YMCA Korea: The essence of ESG management analysis

Date: 24 March 2024

By YMCA Korea

ESGlance is the environmental project team created through collaboration between the YMCA in South Korea and KB Kookmin Bank (KB Financial Group Public Interest Foundation) as part of KB POLARIS+.

KB POLARIS+ is a volunteer organisation that provides economic and financial education to domestic students, aiming to support children and teenagers. In addition to educational donations, it actively implements projects to create a better world. As part of this initiative, ESGlance has undertaken a project to create a magazine focusing on the theme of climate crisis.

Increasing confusion among consumers due to “fake” ESG

There is a growing interest among consumers in environmental, social factors, and governance (ESG) structures, demanding sustainable development and accountability from companies. As a result, many companies have embraced ESG management, each promoting its unique approach.

However, some companies engage in “greenwashing” or presenting themselves as ESG-oriented while practising deceptive marketing. Despite efforts by international environmental organisations to expose “greenwashing” through citizen-participatory investigations, confusion persists. Consumers are advised to carefully scrutinize scientific evidence on company websites and be wary of ambiguous terminology.

Empowering consumers to make direct judgments, becoming rational consumers

Recognizing the need for consumers to easily understand and assess ESG management policies, ESGlance conceived this project to foster ‘rational’ consumers and uphold the values of KB POLARIS+ economic education. Through ESGlance, the project aims to cultivate consumers who can distinguish “fake” ESG, contributing to the development of rational consumers.

Reading ESG from the consumer’s perspective

ESGlance, a combination of the words ‘ESG,’ representing sustainable development, and ‘glance,’ meaning to glimpse, was created to help consumers quickly and easily grasp the strengths and weaknesses of ESG in companies that may otherwise be challenging to learn.  The project disseminated information through platforms like Notion and Instagram.

The primary goal of ESGlance is to focus on the consumer’s perspective. By presenting both support and opposition, advantages and disadvantages to consumers, the project aims to enhance their ability to make self-judgments. The ultimate objective is to increase consumers who engage in responsible and sustainable consumption.

Conducting interviews with industry-leading company professionals

To obtain accurate information, direct contact was made with industry-leading companies. Interviews were conducted with ‘GS Retail,’ the leader in the convenience store industry in Korea, and ‘CJ CheilJedang,’ a global player in the food industry; both accepted interview requests. Surveys were conducted with individuals ranging from university students to professors and more. Various companies, including lesser-known B2B and seemingly unrelated industries like steel and quick commerce, were investigated.

Communicating value to more people

To reach a broader audience, card news was created and shared on Instagram. Information was summarised, including insights gained during the research process. After posting, there was a significant increase in followers, with 261 new followers and 453 visits to the ESGlance profile. Ultimately, there was a remarkable 3,162 per cent increase in followers compared to 13 January, demonstrating the successful delivery of information.

Subsequently, a magazine with more in-depth information was published on the Notion platform. It covered the current trajectory of companies, the controversy surrounding “fake” ESG, and the statements of relevant stakeholders. The effort was made to provide detailed news up to the date of publication.

During this project, it was revealed that consumers are more interested in understanding ESG than anticipated. The ESGlance team learned the importance of practical education in becoming responsible consumers, not just acquiring information. Through listening to people’s stories and engaging in discussions with industry professionals, the team recognized that for ESG to further evolve, everyone must show interest.