The survey, carried out by leading global provider of integrated legal and business services DWF, shows that 40% of companies across the world said they found recruiting key talent difficult because their ESG policies are seen as “weak”. More than half of respondents (56%) rated the ESG performance of their own company as either neutral or "weak".
It comes as just under half (46%) said stakeholders have increased pressure on ESG matters relating to their own business.
Kirsty Rogers, Head of ESG at DWF, said: “The clear message from our survey is that companies not only understand the need to have a strategy for ESG, but that without one there are clear costs.
“These costs could include damage done to their business to the point of affecting their licence to operate.
“Following COP26, it is even more clear that companies have a huge role in driving the global transition, while also improving social issues and driving progress on governance. To achieve their goals, they need a clear, ambitious and transparent ESG strategy.”
In the survey of 480 senior executives in 13 countries, only 35% of respondents said they have fully considered the ethical and legal implications relating to ESG disclosure and commitments.
Many companies revealed they were playing it safe: 47% said they will limit their disclosures to those that they believe will not create any legal issues, while almost the same number (48%) were “still thinking about how to best handle ESG disclosures from a legal perspective”.
A total of 43% of respondents say that in-house counsel plays a lead role in setting and delivering ESG strategy. That rose to 50% in the UK. However, 57% say in-house counsel plays only a “support” or “minor role”, showing the growing importance of supporting counsel to businesses who want the best possible independent advice on implementing overall ESG strategy.
Kirsty Rogers added: “At DWF, as the only listed global provider of integrated legal business services, we are uniquely placed to help clients with their ESG needs as we share the same level of scrutiny and transparency that regulators expect.”