What skills do you need to achieve a successful ESG policy?

24 April 2024

Companies must integrate sustainability into their regular operations and incorporate the required skills throughout the organization to achieve their sustainability goals. Each employee’s mindset and skills must be broadened. Sustainability is not a one-person job; indeed, the entire company must be actively involved, preferably with the support of a competent ESG Officer.

“The key issue in the ESG reporting scenario is for organizations to build new skills among their employees. “Recruiting experienced profiles is often not an option simply because there are virtually none on the job market,” said Gaëlle De Baeck, Sustainability Lead at TriFinance.

The broad skills set of an ESG Officer

An ESG Officer must have a real passion and desire to impact positively on the planet and society. This person must also be able to inspire others to achieve the common sustainability goals,” said Mario Matthys, Expert Practice Leader Corporate Reporting at TriFinance CFO Services.
As such, an ESG Officer must be able to get things moving and drive change at all levels of the organization. Mario Matthys: “This mindset is needed in policy areas such as sustainability, which has gained importance but is still regarded by many departments as a burden or obligation rather than an opportunity. Change will be possible only when everyone is on board and convinced of the value of the issue. There are bound to be setbacks, but it is not about the short term or about quick fixes. That’s why ESG Officers must be resilient in driving change management.”

Gaëlle exchanged her career as an environmental consultant for the role of Sustainability Lead. “The greatest and, at the same time, the most difficult thing about being in ESG is that it’s not just about compliance. As such, the main challenge as an ESG expert is trying to get the board and management involved. That’s the only way to really get started with ESG. Not as additional, mandatory reporting but rather a fundamental shift in how we do business. And being able to contribute to that also gives meaning to your job.”

Sustainability is cross-departmental. ESG Officers should preferably know the company inside out and be aware of where to find the necessary information, who to contact, what the company is capable of, and where it falls short and can improve in terms of sustainability. “ESG Officers must consider cultural, political, ethical, and economic perspectives while keeping the common sustainability goals in mind,” said Mario Matthys.

As ESG is a matter that concerns and affects all departments, all employees, and all parts of the value chain, ESG Officers must also be able to communicate well and build relationships with all stakeholders.

This is not about additional, mandatory reporting but rather a fundamental shift in how we do business. And being able to contribute to that also gives meaning to your job.

Gaëlle De Baeck, Sustainability Lead at TriFinance

Broadening skills across the organization

Developing a successful sustainability policy also requires building ESG skills within a company’s various departments. Gaëlle de Baeck: “Finance staff often already have a range of required skills, such as identifying KPIs and setting up reporting. In addition, IT profiles, lawyers, HR specialists, or employees with a STEM background also have extremely relevant ESG knowledge. Like the ESG Officer profile, the soft skills are, if anything, even more important: communication, being a team player, but above all, troubleshooting and pragmatism.”

ESG reporting is a greenfield domain. Therefore, organizations that want to build expertise in this field should give employees with a strong interest in the subject the space to explore it. Mario Matthys: “At TriFinance CFO Services, we have established a community of ESG consultants for ESG projects at our clients. They are all individuals who are highly motivated to specialize in this field. They study the legislation, attend conferences, and share their project experiences with our clients. Accordingly, we now have a training program for other employees who want to learn more about this subject.” This course includes general ESG introduction sessions, specific training on the sustainability reporting landscape, and master classes on topics such as CSRD reporting, ESG data tooling, or the grants environment in the area of sustainability.

Talent Perspectives 2024

We live in a volatile, complex, ambiguous, and uncertain world. In 5 years’ time, finance jobs will be very different from today. However, no one can estimate precisely how they will change, which new roles will be added, and which will disappear.

Finance professionals who have the skills to deal with change, the desire to learn, and the ability to reinvent themselves will be the leaders of the future. The same applies to businesses with a sustainable talent approach to guide their employees in this and continuously work to match the needs of the business with those of individual employees.