The highlights of the ESG Dinner 2023

Shirley Chih
November 28, 2023 - Reading time 6 minutes

On Tuesday, November 21, 2023, the first edition of Altares' ESG Dinner took place in Rotterdam. It was an inspiring evening at a unique venue: the world's first publicly accessible art depot, Depot Boijmans van Beuningen. Amidst art, gastronomic splendor, and a welcoming atmosphere, three experts took the stage to share their insights from various ESG perspectives. In this blog, we look back on the event and share the meaningful insights that defined this beautiful evening.

Review of ESG Dinner 2023

Those who do good, meet with goodness

The Corporate Social Responsibility Directive (CSRD) mandates large companies to report on their impact on people and the environment from 2024/2025 onwards. However, this directive poses a significant challenge for businesses, as they perceive the rules as time-consuming or even unnecessary. Often, companies lack the required knowledge and data sources for effective implementation. A recent article in the Financial Daily (FD), this challenge is confirmed: a staggering quarter of Dutch companies are not yet prepared for this mandatory sustainable reporting.

With the ESG Dinner, we aimed to support organizations in preparing for the upcoming directive on sustainability reporting. During an evening dedicated to Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG), the experience would not be complete without the inspiring (and passionate) guidance of the host, Jeroen Smit, a prominent investigative journalist and author.

Pragmatic and Data-Driven Implementation of the CSRD

ESG is one of the key topics high on the agenda in boardrooms. The CSRD directive introduced in 2024 marks just the beginning of this trend. For many organizations, this raises numerous questions, such as: What data do we need to comply with regulations? What does our supply chain look like, and where does it start and end? Where should I begin, and how should I approach this? And many more.

Interesting read: What is ESG and why does it matter to your business?

Fred Conijn RA, author of the book 'Aan de slag met CSRD – Impact & Aanpak' (Getting Started with CSRD - Impact & Approach), has developed an ESG approach in which the requirements are logically grouped. He kicked off the evening with the CSRD Knowledge Quiz. The goal was not to differentiate the amount of CSRD knowledge within companies but to emphasize that there is no need to be fearful when addressing CSRD. Always start from within your own organization. The dual materiality assessment determines the scope, and it is crucial to examine beforehand what data is already available within the company.

Sustainability at the Core

Jenny Wassenaar, Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) at Trivium Packaging and also a board member at UN Global Compact, strongly emphasizes the importance of self-awareness and personal responsibility. According to her, it's about the tangible steps we, as individuals, can take in this world. However, these steps need to be the right ones.

With her 'waste challenge,' she urged companies to critically rethink their products and packaging materials. Many packaging materials, such as stickers on bottles, consist of multiple layers that are difficult or not recyclable. Wassenaar emphasizes the importance of conscious product choices in a company's value chain. It is not only important that products fit within the business operations, but it is also valuable to consider the positive impact you can have on the world by critically examining the products you introduce.

With her valuable sustainability initiatives at Trivium, she demonstrates how it is possible to take the lead in the pursuit of a better planet. Wassenaar emphasizes that sustainability should occupy a central place in a company; it should be an integral part of governance. Only then, she argues, can you truly make a difference. It's about laying a foundation for what your company wants to achieve, not just for the present but also with an eye on future generations.

Wassenaar encourages companies to formulate targets that are relevant to those working towards them. She advocates for involving employees in the thought process to develop sustainable initiatives. Furthermore, she emphasizes that there is no need to condemn yourself if you cannot contribute to all Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It is essential to carefully select which goals align with the unique contribution that your company can make.

See: ESG is the new corporate social responsibility

Is the duty of care a concern for us?

Companies make countless promises, some of which are enshrined in codes of conduct to demonstrate their commitment to a better world. But to what extent do companies actually fulfill these promises, and what are the consequences if they fall short? Aukje Haan, Partner and Head of ESG at CMS, highlighted during the ESG Dinner that such statements are more than just words. They serve as powerful signals, create expectations, establish obligations, and provide a certain level of clarity.

While many companies often consider their codes of conduct as a sort of guideline, Haan points out that this is not without consequences. This raises the question of whether companies and executives are 'off the hook' in the absence of legal duty of care. She argues that the duty of care should be explicitly codified, not because of its indeterminate nature, but to ensure legal certainty and emphasize the urgent need to make swift progress in caring for human, social, and natural capital. Importantly, Haan stresses that the intention is not to hold directors personally liable. The leeway to get away with strong statements in annual reports must diminish rapidly, and companies must genuinely contribute to the overall prosperity of society.

Innovation, Discussion, and Sustainability

The evening concluded with a captivating panel discussion where various propositions were discussed, ranging from legitimacy and resistance to greenwashing and more. To enrich this discussion, we once again invited all the speakers, with Björn van Raak, Business Consultant at Altares Dun & Bradstreet, also joining the table conversation.

While reporting on ESG efforts is becoming increasingly essential, obtaining reliable data remains a persistent challenge. Van Raak emphasized that acquiring the necessary data directly through dialogue is difficult, as many companies are reluctant to share such information due to competitive concerns. Nevertheless, we observe a growing availability of data and leverage technologies to enrich it.

The question of whether companies that demonstrably perform poorly in terms of ESG should be rejected as customers or suppliers remains a point of discussion. What is considered 'demonstrably poor'? Should we take the behavioral codes previously described by Haan as a guideline? Van Raak emphasizes that it is crucial to compare the respective company with their peers. If they significantly deviate from their peers in the industry benchmark, this can serve as a basis for decision-making.

Determining the ideal department for making these decisions also remains a challenge. Is Finance the logical place to house these 'new calculations'? Generally, there is agreement that these efforts need to be integrated and not limited to the finance department. Collaboration between different departments is essential to get a clear picture of what is needed in terms of sustainability.

Looking back at the ESG Dinner 2023, it was a highly inspiring gathering with rich discussions and valuable insights from experts. If you weren't able to attend this year but are dealing with the upcoming CSRD, read more here. about what we can do for your company.

Interested?

Share on social media

Interested?

Fill in your details or call us directly.
We will contact you within one business day.
Or call us directly
The Netherlands (sales) +31 (0)10 322 03 04 Belgium +32 (0)2 765 00 21

White paper

Credit Monitoring

Opportunities for your organization in focus

A credit check at customer acceptance is valuable, but also immediately outdated. The real credit risk actually begins after you have accepted a customer. accepted. The solution: monitor the financial health of your customers in real time.

Pdf of 16 pages, 0.4 MB
Credit Monitoring

Would you like to read more about credit and compliance?

Looking up a company or D-U-N-S number?

Looking up an article or topic?

Suggestions

Sign up now!

Yes, I want to be informed every month about trends & development around Credit Risk, Compliance, Master Data, Supply Chain en Sales & Marketing.

Je keuze voor

quizz outcome