What’s the Link Between ESG and Digital Accessibility?

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What’s the Link Between ESG and Digital Accessibility?

Posted July 13, 2023


Posted July 13, 2023

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An accessibility symbol inside of a heart that has a rainbow gradient.

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Responsible investing is on the rise. But what does it mean for your organization — and how does digital accessibility fit in?

The era of responsible investing is here.

According to a study by MIT Sloan Management, there was a 671% increase in the number of references to environmental, social and governance (ESG) efforts during earnings calls, from 2018 to 2020.

For many investors, ESG is now being used as a key metric to help them evaluate a company’s future prospects.

The thinking goes something like this: If a company is able to improve its brand reputation and build strong relationships with the communities where it operates, it’s more likely to enjoy long-term success.

In this post, we examine the link between ESG and digital accessibility — and discuss how making accessibility part of your company culture can pay dividends with investors, customers, and employees.

What’s Behind the Rise of ESG?

While there are plenty of reasons for the surge of interest in ESG, one in particular stands out: brand reputation.

Over the last 50 years, the importance of a company’s intangible assets — like brand reputation and customer data — has skyrocketed. In fact, a report by Ocean Tomo found that intangible assets now comprise 90% of the value of S&P 500 companies.

That’s a stark difference from 1975, when 83% of a company’s value was held in tangible assets like buildings and equipment.

So what does that have to do with digital accessibility? More than ever, people want to be associated with companies that share the same values as them — especially when it comes to things like sustainability and inclusion.

“The term ESG gained popularity during the last two years, and now represents one of the major trends in the financial and corporate world.”

Eustace Osbron | Head of the ESG Investment Department, Dubai Investment Fund

Some of the world’s largest investment firms have followed suit. In 2022, the Dubai Investment Fund created an ESG Investment Department to:

  • Incorporate ESG investing principles into its long-term strategy.
  • Find new investment opportunities to stay ahead of this trend.
  • Consult clients on the topic of ethical investment.
An icon of a speaking person next to an accessibility symbol.

ESG’s Impact on Values-Based Consumerism

In 1994, NBA star Michael Jordan was asked to endorse the Democratic candidate in a hotly contested Senate race in his home state of North Carolina.

Publicly, he declined. He wasn’t into politics, he claimed, and didn’t know the issues.

Privately, he told a friend, “Republicans buy sneakers, too.”

That comment — which Jordan later said was a joke — eventually got out, and has followed him ever since. But it wasn’t all that unusual a perspective at the time, when celebrities and brands alike preferred to stay on the sidelines of social issues.

Today, most organizations don’t have that luxury. Customers, employees, and even investors expect organizations to not just be socially aware, but actively working to make a positive impact beyond the products or services they provide.

According to the CONE Communications CSR Study:

  • 70% of respondents believe businesses are responsible for improving issues relevant to the community.
  • 73% of Americans are willing to stop purchasing from companies with different perspectives on caring for things that matter to communities.

Another study by Unilever also found that 33% of global consumers choose to buy from brands they believe are doing social or environmental good.

Brand reputation can also have a huge impact on customer loyalty, with research showing that consumers are 6x more likely to protect a company’s image when a brand develops a strong perspective on social and environmental issues.

How ESG Fits Into “Ethical” Employment

Recently, there’s been plenty of chatter about the trend of “quiet quitting” — and how return-to-office mandates are leading employees to look elsewhere. However, there’s another form of quitting that hasn’t received as much attention, but is no less relevant for employers: conscious quitting.

According to Porter Novelli’s Business & Social Justice Study, 58% of employees feel that their employers should take the lead on addressing social justice issues. And 43% expressed dissatisfaction because their employers “are not on the frontline to address social justice.”

This sentiment is reflected by the growing number of people willing to leave their jobs based on things like diversity and inclusion. According to a survey of 4,000 employees across the UK and US, nearly half said they would consider resigning if a company’s values didn’t align with their own, while a third said they had already resigned for this reason.

Take the Next Step Toward Inclusivity

Already, there are signs that more organizations are accelerating their accessibility efforts. In the last year, there’s been a 71% increase in the number of jobs with “accessibility” in the title.

So, how can you ensure that you don't fall behind? It starts by understanding your organization's current level of accessibility — for both customers and employees.

Here are three steps to help you get started:

  1. Test the accessibility of your digital channels, from websites and mobile apps to your social media profiles.
  2. Review your internal systems and processes, from the way you onboard employees to the tools you use to support and include employees of all abilities.
  3. Work with an expert like AudioEye to create a mature accessibility program within your organization.

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