopes that there is still time to catch up later is living on borrowed time.

Related: How to Shape Your Corporate Social Responsibility Around COVID-19

Being a force for good

In 2021, PWC recorded the highest rates of consumer appetite for positive corporate leadership: 83 percent of consumers think companies should be actively shaping ESG best practices. The numbers go up when you ask employees and their leaders.

Still, any business taking steps towards sustainability is likely to face the skepticism of activists. They still see business leaders as profit-obsessed cynics who wield their power to buy influence and advantage. They wouldn't be wrong, for the most part.

Others will say that real change needs to come from government through policies that would regulate and penalize the bad actors and enforce better business practices.

Either way, progress will not be made without businesses because of their oversized share of the economy. An enormous amount of capital will need to shift from old models to new innovations invested in the future of energy, logistics and labor.

Related: This Is Why Your Business Should Prioritize Environmental Efforts

An ethical mindset is an innovation mindset

This is a revolutionary way of leading a modern business. Courageous ESG leaders are creating new business value. They are the epitome of disruptors. It is important to implement company policies that protect your stakeholders from your organization's product and services whether you are aiming to provide equal opportunity to team members or meet a local social aim. Small gains over time will yield the kind of long-term results that purpose-driven companies benefit from. These small gains will add up to a profound shift that will show business can be a trusted leader in solving the problems that matter.

Start with yourself

Bringing a company into a global dialogue will start with its leaders. Make it a priority to engage regularly with leaders from different industries and see how they are driving their organizations towards purpose. Invest in learning with great purpose-driven listening material such as the podcasts IdeaCast and Coaching Real Leaders. Learn about the different leadership styles, workplace inclusion and policies discussions from business leaders. The Nice Guys on Business podcast is a light-hearted take on purposeful missions for business leaders.

The opportunities here for businesses to create new value are profound, rewarding and still uncharted. There is still vast room to make a difference. Global disruptions will not end with the pandemic. Consumers will continue to ask if companies are contributing with courage or contributing to collapse.

Related: 5 Tips to Instill Corporate Social Responsibility Into Every Aspect of ...

Maryam Ishani Thompson

Co-founder and Chief Content Officer of systemCHANGR

Maryam Ishani is a co-founder and the chief content officer of systemCHANGR, an ESG/SDG expert community think tank supporting scalable solutions for ESG advancement. She's covered politics, conflict and trade in the SWANA and APAC regions for AFP, Reuters and The Guardian.

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