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3 ESG Questions to Ask During an Executive Search

March 1, 2023

By Secura/Isaac Talent

ESG has become a crucial pillar of business plans, with a rapidly increased public demand for transparent and meaningful ESG commitments from all institutions. While there are many different schools of thought addressing the appropriateness of ESG monitors, such as the SEC, there is not yet a uniform framework in place to evaluate ESG related leadership.

The Harvard Business Review (HBR) published a thoughtful article outlining ten questions companies must ask themselves as they implement a successful ESG strategy. This article is extremely helpful for guiding organizations looking to better navigate ESG issues––and some of these questions can be applied to the executive hiring process.

To implement and maintain an ESG strategy successfully, organizations need to incorporate ESG policies at every level; companies need leaders with the skills and expertise necessary to maintain these policies. While HBR’s ten questions are directed toward institutions, we at Secura/Isaac Talent have found it most effective to ask these three questions during an ESG related executive search:

  1. Can this candidate keep you competitive in the face of a public that is increasingly concerned about ESG? As the HBR article points out, falling short on ESG can cost you the support of stakeholders including employees, customers, and investors––and can even have legal ramifications in some areas. In 2023, addressing ESG has become a necessary part of leadership. To remain competitive, those candidates whose role specifically includes ESG oversight need to approach a potential new opportunity with a comprehensive tool kit of best practices.
  2. Is this candidate qualified and equipped to make tough decisions about ESG trade-offs? The HBR article acknowledges that the data is unclear as to whether ESG results in diminished returns for organizations. However, there is no doubt that it is crucial for maintaining good relationships with stakeholders, including employees and activist investors. The issues that ESG policies take positions on––which can include climate change, gender and racial diversity, and more––all come with trade-offs. A good leader will be able to navigate these tradeoffs, leading a successful organization without losing the support of stakeholders.
  3. Is your firm’s executive search strategy up to your organization’s ESG standards? Just as an ESG policy must permeate all levels of business, your executive search needs to meet the same standards. If you work with an executive search firm, make sure it’s a firm who applies your ESG commitment to your searches. The right search firm will find the answers to all these questions as they find the right leader for your organization.

ESG is a sometimes-overlooked consideration when it comes to executive searches. But in the business world, it is becoming a crucial element for success. The above considerations can serve as a starting point for the conversation, and a trusted executive search firm can fill in the blanks–leaving no chance for overlooked criteria.