A recent survey conducted by WTW and the Nasdaq Center for Board Excellence ostensibly shows that a strong majority of board members believe that a coherent environmental, social, and governance (ESG) strategy fosters sustainable organizational value and improves financial outcomes. However, the survey’s legitimacy is under scrutiny due to its limited and highly biased results.
According to the survey, “75% of board members agree a coherent (ESG) strategy with clear priorities helps create sustainable organizational value and stronger financial outcomes.” Furthermore, 62% feel they’ve dedicated adequate time and resources to governance in the ESG context. This all occurs amid the heavy backlash against ESG in the United States, with ESG adherents such as BlackRock’s CEO Larry Fink seeking to distance himself from the term, despite still advocating for ESG’s principles.
Top ESG priorities among board members include social-human capital (82%), governance (70%), and social-other areas (60%). Notably, environmental policy did not rank in the top three, suggesting regional differences in ESG prioritization, with European and Asia-Pacific board members more likely to rank environmental issues at the top.
However, a concern among ESG proponents is that nearly half of the survey respondents claimed they lack the skills and expertise needed to address climate issues. ESG circles are interpreting this response as a call for greater education and understanding of climate issues among board members.
Despite the apparent consensus on ESG’s importance, the survey’s accuracy is disputed. It lacks key data such as margin of error, detailed breakdown of responses by country, and the type of corporations these board members serve. The specific terminology used in questions and answer options also remains undisclosed. This lack of transparency calls into question the reliability of the survey and its applicability in shaping ESG policy.
The survey’s shortcomings highlight a frequent issue in survey data collection, where the methodology used may fail to adequately represent diverse geographic or demographic considerations. This flaw allows the surveyor to selectively present results that fit a desired narrative, often employed to promote policy changes.
Overall, the survey findings should be cautiously scrutinized due to potential bias and limited data.