Skip navigation
Image generated by MidJourney

Aquent’s unique solution to better sustainability for businesses. 

By:

An innovative approach to meet your environmental, social, and governance goals.
LAST UPDATED: March 29, 2024

Key Takeaways

  • Sustainability has become a business imperative due to financial, social, and compliance pressures.
  • Companies face mounting pressure from consumers, investors, and regulations to adopt sustainable practices.
  • Building sustainability expertise requires understanding the skills needed at different maturity stages.
  • Roles like sustainability analysts and ESG reporting specialists are in high demand, while emerging areas include policy analysis and translating trends into business strategies.

With the urgency of climate change, sustainability has become a non-negotiable aspect of business operations. Yet the journey toward a truly sustainable organization is not a simple one. Although 90% of business leaders think sustainability is important, only 60% of companies have a sustainability strategy. Companies also face mounting societal pressure to adopt sustainable practices, and consumers, especially Gen Z, now favor brands that prioritize sustainability. In addition, the legal landscape poses challenges, with existing regulations and emerging local, state, federal, and international rules necessitating compliance. Moreover, the financial incentives attached to sustainable operations make it an attractive proposition for businesses.

In response to the growing need for sustainability expertise, Aquent is proud to announce that we are expanding our work solutions into the sustainability sector. For decades, Aquent has been known for providing companies with top-tier marketing, creative, and design talent. However, as our clients' needs expand and the market evolves, so do we. Our commitment to adapting with our clients, coupled with our dedication to creating a better world for everyone, has driven us to extend our solutions into sustainability and related areas like Environment, Social, and Governance (ESG), Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Environmental, Health, and Safety (EHS), and Social Impact. 

This expansion into the sustainability space is not just about diversifying our offerings; it's a natural progression of our own sustainability efforts, reflecting our core values and our commitment to taking action to improve the world around us. Over the past several years, we have made substantial investments in our own sustainability practices. This includes accurately measuring our carbon footprint, reducing our carbon output by shifting to a virtual-first model, offsetting our footprint through building clean energy projects, undergoing third-party audits and assessments, and communicating our progress to clients and other stakeholders. 

We understand firsthand how sustainability touches every pocket of an organization and its operations. We get how challenging this work can be and the skills and experience it requires. Through doing this work ourselves, we are uniquely positioned to assist our clients in building their sustainability teams and expertise. Whether a company is just getting started or has a mature sustainability program, the importance of skilled sustainability professionals guiding the work cannot be overstated.

The business benefits of sustainability

In the face of global climate change, the focus on sustainability has become a business imperative with far-reaching economic implications. Morgan Stanley's “Sustainable Reality” report notes that in the first half of 2023, sustainable funds outperformed their traditional counterparts with a median return of 6.9% compared to 3.8%. On the flip side, a recent report from Swiss Re Group cautions that without concerted action on climate change, the world economy could lose up to 18% GDP by 2050. These projections underscore the fact that a unified focus on sustainability is not just an environmental necessity but also a key driver for global economic success.

The impact of sustainability also extends beyond financial performance. Social pressure remains a significant factor influencing companies' sustainability efforts. According to PwC, 76% of consumers would cease purchasing from companies perceived as having poor environmental, employee, or community practices. Similarly, TheRoundUp.org reports that poor environmental practices can alienate 84% of customers. 

Compliance with environmental regulations is another compelling reason for businesses to focus on sustainability. Industries such as energy, manufacturing, transportation, and construction all have heightened obligations due to the nature of their operations. As sustainability gains global attention, companies are urged to increase transparency in reporting and exceed minimum requirements in their sustainability efforts.

These financial, social, and compliance pressures have prompted businesses to invest more in developing their teams, technology tools, and other tools, such as industry partnerships and other forms of collaborative effort in sustainability and related areas such as ESG, CSR , Social Impact, and EHS. 

In the U.S., many local and state initiatives provide incentives for businesses to adopt sustainable practices. Companies implementing green initiatives may be eligible for tax incentives depending on their location. For example, the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 provides incentives to reward companies for beneficial environmental actions. 

Furthermore, ESG ratings have become a crucial aspect of business operations. Companies are increasingly reporting on their ESG efforts to demonstrate their commitment to these areas. There's a growing correlation between favorable ESG ratings and financial support from investors, banks, and other financial institutions, indicating that those with investment capital are increasingly keen to back sustainable businesses.

The intersection of sustainability, ESG, and social impact

The path toward a more sustainable and inclusive future calls for significant investment, policy shifts, and mindset changes. It's about creating not just a sustainable environment but also a world where everyone can thrive.

The convergence of Sustainability, Social Impact, and ESG is becoming increasingly apparent. These interrelated concepts are shaping corporate social responsibility and environmental stewardship, underscoring their importance in today's business world.

The cost differential between sustainable and non-sustainable products often acts as a barrier to their widespread adoption. Premium-priced electric cars, renewable energy, and even compostable sandwich bags may be less accessible to many.

