There was much discussion surrounding ESG and how real impact can be created by empowering the customer, at last week’s XFW22 Summit in the Netherlands.
The summit was a key event during Amsterdam FinTech Week, which saw all relevant players, stakeholders and companies (who play an active role in financial technology) collaborating to share the latest knowledge, development and insights into one of the fastest-growing areas for private equity investors.
The event, sponsored by companies including Google Cloud and Cognito, showcased a dazzling panel of innovative experts from a diverse range of backgrounds and organisations, all aiming to share insight and knowledge which could be cross-pollinated to breathe fresh ideas and solutions for the pressing environmental issues upon us.
As a world market leader in executive search, recruitment and talent development, with an exclusive focus on ESG(Environmental, Social and Governance)and Sustainability, Acre was invited to join the panel at Postillion Hotel & Convention Centre in the Netherlands’s capital. With 20 years’ experience, a global reach and having built a broad sustainability network, Acre has in-depth knowledge of this space to enable it to consult, challenge and advise clients.
Elisabeth van Ebbenhorst Tengbergen, Principal Consultant at Acre EU, spoke at one of the panel’s topic streams on ESG to shed some light on the ‘intention-action-gap’ and unpack the importance of empowering the customer to achieve real, sustainable impact.
Elisabeth represented Acre’s EU cohort (Acre has offices in Amsterdam, London, NYC and Singapore) and discussed the company’s value-driven beliefs to an audience of FinTech experts. Acre, which recently received the prestigious B Corp status, is advantageously positioned to oversee the whole value chain across industries, due to the nature of its work.
There is a raging war for ESG and Sustainability talent which has been rising exponentially over the past three years. Elisabeth explained that the clients that Acre encounters have already come to the awareness stage and are taking action on the ESG and Sustainability agenda – reaching the point of actively hiring. But as time moves on, the sense of urgency is mounting and more organisations must compete fiercely for the best talent, which remains the main competitive differentiator across the board.
However, this still largely varies in terms of whether a company is hiring for the first time (often an all-round generalist) or whether it is a more forward-thinking organisation with highly professional and complex departments and is therefore hiring up to a very granular level (environmental engineers, for example), with highly specialised people and teams.
While it is very positive to see ESG awareness at the forefront of minds, the panel then discussed the next challenge of transferring this awareness into intent and defining an ESG strategy or approach. Acre actively helps pave the way for this part of the revolutionary shift to improve corporate ESG behaviour within organisations.
Elisabeth noted that while clients already realise they need to implement change before reaching out to Acre for support, there are many different stages of awareness and intention. Specific to FinTech, companies are often investor-backed and the pressure from investors is mounting. Private equity firms are becoming highly critical and due to increasing their level of involvement, companies are losing out on financing if they are insufficiently prepared and not purpose-led. This increases the demand to attract and hire people with a solid ESG track record, which means looking beyond compliance as a mere box ticking exercise to focus on systemic and behavioural change.
While ESG is currently the buzzword on the tip of most corporate tongues, like sustainability it is not a trend and must be taken seriously to better understand the factors. The gap between laggers and progressive companies is widening, and a company’s success depends on its people - the main challenge for those who aim to improve their ESG credentials and define a robust strategy is to attract, develop and retain those who possess real, tangible capabilities. The demand for ESG talent has outpaced the market so retaining the right person is as vital as attracting candidates in the first instance.
Having the right people on board is key at all stages of a company’s lifecycle to determine your competitive advantage, but for start-ups it can be the difference between survival and failure, with 90 per cent of start-ups sadly failing to thrive. A business must have a product-market fit, which plays a significant role in determining success but as well as satisfying a strong market demand, it also requires a talented, qualified and experienced team that works together seamlessly.
To attract the best people, particularly in a market where talent is scarce, a company needs to broaden its mindset and think innovatively to understand what makes people stay put and thrive, with remuneration and reporting lines playing a key role in ensuring the role remains attractive in a very competitive landscape.
While embracing diversity may bring in a glut of opposing thoughts and values to the boardroom which is challenging, this will reap greater rewards than merely nodding with clones who have exactly the same ideas and beliefs.
Whether you are looking for your company’s first hire in the field of ESG & Sustainability or are looking to further develop your ESG & Sustainability team, please reach out to me to discover how Acre could co-create the solutions that your organisation requires for futureproofing. We pride ourselves on bringing value through our 20 years of highly focused experience, where we have built a track record in every area relevant to this field.
Elisabeth is a Senior Consultant within Acre's Sustainable Business team Europe, based in Amsterdam. Elisabeth leads senior searches for Acre across the Real Estate, Professional Services, FMCG, Retail and Agriculture sectors and supports Acre’s mission to further build out its practice across Europe. In the past 20 years, her own work experience spans Management, Consultant and Research roles in B2B services (International Tax, Global Mobility, Executive Search).
Prior to joining Acre, Elisabeth worked for a reputable Dutch Executive Search firm, where she was responsible for the search of high profile (non-) Executive Board assignments across public and private sector organizations, in a wide array of industries. Elisabeth has lived, worked and studied in numerous countries across multiple continents, is fluent in Dutch, English and French, and has an intermediate command of Spanish. Elisabeth holds a BSc degree in International Business.