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Three Observations from Judging Gartner’s Inaugural ESG, Sustainability, and DEI Communications Awards Category

By Patryck Allen | July 31, 2022 | 0 Comments

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You may be aware that the 2022 Commonwealth Games are happening right now in Birmingham, England. And just as new sports have been added to the games this year (e.g. 3×3 basketball, and Women’s T20 cricket) to reflect the evolving sporting landscape, Gartner added a new category to its 2022 Communications Awards to acknowledge the best work being done in the relatively new field of ESG, Sustainability, & DEI Communications. Additionally, the 2022 Commonwealth Games are being promoted as the “Games for Everyone”, representing a message of inclusiveness, fairness, and equity – echoing the rising expectations for organizations to step up and make a difference in areas like sustainability, diversity, equity, and inclusion.


With this in mind, I’ve been reflecting on what I learnt – and what I can share back with you – from judging the best of the best in this relatively new area for Communications in this year’s Gartner Communications Awards. Here’s the 3 most important observations I made in the inaugural ESG, Sustainability, and DEI Communications category:


1. Approaches to ESG, Sustainability & DEI Are Extremely Diverse


The first thing I noticed was the amazing variety in approaches to ESG, Sustainability and DEI Communications. We saw entries ranging from galvanizing collective responses to climate change, to driving more equal gender representation in the workforce, to supporting mental wellbeing, to promoting science as a human right for everyone, and much more. Even better, these issues were both highly authentic and relevant to the organization’s context, as well as their audience.

This is a great sign because it demonstrates that Communications teams are selecting issues based on the unique context of their organization, such as:

  • Meeting the expectations of their most important audiences (e.g. employees, customers, investors)
  • Addressing a specific business problem that needs to be solved (e.g. increase brand preference, improve reputation)
  • Utilizing unique strengths of the organization that can help make a tangible difference for a given issue (e.g. specific resources, skills or capabilities).


2. No Shortage of Creativity


One of the best things about judging these awards is being treated to a smorgasbord of creative ideas – and this year didn’t let me down. While it can be easy for Communicators to get caught up in the regulatory and compliance side of ESG, or the need to tread carefully when discussing politically or socially sensitive topics, I saw plenty of examples of brands creating highly emotive and impactful communications that were based on excellent creative ideas.

For example, Covestro (one of the world’s largest polymer companies) created a series of events, such as their “MagicMaterial School” that introduces hearing-impaired children to science through performing arts classes and shows (check out one of their videos here).


Another favorite was Schneider Electric (a multinational company that specializes in digital automation and energy management) – and the winner of the ESG, Sustainability, and DEI category. Their ‘Green Yodha” campaign helps businesses and individuals “Join the Good Fight” on sustainability. It focuses on collective action towards the adoption of practices in energy efficiency, renewables, solar, automation, and more to meet both individual and corporate sustainability goals. Keep reading to learn more about the great job they did to measure the outcomes of this campaign.


3. Plenty of Room for Improvement in Connecting to Business Outcomes


Despite the tremendous variety in ideas and creative applications, there is however, still room for improvement in how Communications demonstrates the business impact of its efforts. While some entries were able to cite specific business metrics that their ESG, Sustainability, or DEI communications were supporting, most entries did not.

This is an area that Communications must improve in – quickly – to ensure that key stakeholders truly appreciate the value that Communications offers. This is especially critical as budgets are expected to be squeezed with the looming threat of recession, talent shortages, and ongoing supply chain issues.

Schneider Electric’s “Green Yodha” campaign did a fantastic job of citing – and demonstrating impact towards – the specific business objectives they were supporting, such as achieving carbon neutrality for their entire supply chain by 2040. They were also able to demonstrate how the awareness and impact of this campaign led to over 3,600 additional qualified leads, despite the low economic activity due to the third COVID-19 wave.

While it’s not always easy to link ESG, Sustainability or DEI work to business outcomes, Communicators must take a more business-centric approach to safeguard their future. This involves doing the following before kicking off any ESG, Sustainability, or DEI project (or any project…):

  • Asking your business partners which specific business objectives need to be achieved.
  • Creating a mutual understanding with your business partners for how the business will measure success.
  • Working to define exactly what types of actions specific stakeholder group(s) will need to display to help ensure the business outcome will be achieved.


What do you think about these trends? Do you have plenty of creative ideas, but room to improve when it comes to aligning and reporting against the right business outcomes? Get in touch with your Gartner representative to learn more about how you can improve. And if you’re doing a great job in this area already, don’t forget to nominate yourself for the 2023 Communications Awards when they open later this year. For more information on the Winners of the 2022 Awards, visit our Awards site. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone’s great work again next year!

The Gartner Blog Network provides an opportunity for Gartner analysts to test ideas and move research forward. Because the content posted by Gartner analysts on this site does not undergo our standard editorial review, all comments or opinions expressed hereunder are those of the individual contributors and do not represent the views of Gartner, Inc. or its management.

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