Environmental, social and corporate governance. Sounds like a good thing right? Worthy and in sync with your company and personal values.

ESG used to be CSR—Corporate Social Responsibility. Before that, it was charitable giving. Whatever label you want to put on it, running a company responsibly is a good thing for many reasons. One of which is that it is good for business.

I first went to Madagascar in 2011 on a three-month trip as part of a career break. I was looked after by the UK-based charity SEED Madagascar as I joined their conservation programme. SEED (which stands for Sustainable, Environment, Education and Development) manages a wide range of development and conservation projects across the southeast of Madagascar.

I’m now struck down with a bug that will stay with me for the rest of my life. Happily not Malaria, or one of the easily treated diseases that kill so many people there annually. But the Madagascar bug that means I always carry a little piece of it with me. And that piece wants to go back again and again.

At Teneo we have a purpose; we call it Purpose Beyond Profit. We want to improve the lives of a million children around the world. It’s a long-term goal that will take years to fulfill and we want to take our employees, suppliers, and customers on the journey as well.

Giving back has always been a big part of our company, but over the last couple of years, it has become part of our identity. With my fellow directors Piers Carey and Marc Sollars, we want to help children fulfill their potential. It isn’t really any more simple or complicated than that. We want to help enable the next generation of doctors, teachers, and scientists. And we want to do that by giving them an education. Since 2011 we have supported eight school builds in Madagascar.

Our recent build in the isolated village of Sarisambo saw us invest our sweat and blood into the school as well as our money. We visited the school, met the teachers and children, worked with the local and international SEED team and rolled our sleeves up to mix concrete by hand to help make a path. A small effort with a colossal amount of benefit.

ESG is good for businessMost of that benefit is for the people it is intended for – the children of Madagascar. But some of it is for Teneo, too. There is an overwhelming sense of togetherness in the company when we talk about our ESG work. In this age of remote working and seeing colleagues infrequently, it’s a glue that keeps us connected.

I’ve spoken to new starters who told me our company stood out as an organization whose values were more than just words on a webpage. Colleagues new to the workplace want to be more than payroll drones; they want to feel a part of something – to be an agent of change and a force for good. Our ESG work helps to provide that. And the feelings proliferate through more established colleagues too. Making bad hiring decisions and high turnover of staff is bad for business. It’s expensive and it delays progress. Attracting the talented and keeping them helps us keep ahead of competitors. ESG is good for business.

Last year we ran a joint campaign with a supplier. We wanted to get new business meetings, and instead of incentivizing via a set of AirPods or a YETI mug, we offered customers a donation to SEED instead. It was a successful campaign in terms of new opportunities. And it strengthened our ties with the supplier as it was a different approach. To receive an email from a senior leader at a billion-dollar company expressing how honored they are to have worked on this campaign is a coup. ESG is good for business.

I spoke with a leader from a recent customer win and asked him why they chose Teneo. We had the right solution, the right expertise, the right commercial offering. But they also saw a meeting of minds. They liked our ESG activities and felt a synergy with how they operate. This signalled a partnership with the kind of organization they want to associate with. My sales team tells me that when they talk to customers about this topic, there is always interest. It’s a differentiator and makes us memorable. I can’t say it wins sales for us, but it is a contributing factor. ESG is good for business.

Teneo wins best ESG project at CRN AwardsFollowing our trip to the school in Sarisambo we entered the CRN awards, in the best ESG project category. On a glittery night in November, a Teneo and SEED group put on our glad rags and attended the gala dinner with high hopes but moderate expectations. We think what we are doing in Madagascar is pretty special, but does anyone else? And how do we compare with what other companies of a similar size are doing? Winning the award tells us that the judges shared our view. And we are grateful for that; it’s nice to win some peer-level acknowledgment. It’s great to publicize our purpose and our work. And it’s amazing to talk to partners about joint activity and have a great icebreaker to lead with. ESG is good for business.

Following the awards, our Madagascar plans continue apace. Sarisambo is nearly complete, and the next school is underway. It’s an isolated rural school in Antahovary, that was destroyed by fire in 2021. Currently, it is operating in a small, borrowed room or under a tree! SEED will construct a three-classroom building for 250 students, five latrines, teacher accommodation and a rainwater harvesting system. There will also be a solar power system, and all carbon emissions will be offset through a community-managed tree planting site. I hope we will attract some additional partners who want to work together with us and with SEED. They want to do good things together for the benefit of Madagascar and to reap some positivity for themselves. ESG is good for business.

At Teneo, we see our ESG efforts as more than just a box to tick; they’re a core part of who we are and a big reason why we stand out in the market. As we keep weaving social responsibility with business excellence, we’re not just talking about change – we’re making it happen.

Learn more about Teneo’s Purpose Beyond Profit initiatives.

Author: James Hall, VP of Services, Teneo