Campaigning and advocating for the incorporation of ESG factors into investment decision-making is the colossal and arduous task undertaken year in, year out by the HRH The Prince of Wales’s A4S (Accounting for Sustainability Project) team.
The A4S team – comprising only 15 people – originally focused on CFOs of large corporations trying to inspire them to adopt sustainable and resilient business models. However, over time they came to the realisation that CFOs were only one element of the puzzle and that their advocacy activities should be broadened to the whole finance community in order to have more impact.
As a result, they started to consider other functions and organisations within the financial services landscape. A new communications strategy was devised starting with a stakeholder mapping and analysis exercise in order to truly understand which areas, functions and types of organisations within financial services should be targeted by A4S’ advocacy activities.
I must say that this exercise was crucial to the success of this campaign since it enabled A4S to better understand the personal interests of individuals – and subsequently their customers – depending on their function and type of institution and therefore carry out more targeted actions. It also helped identify which people should be targeted within each organisation.
A4S identified eight types of stakeholders within the financial services community: 1) CFOs of large corporations 2) CEOs of investment banks 3) CIOs of investment management companies 4) Chairs of pension funds 5) CEOs of insurance companies 6) CEOs of rating agencies 7) CEOs of financial exchanges 8) Other types of stakeholders which also form an intrinsic part of the financial industry such as the CEOs of accounting professional bodies and associations, financial regulators, governments and policy makers as well as business schools and universities offering finance degrees.
Tapping at the top of organisations by engaging with the most senior people within these stakeholders (at C-Level) and prioritising the largest organisations and financial institutions also helped make this campaign a success. For instance, only the investment management companies or pension funds with the largest assets under management (AUMs) were targeted.
A4S also understood the crucial role played by accounting professional bodies, business schools and universities in driving change and actively promoted the incorporation of sustainability within their syllabi.
A communications campaign focusing on digital media such as Twitter and LinkedIn as well as financial print media helped reinforce the message within the financial community and beyond.
Nevertheless, this is not the end of the road for the A4S team since a huge amount work needs to be done. Therefore, it is constantly trying to devise new communications strategies to drive effective change within the global finance community.
NB: Both the terms “campaigning” and “advocacy” are used here to define A4S’ activities since the project’s team is trying to influence primarily corporations, financial institutions and ultimately society (which rather falls under the campaigning umbrella) but also governments (which falls under advocacy).