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Porter Novelli Executive on ESG: Itís Like Total Quality Management for People and the Planet

Sandy SkeesThis NY-based corporate communications company already has an ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) practice and intends to help its clients on every step of the journey toward a new era of transparency in business management.

5 Services to Support ESG
Addressing Broader Expectations From Stakeholders
“Think of ESG as Total Quality Management for people and the planet,” says Sandy Skees, Executive Vice President, Global Impact and Purpose, for New York-based Porter Novelli, a corporate communications firm. Her new book, Purposeful Brands, addresses how organizations can “drive innovation, brand loyalty and customer engagement by creating and acting on a crystallized and authentic brand purpose that demonstrates your company's commitment to making a positive impact on the world.”
Of course, “organizations have to focus on their financial and market share,” Skees says. “Looking at environmental and social issues helps to identify new opportunities and reduce risks.”
Purposeful BrandsSkees says that ESM’s recent analysis of management consulting and corporate communications firms did not correctly reflect her company’s multiple sustainability and ESG practices nor the fact that “we are paying close attention to all the coming regulatory requirements. Human capital reporting is already included in a limited way from public companies adhering to the SEC (Securities & Exchange Commission) human capital disclosure requirement, with possibly more material disclosures on the way,” she says, not to mention the new European Union Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive

5 Services to Support ESG

The company offers five services related to helping organizations address ESG issues. The process, she says, starts with establishing a company’s purpose statement, it’s “North Star. In order to drive organizational change, which ESG is, you have to identify a purpose that is true to your brand, true to the ethos of the company and that differentiates the organization from its competition.” Her firm’s sustainability consulting group helps clients establish social and environmental strategies and targets, she explains.
Once the purpose, strategy, and metrics are established, “you must embed communications into the process from the beginning. That is what is unique about purpose and sustainability. Operationalizing both involves all your stakeholders. For instance, when P&G developed an effective formula for a cold-water detergent, it had to get people out of the habit of using hot water. That required a whole system change.”
Porter Novelli’s strength, she says, “is a combination of technical social sustainability and climate practitioners with communications experts enabling us to provide a complete solution. Sustainability from the beginning has included three dimensions, environmental, social, and economic. The materials you produce, the profit margins you set, the markets you go after, are all part of a sustainability strategy. Social performance involves all stakeholders--investors, plus employees, suppliers, human capital, human rights, what you pay suppliers. It’s also the way a company shows up as a citizen of the world. It’s your license to operate in the communities where you have facilities, operations, marketplaces. It addresses the expectations of your firm by its stakeholders to leverage the breadth of its resources to support the stability of the social fabric.”

Addressing Broader Expectations From Stakeholders

This is because “our stakeholders, be they employees, customers or communities, increasingly expect companies to play a positive role in society. The cohort of current and future customers and employees have an expectation that companies should be more mindful of their role in society.”  Having a diverse work force is not just a nicety, she continues. “Regulatory pressures, and customer and employee sentiments are forcing executives to consider the correlation between organizational purpose, social sustainability issues, employee, and customer engagement. Addressing these issues results in a more stable, stickier workforce and customer base.”
Based on a recognition that DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) has value, “systems must be changed for marginalized communities to share the same advantages. There was a sense that education would be a solution. The truth is, it’s harder than that. Structurally, there’s a lack of clarity about who is accountable for making progress. We want to have a diverse base of customers, supply chain and workers who are paid equitably, but these attributes must be embedded into the workforce and in the marketplace. These are complex issues. To address them takes an approach like Total Quality Management,” she says. (According to Wikipedia, Total Quality Management consists of organization-wide efforts to "install and make permanent a climate where employees continuously improve their ability to provide on demand products and services that customers will find of particular value.")
In addition to the above services, the firm’s JEDI group helps organizations address Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion, and its Strategic Philanthropy group helps organizations align charitable contributions to corporate purpose, goals, and objectives.
Skees says her new book Purposeful Brands draws upon her years of experience and case studies to “present a clear and practical blueprint for defining and communicating a brand's purpose and—more importantly—creating alignment across a company to reflect what action it actually takes to support its values, including sustainability initiatives.”
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