Advocating for ESG

Posted May 02 2023

“You said the law is toothless but it is not as simple as that”. A member of the client institution told us so in a meeting, mildly irritated. “Toothless” is not originally my choice of word but a quote from an expert. However, that is a mere excuse. When I say a word, it is my word in relation to the clients. When I say a word in a meeting, it is a word of our team. Including this moment in the meeting, this project has already provided us with many opportunities to learn. Here, I will reflect on the progress of our project and my personal learnings.

Progress of the project

Our research project has made solid progress. In addition to the literature review, we conducted several expert interviews, which gave us different perspectives and guidelines for the next steps. Among them, two meetings were particularly informative. Professor Caroline Flammer introduced us to insightful articles and blogs while connecting us to leading experts. Mr. Jon Lukomnik, one of the pioneers of modern corporate governance, gave us advice on how to strategically approach the matter. 

Our teamwork has been effective with some room for improvement. We are a small consulting group of three people, all of whom take on different roles: leading meetings, contacting the client, and reaching out to experts. Our background is diversified in a balanced way for this project. I have a background in law and public policy while the others have strength in expertise in finance and energy as well as in client management. Whenever I see my colleague lead a meeting, it always amazes me how natural it goes. However, to make full use of our strengths not only in logistics but also in substances, we should trust each other more, spend more time separately conducting research, and discuss them together from different perspectives. Till now, all of us have been discussing the direction and scope of the project together, but we should divide the work and invest even more time in absorbing literature in each field intensively. Our work so far has been great and we learned a lot. Nevertheless, if we do everything together, it makes teamwork less effective. With each of us independent but united, our team will make even larger progress.

Personal Learning

I personally learned a lot from this project, especially from our mid-term presentation. The presentation went well and received many positive comments from the client, but we also received useful feedback. The client’s feedback on the part I presented not only informed our team of room for improvement but also taught me things I should personally take notes of. For example, my part tended to receive feedback on the nuances of statements. As I briefly mentioned in the first paragraph, I quoted one of the experts calling the law “toothless”. We also discussed “minimum/non-compliance” of the law on the client side and “neutral implementation” on the side of the state government in explaining our deliverables. As the expert says, the law has many built-in loopholes that can be used by both the client and the regulators. Theoretically speaking, it is not wrong to say that it is “toothless”. It is also true that the client can choose “minimum compliance” and the regulator can conduct “neutral implementation”. All of these are relevant to the project because the degree of implementation greatly affects the impact of the law. However, as the client pointed out, to many people, it is not easy to ignore the law. If you work in a government entity, it is even harder to neglect laws. The regulators created the law for reasons, and it sounded unrealistic for the client to think they will implement the law modestly. These are the things the client had in mind. We came up with the framework/distinction to bring some clarity and variation in our analysis, but the interest of the client lay in a different place. It is ok to take these elements into account if these make it easier to answer the research questions, but I should have been mindful of the thought processes of the client and explained accordingly.

To think about the reasons for this happening, one obvious reason is the fact that I am not a native speaker of English. Another easy reason is that I did not really have a client per se in my previous workplaces as I mainly negotiated with people in different divisions in the same entity. Probably because of these reasons, I am not yet good enough at conveying nuances. However, this difficulty can be overcome by preparing even better. By imagining the perspectives of clients more thoroughly, I should tailor my explanation. At the same time, to give my presentation a lively impression, I should leave some room for improvisation of explanation instead of following the entire script. Though it is not easy, our next presentation will hopefully be even better with the training.

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