Are ESG conversations in Indonesia superficial?
In January this year, President Joko Widodo launched the Indonesian Green Taxonomy at the 2022 Financial Services Industry Annual Meeting (Pertemuan Tahunan Industri Jasa Keuangan), which aims to classify finance and investment activities to help Indonesian shareholders conduct sustainable economic activities. The Green Taxonomy is one of the first policies in the country to encourage the private sector to make green investments a priority and incentivize companies to comply with ESG-related regulations.
Meanwhile, in a report by PwC in 2021, Eddy Rintis, Territory Senior Partner, PwC Indonesia with the fourth largest population in the world and a labor force participation rate of 67%, Indonesia is expected continue to attract investment in all sectors. He added that technology can play a critical role in helping organizations achieve their ESG ambitions.
“Once a company has determined its ESG objectives, identifying related data points will require new data collection methods. Companies can leverage various technologies – such as geospatial planning, satellite imagery, and unmanned aerial vehicles – to generate reliable, verifiable, real-time data for analysis and monitoring. Data analytics can process a high volume of statistics to provide more reliable and useful information,” he explained.
This focus on topics such as ESG and sustainability has also trickled down to the PR industry. H+K Indonesia CEO Marianne Admardatine added that today more than 50% of the agency’s conversations with clients revolve around sustainability. A key topic that has taken off for the company is waste management and e-waste. “We are responsible for exploring any parties or NGOs that we can collaborate with as part of our clients’ point of proof as part of their CSR program,” she added.
However, although sustainability has been a major topic in Indonesian business for some time, many PR firms have yet to take the initiative to lead the discussion, said Ong Hock Chuan, Managing Partner. by Maverick PR. Opinion leaders were primarily sustainability practitioners and one or two public affairs firms. Lately, the conversation is also leaning more towards ESG given the pressure from the Indonesian government to impose reporting standards.
While this has led to countless webinars and discussions on the topic, most conversations that communications professionals engage in revolve around reporting. Ong added that clients also turn to agencies like his to help them develop CSR and sustainability strategies to benefit from greater media visibility, “reflecting the level of understanding companies here on the role of public relations in sustainability and ESG issues”.
Ong added that despite the discussions, the communications industry in Indonesia still has a rather superficial understanding of sustainability and ESG. As a result, many agencies also end up packaging or marketing the company’s sustainability or ESG reports that have been prepared by sustainability specialists.
Where should the emphasis be
More needs to be done to get PR professionals at all levels to deepen their understanding of ESG to advise clients on how to get started with ESG, Ong said. Agencies need to be able to advise clients on where to engage, identify key stakeholders, and communicate with them in a way that is authentic and devoid of greenwashing.
He added that more emphasis needs to be placed on the fact that sustainability and ESG are not another way to whitewash, but to increase trust in a company. “Having ESG and sustainability at its core enables the company to not only mitigate risk, but also identify and exploit opportunities in a changing environment and social norms,” he said. .
Admardatine added that clients also need to be more focused and dedicated to sustainability and not have a habit of putting all agendas, including sustainability, into one communication program.
“Many brands don’t realize they have many sustainability programs in place because of their piecemeal approach. Packaged with other marketing and communications programs, the efforts are less visible and less valuable. I would love to see that habit changed to a more focused and dedicated act,” Admardatine said.
Sje added that the sustainability program should be separated from the regular marketing and communications of the brand itself to see the true impact/results. As such, sustainability programs need to be sustained over longer periods of time with more emphasis on measuring results.
Challenges on the agenda
According to Admardatine, telling the story of most sustainability programs remains a challenge for many. The usual routine of most public relations activities always surrounded the announcement of the program and short-term actions, and few people regularly share the results and process or create a public relations campaign to make stakeholders feel the good result of the program and want to be part of the program (lack of an effective call to action campaign and measures)
While there is undoubtedly an increase in the number of brands seeking PR support in the area of ESG and sustainability, there is still a lot of work to be done to educate the market. about the benefits of ESG and creating real awareness about it, Joyce said. Hutapea, Market Leader – Indonesia, PRecious Communications.
Most companies in Indonesia that employ ESG and sustainability communication initiatives today are primarily trying to follow what their competitors are doing, and the challenge for brands and companies is to combine authenticity, consistency and sensitivity.
“Going green is not about being trendy, but with the larger goal of having a meaningful impact in the communities they serve,” Hutapea said. As such, many of the conversations PRecious is currently having are about contextualizing and explaining the sensitivity and challenges of truly talking about sustainability.
“It’s about business ethics rather than quick wins,” she said, adding that driving consistent action and education around the subject continues to be a big challenge.
“At PRecious, we hope to steer conversations around how communications can serve as a force that helps industries and ecosystems move in tandem toward enacting a sustainability mindset,” she said. added.
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