ESG (environmental, social, and governance) isn’t a new concept in the business world, but it’s quickly gaining in importance. In the last couple of years, we’ve started hearing more clients ask how different IT providers fare on ESG principles. In digging into the question, we found a lack of good information available. So we sought to create that information ourselves.
We’ve already published the results of the survey we conducted, but in this post we want to address the work behind the results. Here’s some of what we learned about conducting an ESG survey.
Any survey effort should start by defining what information you seek. What questions do you want this survey to answer? Check that what you’re looking for doesn’t already exist. If someone else has already done research covering the same territory, no need to replicate their work.
In the case of our ESG adoption survey, we wanted to understand how sophisticated the ESG efforts of IT and business service providers (ITBSP) are. We wanted to go beyond the surface-level initiatives that enable them to check a box on a questionnaire and gauge if their company culture matches their claims. It’s one thing to have a list of metrics you can point to, and another to have a culture that genuinely values ESG efforts. The goal of the survey was to learn how ITBSP companies fare in both categories.
Once you know what you want to learn, think through how best to collect that information. This step includes defining who should be included in your survey, devising a plan for reaching them, and creating an estimated timeline. Do you already have contacts to reach out to, or do you need to do research to identify them? What’s the best way to contact them?
Next, work out the questions to ask. Writing good survey questions requires skill, so don’t rush this part. Aim for survey questions that:
- Accurately address the information you’re looking for
- Aren’t leading (you don’t want to feed respondents an answer in the question itself)
- Gather a mix of quantitative and qualitative information, so you get data as well as glimpses into the story behind that data
For Neo Group’s ESG survey, our methodology was split into two parts. First, we sent contacts an ESG questionnaire by email to fill out. Then we followed that up by requesting a phone call to further discuss their answers. The first part of the survey gathered data on how well companies perform on typical ESG metrics. The second part was meant to help us understand the harder-to-measure cultural side of the equation.
Now, carry out the steps you’ve planned in the methodology stage. You may need to be adaptable here. Around the time we launched our ESG survey, Russia attacked Ukraine. Many of the contacts we reached out to suddenly (understandably) had a lot on their plate, and we had to extend the timeline we initially had in mind. Be prepared to revise your strategy based on obstacles that arise, while sticking to the main goals of your survey.
Finally, analyze all the information you’ve gathered. Identify key takeaways and overall trends in your results. Then plan out how to publish and share what you learned. To give your results a wide reach, create a marketing push around them. That could include a pdf report, a webinar, a whitepaper, blog posts, and emails to your list—all of it focused on different insights from the research.
To share our survey results, we published a survey report, conducted a webinar to go deeper into the results, and have a whitepaper on the way. And of course, there’s the blog post you’re reading now.
Neo Group’s ESG adoption survey was just a start. We expect companies to go further in pursuing ESG in the months and years to come, and for businesses to have increased ESG standards for companies they hire.
We hope to continue collecting valuable information on the progress IT companies make in this area over time. But if other companies want to collect similar information about another industry or expand on what we’ve learned, we encourage that. The more we know about the progress businesses are making toward ESG, the more we know how to push for even better results in the future. We can help. Do you want to assess the ESG and sustainable practices and health of your third parties? We have the data and expertise to help you do that.