ESG is core to our business and to the businesses of our clients

Andrew Yates’ speech to the AFR ESG Summit.

ESG is now core to business. It’s core to our business, and to the businesses of our clients. But so much has changed so quickly.

The term ‘ESG’ has been with us for years. But the evolution we’ve seen is ESG shifting from an obligation to a core priority. A moral debate that simmered along for decades has now been settled: growth alone cannot be a sufficient goal for a business.

It is now universally acknowledged that how you grow matters.

But it’s not hard to remember a time when this wasn’t accepted. So while it seems natural that the AFR would hold such a summit today and that it would attract the diverse array of people that have gathered here we should recognise this summit wouldn’t have happened five years ago.

How far we’ve come! But how far we have to go. Because while ESG has well and truly gone mainstream, it continues to be mischaracterised.

At KPMG we see it as a recognition that a business won’t be sustainable in the long term if it continues to have an adverse impact on the planet and society.

Right now the pressure organisations feel around ESG largely comes from investors and the community. But while capital has been, and will continue to be, a key driver – we should also be clear that regulation is absolutely around the corner. So now is the time to start gathering our commitments and turning them into tangible actions.

Today we launched the second edition of our ESG 30 Voices Report: The ESG Revolution. It features interviews with 30 of Australia’s corporate leaders… and survey results from a further 245.

One finding was particularly striking. Fewer than half the respondents believed they will have implemented the operational changes required to meet their ESG priorities by 2030.

Of course we’re acutely aware that to have credibility we must walk the talk, and so in July last year we released our inaugural KPMG Impact Report – a report that increases the transparency of our firm, and seeks to hold ourselves accountable against a range of ESG measures.

This year we also launched the KPMG Nature Positive Challenge – a competition for scale up ventures focused on nature and biodiversity.  We were thrilled to receive over 50 applications from scale ups around the country reflecting the incredible start up ecosystem that exists in Australia committed to solving some of our greatest environmental challenges.

And I’m very pleased to say all four finalists are here today — including the ultimate winner – ULUU – a Perth based startup that’s developing a plastic alternative from sustainably farmed seaweed.  The other finalists were Agronomeye, Airseed Technologies, and Ecocene.

Each one of these finalists, I think, is a terrific example of shifting from commitment to action. It’s really inspiring stuff.

And that’s the shift on ESG I think we all have to champion today.

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