The Neglected “G” in ESG: Time for a Governance Focus

The Neglected “G” in ESG: Time for a Governance Focus

Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) investing has become a major trend, with investors increasingly considering a company’s impact beyond just financial performance. While focus on the “E” (environmental) and “S” (social) aspects is crucial, the article in Harvard Business Review by Robert G. Eccles and George S. Youssef argues that the “G” (governance) is often neglected. This creates a gap between investor demands and companies striving for long-term sustainability.

The article highlights the inconsistency between short-term profit expectations and long-term sustainability goals. Many large investors, particularly those managing public funds, prioritize short-term returns to appease stakeholders. This pressure can discourage companies from making necessary investments in environmental initiatives or employee well-being, both of which contribute to long-term value creation.

Here’s how the focus on short-term profits undermines effective ESG implementation:

  • Prioritization of Short-Term Metrics: Companies may prioritize immediate financial results over long-term investments in sustainability practices. This might lead to cutting corners on environmental regulations or employee benefits to meet quarterly earnings expectations.
  • Limited Commitment to Long-Term Strategy: A focus on short-term gains can hinder the development and implementation of a comprehensive ESG strategy that aligns with the company’s long-term vision.
  • Discouragement of Sustainable Practices: Companies may be hesitant to invest in renewable energy, energy efficiency projects, or employee training programs if they fear such investments will negatively impact short-term profitability.

The article proposes solutions to bridge this gap:

  • Shifting Investor Focus: Large investors need to move beyond short-term benchmarks and consider long-term sustainability metrics when making investment decisions. This could involve incorporating ESG factors into stock valuations and performance evaluations of fund managers.
  • Improved ESG Ratings: Current ESG ratings often prioritize environmental and social factors, with governance receiving less weight. Establishing a more balanced scoring system that evaluates companies’ commitment to long-term sustainability and responsible leadership can incentivize companies to strengthen their governance practices.
  • Investor Voting Power: Investors need to actively exercise their voting power to hold companies accountable for their ESG performance. This includes voting in favor of shareholder proposals that promote sustainable practices and responsible leadership.


A true commitment to ESG requires a holistic approach that prioritizes not just environmental and social impact, but also strong corporate governance. By addressing the shortcomings in current ESG frameworks and investor behavior, we can create a system that incentivizes and empowers companies to create long-term value for all stakeholders, including shareholders, employees, and society as a whole.

Understanding ESG factors and advocating for responsible governance practices can make a significant contribution to a more sustainable future.

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