Survey: ESG Wreaking Havoc on Employee Mental Health


An exhausted office worker sleeps during lunch break in Broadgate in the City of London.
(Photo by Richard Baker / In Pictures via Getty Images Images)


The recent surge in corporate commitments to environmental, social, and governance (ESG) principles is leading to increased pressure on the personnel involved with corporate social impact (CSI), with potentially serious implications for employee wellbeing.

According to a recent survey by the Association of Corporate Citizenship Professionals and YourCause from Blackbaud, 86 percent of respondents reported expanded responsibilities within their CSI teams over the past year, resulting in longer work hours, increased risk of burnout, mental health problems, stress, low morale, and employee turnover.

“Company executives, sometimes not as well-versed in the specifics of CSR and ESG work, must understand these consequences, particularly in a tight labor market,” warns the survey. As the call for corporate sustainability intensifies, understanding the complexity and ramifications of CSR and ESG initiatives has become vital. However, the study found ambivalence in the C-suite regarding these matters. Despite 51 percent of surveyed companies reporting high executive commitment to CSR, only 33 percent felt their executives had a thorough understanding of the field.

The situation appears similar with ESG, with 44 percent of respondents believing their executives were highly committed, and 39 feeling executives understood ESG principles thoroughly. The report suggests that this disconnect might stem from the ongoing political backlash against ESG.

The study also shed light on the shifting terminology around corporate social work, and the confusion this causes. In terms of preferred nomenclature, the term “corporate social responsibility” received 21 percent of votes, while among tech companies, “social impact” was the preferred term, scoring 42 percent. Despite the surge in ESG discussions, CSR is still prominent, with nearly 20 percent of surveyed companies reporting they have CSR functions but no ESG functions.

Priorities within corporate social impact work have been heavily influenced by new EU regulations around ESG. Top concerns were environmental sustainability, K-12 education, and food insecurity, while climate justice and Covid-19 ranked lower at 16 percent and 4 percent respectively.


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