Posted: 01 Nov. 2022 5 min. read

The people imperative to ESG and HR sustainability

Why investing in human capital ESG strategy is critical

Increasingly, ESG is becoming much more than a reporting and branding exercise. It is an effective and necessary way of guiding business activities to achieve better climate and sustainability outcomes. Stakeholders across organizational ecosystems are beginning to take note and place pressure on companies to do more.

Whether Climate and Sustainability impact or ESG metrics elevation is the motivation or inevitable outcome of an organization’s investments, the focus on People plays a vital role as a driver and/or enabler of transformation success. Without this focus, it is inevitable that these critical investments will fall short of expectations or fail entirely.

Investing in the People dimensions of changes and transformation is critical, as:

  • Organizations with high levels of racial diversity have revenues and sales that are 15x higher than companies with lower levels of racial diversity1
  • 84% of 2022 HC Trends Report Survey respondents noted that defining ownership for driving progress and outcomes around ESG is important to their organization’s success2
  • #1 barrier organizations face in achieving their ESG goals is culture3

However, investing in the People dimensions of changes and transformation is often a gap. In the 2022 Chief Transformation Officer Survey,

  • Fifty two percent of the CTROs said they underinvested in talent during their transformation4
  • Three percent of CTROs said they underinvested in change management5

Whether it is delivering a net zero strategy, executing a renewable energy transformation, or preparing for the SEC regulatory environment, organizations can use the Human Sustainability Blueprint to achieve lasting value from their Climate and Sustainability efforts by unlocking the potential of their people by focusing on considerations around Work, Workforce and Workplace.

The components of the Human Sustainability Blueprint and some practical applications are:

  • Define the ESG and Sustainability Strategy: Identify areas of ESG and Sustainability value creation for relevant stakeholders. 
  • Embed Purpose in Work: Re-design the objectives, outcomes, services, and activities comprising “work” performed by people, technology, and processes to drive ESG and Sustainability outcomes. 
  • Empower Workforce Accountability: Identify necessary shifts in future roles, skills, and talent development opportunities needed to deliver on SC&E strategies and expected outcomes. 
  • Enable a Sustainable and Equitable Workplace: Integrate SC&E into the organization’s culture, ways of working, and ecosystem to drive trust and transparency within internal and external communities.
  • Drive and Sustain Sustainability Change: Prepare the organization to navigate the SEC Reporting Landscape in addition to managing and achieving Sustainability related outcomes and behavior change. 
  • Leverage Data, Analytics, and Reporting Technology: Leverage data and technology to elevate the Human Capital metrics and ESG and Sustainability outcomes.

Organizations should undoubtedly develop sound business strategies to make forward progress around Sustainability goals. These strategies, however, cannot be successful without an intentional focus on the work, the workforce, and the workplace. Achieving sustainability outcomes require putting people at the very core of an organization’s ESG and Sustainability success.




1. Herring, C. (2009), ‘Does Diversity Pay? Race, Gender, and the Business Case for Diversity, American Sociological Review,

2. The worker-employer relationship | Deloitte Insights

3. The worker-employer relationship | Deloitte Insights

4. Survey: Chief Transformation Officers | Deloitte US

5. Survey: Chief Transformation Officers | Deloitte US

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