Implementing An ESG Strategy Pre-IPO

  • JUNE 16, 2021
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  • ESG

Global corporate boards have all conceptually embraced the need for their corporations to have not only a position and philosophy but to actually begin the journey on implementing ESG programs.

Jamf is an example that is truly unique and differentiated in their approach. They are a newly public, hyper-growth, hyper-scale enterprise software company that went public a year ago.

What has made Jamf differentiated is they are at the leading point of the arrow of companies that are operationalizing and implementing their ESG programs pre-IPO and newly public.

Most corporations merely speak about their philosophy, mission, vision, and purpose, but lag on execution or do empty programs characterized as “green washing”.

So where should ESG leadership reside in a corporation and who is best placed to take the mantle of operationalizing ESG?

Jeff Lendino, Jamf’s Chief Legal Officer, is a great exemplar since he has pulled together the working group across each functional part of the company and created the templates, scorecards, and deliverables across all the functional groups who are involved in this undertaking.

One of the important things to highlight is the importance of getting started early, Jamf had a lot of building blocks in place early, had the culture in place before going public i.e., use of technology focus on philanthropic and local issues as well as governance. Starting their projects and having it be authentic allowed Jamf to make good progress sooner.

When discussing how to implement ESG, it is critical that these discussions begin before the IPO process.

It may be helpful to speak to external experts and advisors who can review your current ESG programs and offer guidance on how to grow and scale them through the IPO process and beyond that. Early conversations can help you think through long term planning and can inform many future projects.

Often the focus for executives who are on the path to an IPO is on the machinery of the IPO…the roadshow…the investors, etc. What happens after the hurdle of going public can be an overlooked factor which is why it is essential to think through long term ESG initiatives before the team is swept up in IPO prep.

Thinking long term about what the next several phases of the company look like can help attract the right investor(s).

In order to do this effectively, you need to have a clear messaging plan to be able to integrate your unique ESG story into the deck / roadshow to attract a differentiated set of investors as part of the IPO process. It is critical to convey who you are as a company and what your identity is apart from just being a great tech company.

Setting the right expectations at the beginning also helps the company properly frame for investors, customers and other interested parties the status of the company’s journey so progress on this initiative can be measured over time.  While ESG has become (and will continue to be) a front-page issue, this is not something that is done overnight so a continued focus on communicating the status of your progress is critical.

In speaking with Lendino he highlights the importance of building a core team to launch an ESG program. Lendino shares his view that the goal is not to hire someone who is “just” an ESG person but rather to get the best out of your employees who are already at your company working on issues connected to ESG. As you go through your hiring process, ESG is another capability or skill set worth seeking out in addition to the other prerequisites for the role you are filling.

He suggests pulling in a key person from finance to be able to convey a compelling story to investors. There should be a governance overlay in your ESG reporting and you need a key team member that can speak to topics such as data privacy and security concerns. There should be a team member focusing on environmental concerns which can include things such as the company’s carbon footprint, energy use, etc. And of course, included in this core ESG team it is important to pull in a key member from your PR team that can think through how to knit together these varying threads into a compelling narrative from an IR perspective.

Once the core team has been established, it’s important for the team to understand exactly where the organization is in their journey before they can determine where they want to go. Conducting an inventory of all ESG related activities and mapping it to an established framework like SASB or GRI is a good first step. Jamf utilized smaller working groups to help gather this information. These groups included subject matter experts and employees that were passionate about ESG issues. Engaging internal stakeholders from the start brings the right people to the table and helps foster engagement and ownership.

ESG is no longer a box checking exercise that is only addressed once a year as a footnote in the annual report. ESG must be woven into the company’s overall strategy and should be factored into all decision making. More than ever, ESG is a necessary component to ensuring the health, competitiveness, and longevity of a company.

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