Industries such as manufacturing and energy may find the initial investment required to make operations sustainable to be challenging, but a commitment from all stakeholders, including the board and company leaders, is vital to overcome this hurdle.

While sometimes used interchangeably, sustainability and ESG are two distinct concepts. According to Brightest.io, “ESG looks at how the world impacts a company or investment, whereas sustainability focuses on how a company (or investment) impacts the world.” Essentially, ESG refers to a company's reporting of environmental, social, and governance practices and metrics. In contrast, sustainability explores how a company, country, or individual manages resources to ensure a safe and productive future.

It's essential to note that both Sustainability and ESG encompass environmental and social components. This overlap is evident in the UN's 17 Sustainable Development Goals and the “S” for social in ESG. The United Nations' 17 Sustainable Development Goals include: 

  • Eradicating poverty.
  • Eliminating hunger.
  • Ensuring good health and well-being.
  • Providing quality education.
  • Achieving gender equality.
  • Ensuring access to clean water and sanitation.
  • Promoting affordable and clean energy.
  • Fostering decent work and economic growth.
  • Building industry, innovation, and infrastructure.
  • Reducing inequalities.
  • Creating sustainable cities and communities.
  • Ensuring responsible consumption and production.
  • Taking action against climate change.
  • Protecting life below water.
  • Preserving life on land.
  • Promoting peace, justice, and strong institutions.
  • Establishing partnerships for achieving these goals.

The intricate intersection of Sustainability, Social Impact, and ESG presents an opportunity for businesses to drive meaningful change while enhancing their performance. By understanding the interplay between these concepts, businesses can create inclusive, sustainable environments that foster long-term growth and prosperity.

The need for sustainability expertise

As sustainability becomes an increasingly important focus for businesses, understanding the necessary talent and expertise required to foster this growth can be challenging. The journey to sustainability varies significantly across companies, as does the maturity of their programs. Therefore, the level and type of talent needed are closely entwined with these varying stages of program maturity.

For companies embarking on their sustainability journey, the approach to building a robust program often differs. Some may opt for hiring a small team of full-time employees, while others might lean on the expertise of external consultants or agencies. Regardless of the approach, defining the objectives and tasks of these sustainability professionals is crucial. This clarity helps identify the specific skills and experience required for success.

For instance, if your sustainability program includes conducting a materiality assessment—an initial gap analysis—the individual or team needs specific skills such as advanced analytical thinking, adeptness at stakeholder engagement, and a strong understanding of ESG issues relevant to your industry.

If your company places high importance on annual ESG reporting, then you should prioritize hiring someone with proven experience in this domain. Key skills would include proficiency in data collection and management, knowledge of ESG reporting frameworks like Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB), and strong written communication skills for report writing.

Similarly, if your sustainability strategy necessitates staying abreast of changes in political and social environments, the talent you engage should have experience in policy analysis, stakeholder engagement, and strategic planning. They should be able to translate trends into actionable business strategies, demonstrating a keen understanding of the interplay between societal shifts and business operations.

In both instances, engaging with a sustainability-focused firm like Aquent can offer immense value. Our expert consultants can bring clarity to your staffing needs and leverage our extensive network to introduce you to candidates who will not just fulfill but surpass your requirements.

Whether you're just beginning or well on your way, understanding the specific skills and experience needed at each stage of your program's maturity is key to realizing your sustainability goals.

Looking ahead: Emerging roles and innovative solutions

The deliberate transition toward sustainability in business is more than just a passing trend; it's a critical change that answers the pressing needs of our era. It is crucial for long-term success that organizations incorporate sustainability into their core operations. As they navigate the complexities of ESG goals and impact strategies, they have a unique opportunity to spearhead innovation and reshape industry norms. In taking this path, they contribute to a global movement that benefits not just their stakeholders, but also the planet and future generations. This comprehensive approach to business will solidify a legacy of responsibility and ensure continued prosperity.

As the sustainability space evolves, Aquent is prepared to evolve with it. Despite the standards and rules in place, corporate sustainability is still in its early stages. Many companies are currently adopting different approaches to sustainability, but we anticipate a more standardized approach to emerge in the coming years. In addition, many sustainability roles may not even exist at the moment but are expected to emerge with the growth of the sector.

Our commitment to sustainability extends beyond our professional obligations; it is a deeply ingrained passion. Our mission is to help companies not only understand the financial advantages of sustainable practices but also appreciate the far-reaching implications these actions have on our environment and society. We believe that with a dedicated mindset and strategic efforts, businesses can not only thrive economically but also contribute meaningfully toward a healthier planet and a more sustainable future. Ultimately, it's about creating a business world where success is measured not just in profits, but in the positive impact we make on the world around us.

Interested in advancing your sustainability objectives? Our innovative solutions are tailored to support your environmental, social, and governance goals. Join us in making a positive impact. Learn how we can help with your sustainability journey.