Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Understanding ESG ( Environment, Society, Governance)

A lawyer writes in the Catholic Peace Weekly of his experience working in the international human rights field. His law foundation is a non-profit human rights group working for the common good. When he was still a student he dreamed of working for the people who were deprived of their rights and soon realized that it is not only a matter of good people doing good things that brings change but structures of society need to be changed.

The article begins with human rights violations of local residents in the gas development projects in Myanmar with funds provided by the military. They met with executives of Korean companies involved in the project and shared some complaints of the local people. Companies saw no problem and presented documents related to their ethical management. He asked were they following the Universal Declaration of Human Rights? There was no one to answer.  The meeting, expecting sincerity, turned into a comedy.

When the steelworks construction project in India was being carried out despite the opposition of local residents, the representative of a Korean company announced that it would feed 20,000 local underprivileged children in corporate social responsibility. A while later he met a Korean company employee who said they couldn't find 20,000 starving children, so it was impossible. When discussing corporate responsibility, it can be a comedy if the meaning is not known and they act, but it can be a tragedy if a responsible person thinks he knows but doesn't.

ESG is presently a hot topic. ESG is an acronym for Environment, Society, and Governance, which means that non-financial factors should be used as indicators when evaluating companies. There have been various discussions and implementations at home and abroad over the past decade, but they have not become well known. However, it has become a popular term in the economic and political world.

The temporal, spatial, political, economic, social, and cultural connections of ESG need to be known. Even the president said that 2021 in Korea should be the 'first year of the spread of the ESG movement and that ESG is a symbol of a 'warm capitalist era'.

ESG is anything but new. Management of human rights, morality, social responsibility, sustainable management, and human rights violation relief systems have all talked about solving problems that are not focused on economic benefits. Communication and participation with civil society, interested parties, victims, etc. have continued, why have we not seen the results we hoped to achieve? Without proper awareness of ESG's faults and errors and serious reflection and planning to move forward, we will not be moving forward, and be a silent accomplice to corporate human rights violations.

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