The Daily Scoop: ESG steps into the spotlight — for better and worse

Plus: Taylor Swift flexes her political power, Saudi Arabia goes all in on ‘sportswashing.’

Times are tough for comms professionals who specialize in ESG — but the work is more important than ever.

An Axios article tied to Climate Week highlights the necessity of this work as fires, storms and other climate-related disasters sweep the planet. But it also shows the struggle as communicators fight to be clear and have their message understood in the face of backlash from conservatives.

Promoting ESG policies was once an easy layup to score good press — and theoretically move toward bettering society — but now it’s a way to court controversy, the ire of politicians and the attention from well-funded anti-ESG groups,” Axios’ Emily Peck wrote.

Indeed, Axios noted a decrease in the number of major companies discussing ESG initiatives during their earnings calls, with mentions among S&P 500 companies declining 64% since their high in 2021.



But ESG communicators haven’t given up.

“The work doesn’t really start and [our] value to an organization doesn’t really kick in until times are tough,” Randall Tucker, chief inclusion officer at Mastercard, told Axios. “It’s easy to do this work when things are fine, but this is the time now in which our roles are really important.”

Why it matters: Companies are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to ESG. We know that younger consumers greatly value companies that put an emphasis on these issues, but some politicians are giving strong pushback — and they have the power to make their threats real.

But climate disasters are impacting companies too, destroying their infrastructure, harming their employees and opening them to legal risks. Staying silent may not be a viable option.

Communicators must work across departments, including legal, public affairs, logistics and beyond, to set priorities and values. Using the term “ESG” might not be the best idea just now, but the concepts won’t go away. Set a strategy, determine your interests and what you stand for, and communicate that as clearly as you can to the public.

Editors Top Reads

  • In what is becoming an annual game of chicken, America could be heading toward a government shutdown as leaders squabble over budgets. Currently, government funding is set to expire with the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, shutting down most non-essential government services, the Washington Post reported. This could have intense ripple effects through both the public and private sector. If you haven’t, this is the time to get your ducks in a row and prepare comms explaining how the shutdown will impact your operations and customers.
  • Taylor Swift continues to wield incredible cultural influence. Not only is she packing stadiums around the globe, she’s also getting Americans to sign up to vote in record numbers. More than 35,000 people used org to register after Swift’s Instagram story urged them to in a post tied to National Voter Registration Day, ABC News reported. “I’ve been so lucky to see so many of you guys at my U.S. shows recently. I’ve heard you raise your voices, and I know how powerful they are. Make sure you’re ready to use them in our elections this year!” Swift wrote. It’s yet another reminder of the pop megastar’s power. used the momentum to dominate the media cycle, sharing analytics that earned more press and, one must assume, more registrations. (And remember to register yourself if you haven’t!)
  • The Saudi government has aggressively invested in sports, including its move to merge LIV Golf with the PGA, as a way to bolster an international image battered by human rights abuses. And they have no intention of stopping any time soon. “Well, if sportswashing is going to increase my GDP by way of 1%, I will continue doing sportswashing,” Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in a Fox News interview, CNBC reported. But the gutsy PR move is facing opposition in the United States as U.S. lawmakers examine the LIV/PGA merger. “At its core, then, this is not a business deal,” Benjamin Freeman, director of the Democratizing Foreign Policy Program at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, said during a Senate hearing into the merger. “This is an influence operation. It’s meant to shape U.S. public opinion and U.S. foreign policy.”

Allison Carter is executive editor of PR Daily. Follow her on Twitter or LinkedIn.


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