As stakeholders increasingly pressure companies to invest in and advance ESG disclosure, the time is right to feature education as an effective solution for advancing ESG performance and addressing critical social and environmental challenges.
While investing in education equity to address issues of material concern for businesses is logical, it must also be practical and be accompanied by relevant metrics to measure a company’s impact.
The blueprint outlines the decision-making process for implementing education as a core driver of ESG performance while creating genuine social and societal value. It encompasses several basic steps:
- Material issue identification: Outline material issues of concern for the company and identify the highest-priority risks that can be mitigated through education engagement.
- Strategic education solution: Identify a set of actions and policies within companies that could proactively address these material issues, including tactics.
- Metric identification: Apply a set of universal metrics that could be employed to measure the efficacy of the investment and outcomes of the programs themselves.
- Impact generation: Quantify the impact of educational investment on ESG ratings, reporting frameworks, investor analytics, and broader business benefits.
While this framework can produce an almost infinite combination of possibilities, below are illustrative solutions, metrics, and impacts that can be achieved through a deliberate positioning of education as the driver of the social pillar of ESG strategies alongside evidence-based guidance:
- Material issues with evidence-based education solutions: Beyond the material issues outlined in the previous sections, additional issues directly addressed by education activities span the economy and finances (consumer income stability, market growth); reputation (business confidence, long-term positive engagement in communities, government relations, etc.); and operations (talent pipeline, recruitment, retention, supply chain talent, resilience in regions of operation, employee accuracy and operating efficiencies, employee safety, innovation, turnover, ease of doing business, etc.).
- Strategic education solution: Strategic education solutions can engage various leverage points in a company. Solutions can focus on internal policies and human resource decisions, community relations, government relations, and employee engagement as well as implementing targeted initiatives. Solutions can include early childhood education, nutrition, digital inclusion, foundational literacy and numeracy, financial literacy, skilling and reskilling programs, teacher training, girls’ education programs, education for underserved and marginalized populations, secondary education, higher education, vocational training, employee professional development, and more.
- Metric identification: To effectively connect education and ESG, it will be necessary to develop uniform metrics to measure performance that links social progress, risk mitigation, and business value. To do this, external partners and relevant subject matter experts will be engaged to help determine what those metrics should be. It is likely, however, that they will focus on several key categories in order to ensure alignment with both traditional educational advancement and ESG analysis. Those categories would include:
- Environmental and social performance
- Educational performance
- Risk mitigation
- Corporate governance
- Responsible business operations
- Quantifiable impact generation: By positioning education as the central thrust of the social dimension of ESG, companies have the unique benefit of generating wide-ranging impacts based on decades of evidence and documentation across high-, middle-, and low-income countries. By using this framework to make evidence-based links, it is possible that companies can undertake quantifiable and credible reporting on many economic, social, and development issues, including economic growth, wage creation, health outcomes, carbon emissions, child mortality, governance, anti-corruption, gender parity, job creation, innovation, employability, workforce skills, stability and security, environmental stewardship, household income, corporate governance, DEI, and more.